Kanye and the Paradox of Inclusion
Cancel Kanye? Good luck with that.
“First rule of this world, baby. Don’t pay attention to anything you see in the news.”
Kanye is an enigmatic figure in The Memetic Tribes of Culture War 2.0. With his tremendous agency and uncanny powers of manifestation in this reality, say what you will about Kanye, but the dude knows how to get shit done. He is someone that works outside of the rules, and plays outside the box. Ye is a Metagame Player.
“It was drummed into my head that college is the ticket to a good life . . . but some career goals don’t require college. For Kanye to make an album called College Dropout, it was more about having the guts to embrace who you are, rather than following the path society has carved out for you.” -Donda West, Kanye’s mother
From Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture:
West emerged in a myopic age, when the number of bullets a man had taken seemed to represent the gauge of his possible success as a rapper. In the wake of the seemingly endless mythologizing surrounding the bullet-riddled corpses of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, West’s contemporary 50 Cent, despite debatable skills as an MC, has ridden thug appeal to its apotheosis in his success. West redefined boundaries, bringing millions of fans with him in the process. But his valuable critique of hip hop’s contradictory cultural identity — his stance in opposition to homophobia, his antithug persona, his portraits of the women in his life as characters with more than a single dimension, and so on — was not only a critique. West managed via a complex strategy to at once deliver the contradictions in all their splendor. Rather than occupy a pulpit, he seemed to prefer the populist’s strategy: He walks among his fellow travelers in the game, including his fans.
On October 11, 2018, Kanye visited the White House and opened a portal into his view of reality.
“There’s theories that there’s infinite amounts of universe and there’s alternate universe, so it’s very important for me to get Hoover out because, in an alternate universe, I am him.”
Now, it’s easy to dismiss Kanye as some crazy person that’s “ranting.” However, the multiverse concept has been hypothesized for ages and he was advocating for a pardon of the notorious gangster, Larry Hoover. As a black man from Chicago, in slightly different circumstances, Kanye could have been locked up as a “notorious gangster” instead of becoming… well, Kanye.
Elon Musk wrote Time Magazine’s blurb for its 2015 100 Most Influential People list. Musk writes:
Kanye West would be the first person to tell you he belongs on this list. The dude doesn’t believe in false modesty, and he shouldn’t. Kanye’s belief in himself and his incredible tenacity — he performed his first single with his jaw wired shut — got him to where he is today. And he fought for his place in the cultural pantheon with a purpose. In his debut album, over a decade ago, Kanye issued what amounted to a social critique and a call to arms (with a beat): “We rappers is role models: we rap, we don’t think.” But Kanye does think. Constantly. About everything. And he wants everybody else to do the same: to engage, question, push boundaries. Now that he’s a pop-culture juggernaut, he has the platform to achieve just that. He’s not afraid of being judged or ridiculed in the process. Kanye’s been playing the long game all along, and we’re only just beginning to see why.
In 2016, Kanye was hospitalized for a mental breakdown or temporary psychosis. He calls it a breakthrough:
“People will take something that’s enlightened, put it in a different context and then call it crazy… to try to diminish the impact and the value of what I’m actually saying.”
Kanye’s support for Trump has created massive amounts of confusion and even anger. In 2018, he went on Jimmy Kimmel Live and talked about his hospitalization, his support for Trump, and Love over Fear:
“In this world that we live, there’s two main motivating forces, and I tweet about it all the time. It’s Love or Fear.”
In 2019, he goes on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman on Netflix to explain his feeling:
“We don’t have to feel the same way about things. This is my thing with Trump. We don’t have to feel the same way, but we have the right to feel what we feel, and we have the right to have a conversation, a dialogue, not a diatribe about it. Like, say, when I wear the hat, it’s not about politics. It’s not about policies. For me, once again: Fear.”
Towards the end of the episode, Kanye states,
“Well, definitely liberals bully people who are Trump supporters. It’s not just calm.” (The audience goes silent.) “People, the thing is, in America, we have rights, and we have rights to open the conversation.”
Let’s have a conversation about Larry Hoover. I had never heard of Larry Hoover before Kanye talked about him in the Oval Office.
