Kanye West is indebted to his ego. The 40-year-old artist spent years demanding recognition from the likes of the music industry, the fashion industry, and world leaders such as Barack Obama. The Grammy Awards, West felt, did not acknowledge his hard work, the fashion industry denied him the space for creativity, and even President Obama referred to him as a “jackass” in 2009. Isolated from all spaces and all praises, West seeks appeasement for his ego in Trumpism.
The ego is “that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world,” Sigmund Freud wrote in 1923. The philosopher created the theory of the human psyche; the id, ego, and super-ego. The ego, not unlike the id, prefers pleasure over pain and works to ensure the former, Simply Psychology described in 2007. “The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or the id,” the site wrote. So long as West’s ego receives the accolades he so desires, his choices outside of the fact come secondary. Not unlike his dancing partner, Trump.
Former employees of the sitting president have described the brevity of his ego. “Donald loves Donald … His identity is wrapped around being a winner. If you challenge him, or if he’s put into a losing position, now you begin to take Donald out of his comfort zone,” Randall Pinkett, the only black winner of “The Apprentice,” said to The Guardian in 2016. Of the 12 ex-employees of Trump interviewed by The Guardian, none disagreed with Pinkett. “I don’t think it’s possible to quantify the size of his ego … It’s too big,” Barbara Res, Trump Organization executive vice-president in the 1980s. By 2013, Business Insider wrote similar references to West. “The musical superstar has earned a reputation for having the biggest ego in the world,” the site wrote then. Sentiments West said of himself in 2013.
“On one end, I try to scale [the narcissism] back … Because I don’t want to close any of the doors needed to create the best product possible,” West said to W Magazine. “But my ego is my drug. My drug is, ‘I’m better than all you other motherf**kers. Kiss my a**!,’” he added. In the same interview, West quantifies his song “I Am A God,” stating, “‘I made that song because I am a god,’ he says finally. He laughs for a second, then stops.” Some have chosen to mislabel West as dealing with mental illness, but that could not be further from the truth.
The “Only One” artist marked his return to Twitter last Friday, April 13 with a slew of unwarranted advice for creatives. The tweets garnered thousands of retweets but West’s ego was not yet satisfied. He quickly spiraled into themes of capitalism, ownership, blackness, and then conservatism. He voiced his support for conservative commentator, Candace Owens before he decried that black people were stuck in self-victimization. Owens who once called Black Lives Matter protestors “whiny toddlers” on Twitter. West’s alignment with Owens thus became a definitive moment in the TrumpxWest era. The moment so significant it led to a heated phone conversation with Hot 97 radio host, Ebro Darden. “I love Donald Trump,” West would tell Ebro during their conversation.
Not long after, West showed love for his Trump autographed MAGA hat, and posed with alt-right supporter, Scott Adams. From there, Chance The Rapper, another Chicago artist, chimed in to defend West’s right to be a Republican. “Black people don’t have to be Democrats,” he tweeted. But ‘Ye wanted more. He tweeted again, this time aimed at President Obama. “Obama was in office for eight years and nothing in Chicago changed,” West wrote. A statement as false as the alt-right’s new prophets.
The Chicago Tribune reported last year on the vast projects funded by Obama, as told by Rahm Emmanuel, the city’s mayor. Chi-town received awards worth $513 million for projects that included neighborhood stabilization and homelessness prevention, the Tribune wrote. Chicago also earned a $2.2 billion Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that would help, in part, to restore wetlands and clear out pollution. “If you think about it, these are all major economic and culture investments that will stand the test of time … Those are things that have, and will, going forward, drive Chicago’s economic and cultural growth and keep the city a world-class city,” said Emmanuel according to the Tribune.
In true Trump-like fashion, readers knew West’s allegations against Obama were ungrounded. This is the core of the “free thinkers” (also known as conservative) movement, West has joined. Yes, presidents and celebrities lie. As Politico reported, Ronald Reagan denied knowledge of the Iran-Contra deal but evidence said contrary. NBC reporter, Brian Williams, lied about being in a helicopter shot down over Iraq. But when it comes to lies, Trump takes the cake and then some.
During his campaign, 70 percent of Trump’s statements were found by PolitiFact to be false. “The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent … Those who have followed Trump’s career say his lying isn’t just a tactic, but an ingrained habit,” Politico wrote in 2017.
West’s round of odd utterances came in the form of stage rants and award show stints. Further proving Trump and West value ego more than they value reality. Both would rather tell lies and look at those who disagree as the other – all is well so long as their egos maintain praise from the avid followers of conservatives. West must side with the alt-right because the Democrats are done worshipping his antics.
In 2012, Atlantic Monthly reporter, David Samuels, asked President Barack Obama if he would choose West or Jay-Z. This after leaked footage of Obama calling West a “jackass” in 2009. “Jay-Z … Although I like Kanye. He’s a Chicago guy. Smart. He’s very talented,” Obama responded. “The reporter then asks, ‘Even though you called him a jackass?’ … Obama’s response: “He is a jackass. But he’s talented,” Rolling Stone reported. However, Obama has ensured to support Kendrick Lamar on multiple occasions. In 2015, Trump told a crowd of supporters that West loved him.
After exhausting all spaces, West has nowhere else to run but conservatism. His fans, or what was left of them, have found themselves abandoned, with many wondering where their idol had gone.
During the era of “Jesus Walks,” fans supported and identified with West’s struggle as a hardworking black man. “”Jesus Walks” climbed the charts and won a Grammy for Best Rap Song. But more important, it introduced a hip-hop star who could single-handedly create more drama than a carful of Crips,” Rolling Stone reviewed in 2011. Having to work twice as hard to earn half or nothing at all is a well-versed sermon for the congregation, and West channeled that message far and wide. When West said what every black person was thinking in 2005 — “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” — he was pushed into the light of a prophet in rap and hip-hop. Overtime West lost his vision for black art and black creativity. His ego pushed him to desire more recognition than was offered.
At the 2006 Europe Music Awards, West interrupted the French electronic music band, Justice, as they made their acceptance speech for Best Video. West felt “Touch The Sky,” which he proclaimed cost him a “million dollars,” was more deserving. “Touch The Sky,” which featured icons such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Nia Long, and Pamela Anderson, was the better choice and we all knew it — though his representation of black women in the video, through Ross and Long, was more stereotype than comedy. Despite having the better video, West crashing the stage as Justice accepted the award became a running theme for the artist. He just felt he deserved everything.
The presence of a high strung ego was questioned countless times by those who resented West. He was classified as the angry black man on occasion. “When they see Kanye, they see the very same thing Zimmerman saw the night he murdered Trayvon: skin color,” Gerren Keith Gaynor wrote for The Root in 2013. To be proud and to demand recognition for one’s work is not a flaw. It most certainly would not be a flaw for a white man of West’s artistic background. But West does not demand recognition for black art and black labor — he needs it for himself.
Freud describes the ego as a man on the horseback and the horse being the id. “The Ego, driven by the Id, confined by the Super-Ego, repulsed by reality, struggles … [in] bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it, [and] breaks out in anxiety,” Freud wrote. The forces against West are those that thrust him into narcissism. Obama denied him, the likes of Rihanna and Lamar have unfollowed him on Twitter, not to mention the ridicule his Yeezy line faced. How can he proclaim to be a god with no followers.
In the world of being a black conservative, he is welcomed as the other. But at least Mr. West is welcomed.
Read more from Annette Ejiofor here.