In a musical genre where fugitives are admired for their swagger and irreverence, Kanye West stands as a rebel among rebels. Not for disobeying the law more flagrantly than his contemporaries, but for speaking his mind.
West made a point of doing this on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. Sporting a red “Make America Great Again” hat, West capped off an end-credits performance of “Ghost Town” alongside rappers Kid Cudi, 070 Shake and Ty Dolla $ign with political talk and a call for a return to civility. The SNL credits finished part-way through the “Ghost Town” performance, so West’s address took place off-air and was divulged instead by Chris Rock via Instagram and Mike Dean (a musician in the band that night) via Twitter:
KANYE SNL TALK THAT GOT CUT OFF FREEDOM OF SPEECH SHOULD HAVE EXTENDED pic.twitter.com/IpULoEJxsN— MIKE DEAN! #MWA (@therealmikedean) September 30, 2018
Not included in Dean’s video are a few remarks West made about Democratic welfare policy negatively affecting blacks, but for the most part, West simply asked those with whom he disagrees for their acceptance, repeating “try love” like a mantra. While he rambled at times, he avoided the profanity that’s a mainstay in rappers’ vocabularies.
But according to the left, calls for civility are always bigotry or lunacy in disguise, and thus can’t go unpunished. On Sept. 30 Matthew Dessem of Slate called Kanye’s spiel part of a “gigantic, and still ongoing, shitshow” while lavishing sympathy on the celebrities who shared the stage with West while he talked: “their intense claps and head-bobbing when the scene got safely apolitical are something to behold.” Huffington Post’s Mary Papenfuss called it a “rambling, conspiracy-laced defense of [West’s] controversial support for President Donald Trump.”
Some, Mike Dean included, have advanced the theory that SNL excluded West’s monologue from live broadcast on purpose. There is no way yet to confirm or deny that, but there is no doubt the media’s reaction was decided long before Kanye set foot on stage.