According to the mainstream Internet:
Larry Hoover (born November 30, 1950) is an American gang leader, a founder of the Chicago street gang called the Gangster Disciples. Hoover is currently serving six life sentences at the ADX Florence prison in Florence, Colorado. His sentences include a 150–200 year sentence for a 1973 murder; and in 1997, after a 17–year investigation of conspiracy, extortion, money laundering, and running a continuing criminal enterprise for leading the gang from state prison, he received a life sentence.
In prison, Hoover wrote his manifesto, Blueprint of the New Concept. I’m usually pretty good at finding things on the Internet, and am interested in reading this. It’s much easier to find other previously banned books than the Blueprint. Strange. I was able to find this Change.org petition for clemency for Larry Hoover, but I’ve only begun exploring this rabbit hole.
Meanwhile, the makers of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are in the news this week:
Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to three criminal charges, formally taking responsibility for its part in an opioid epidemic that has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths but also angering critics who want to see individuals held accountable, in addition to the company.
The deal includes $8.3 billion in penalties and forfeitures, but the company is on the hook for a direct payment to the federal government of only a fraction of that, $225 million. It would pay the smaller amount as long as it executes a settlement moving through federal bankruptcy court with state and local governments and other entities suing it over the toll of the opioid epidemic.
Members of the wealthy Sackler family who own the company have also agreed to pay $225 million to the federal government to settle civil claims. No criminal charges have been filed against family members, although their deal leaves open the possibility of that in the future.
“Having our plea accepted in federal court, and taking responsibility for past misconduct, is an essential step to preserve billions of dollars of value” for the settlement it is pursuing through bankruptcy court, the company said in a statement.
Back to Kanye’s Oval Office conversation:
“Really why they imprisoned him, is because he started doing positive for the community. He started showing that he actually had Power. That he wasn’t just one of a monolithic voice, that he could wrap people around…
There’s theories that there’s infinite amounts of universe and there’s alternate universe, so it’s very important for me to get Hoover out because, in an alternate universe, I am him.
…and I have to go and get him free cause he was doing positive inside Chicago.”
A black gangster with an alleged $100 million per year drug empire selling heroin, cocaine, and marijuana in Chicago is locked away for decades in a high security prison for murder and selling drugs, while a wealthy family selling pharmaceutical drugs gets “slapped on the wrist” with a $225 million fine for killing hundreds of thousands while they maneuvered the bulk of their $14 billion fortune offshore.
Kanye continued his monologue and discussed many other topics, including jobs, education, mental health, meditation. In the 2020 Election, Kanye received over 60,000 votes. People are still trying to cancel him for wearing a MAGA hat or for his Hennessey powered “ruining” of Taylor Swift’s moment at the VMAs. Does he make mistakes? Obviously. Doesn’t everyone? Say what you will about Kanye, he is willing to have the difficult conversations.
So, this is the conversation:
It’s not about Larry Hoover. It’s not about Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Well, it is, but it’s about a broader conversation as well. The conversation is that we’ve spent all this effort in demonizing “violent black gangsters” and the “worst of the worst” of the 1% of the 1%. The Drug War has created an entire economy of legal and illegal drug trade, medical marketing, insurance, doctors, enforcement, punishment, and profit. Lots of profit.
Don’t hate the players, hate the game?
Imagine a world where we invested that money and used different types of “drugs” to truly heal people, physically, emotionally, spiritually. These substances exist. The scientific literature on psychedelics is incredibly promising. The scientific boundaries of biochemistry, DNA, vaccines, and medicine in general are mind bending, miraculous, and terrifying. Opioids and benzodiazepines seem like they may have some utility for acute pain in the current psychotropic toolbox, but long-term use has risks.
The commodification of psychedelics is an important topic. Recurring revenue models that need to recoup massive initial investments creates huge perverse incentives that led to the Big Pharma crisis that we have here. However, there have also been incredible discoveries and scientific progress that can be leveraged going forward.
Plant medicines are not for everyone, necessarily. The data and results are currently in the process of being scientifically generated. Protocols and integration methodologies are being developed, scientifically. Regulations are changing. Hemp and marijuana legalization has been slowly, but steadily, paving the way. The nascent plant medicine legal landscape is still complicated, but there has been significant progress with decriminalization and policy around the therapeutic, medicinal, and sacred use of the plant medicines.
By transitioning from painkillers to plant medicines with integration modalities, we can slowly collectively heal, hear, acknowledge, and honor the pain of History and find the right path forward.
A Psychedelic Renaissance.
Love over Fear.
We have all the tools.