Falling In and Out of Love with Mr. West

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At 16, my mother gifted me my own car. My steel grey colored Nissan Sentra drove me into the freedom I'd always desired. I cruised the streets of my Oklahoma suburb feeling independent and grown. On each of my daily excursions, to and from school mostly, I dreamed of the day I'd be able to enjoy the feeling beyond the time I spent behind the wheel. Kanye West's Late Registration provided the soundtrack.

Released in August 2005 -- just a few months after I got my license, his was the first CD I "bumped" religiously.  Not only could my overachieving, teenage suburbanite self relate to the lyrical content (there'll always be haters that's the way it is/hater n****s, marry hater b****, and have hater kids), but the eclectic production melded multiple worlds with which I was familiar. Raised on gospel, pop, and "old school" R&B, it was Kanye who helped me recognize the artistry of hip hop.

For years I held Kanye, the man and the musician, close to me. He was the first hip hop artist with whom I truly related. His Oklahoma roots,  middle class upbringing, dichotomous and often paradoxical morality, and brilliant production placed him among my favorite artists of all time.

But that was then, and, to put it plainly. I no longer mess with Kanye West. I won't pretend to know the current state of his mental or emotional health, but I do know that shortly after his mother died unexpectedly, Kanye changed. I get it. I often say my father's death five years ago changed my DNA. It happens.

Sometimes people you love evolve in a direction that makes you uncomfortable. But I'm afraid I'm now a step beyond that point. Now, more often than not I find myself embarrassed for and outraged by him.

Plus the music doesn't move me.

I loved the intricacy of Kanye's prior work. Upon each listen, you would discover a new layer. Kanye understood his lyrical shortcomings and poured himself into visuals. Remember the three "Jesus Walks" videos?

Now, that meticulousness, directs him to produce overwrought images devoid of artistic depth. The Glow in the Dark Tour stunned me, but the stills I've seen from the Yeezus tour look like he's trying extremely hard. And, yes, I absolutely believe that he cares about the perception of his work and artistry. Why else would he continue to beg for fashion industry scraps like a neglected puppy? Despite his rants and protestations. Kanye just wants to be liked.

His frequent railing against racism and classism in "elite" spaces feels empty. I don't see "Why won't you let US in" but "Why won't you let ME in." Kanye is not a revolutionary. He wants to break into the hegemony.

While I once admired how Kanye wove Black nationalist themes into his work, recent interviews and actions reveal him to be either sadly ignorant or opportunistic. Perhaps Dr. West could have explained to Kanye why attempting to turn a centuries old symbol of racial terrorism into a personal logo is despicable, but he won't hear it from the rest of us. Kanye West does not care about Black people -- certainly not Black women.

His work never challenged the misogynistic status quo, and recently he disparaged the first Black Woman to occupy of the most visible positions in the world to make elevate his infamously unremarkable fiancee. And no I don't blame Kim. I actually feel sorry for her. She now has two children to care for -- one of which is a global super star.

Remember that brief period when Kanye said he wasn't speaking to the press anymore because we (the people who create and consume media, I suppose) are simply unintelligent enough to decipher his words. Well I wish he would go back to that. Because more and more, Kanye reveals himself to be, what I call "fake smart." He uses many words but barely rarely expresses new or compelling opinions.

I guess I just want Old Kanye back. He's gone, however, and I can accept that because he owes me nothing. Yeah, I bought some albums and concert tickets. Sure, I've spent countless hours analyzing him, but I don't know him.

I'm taking this hard because this is the first artist with whom I've ever fallen out of like. It hurts, but what can you do after the love is gone?

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or

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