Ryan: Kanye West and the Great Society

Graphic by Alexander Somoskey.

Donald Trump has been name-dropped by nearly every major rapper of the last 30 years, starting with a reference by Beastie Boys on their iconic album Paul's Boutique, the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop.

He's been mentioned by Jay Z. Ludacris. Young Thug. Nelly. Kendrick Lamar. Juicy J. Rick Ross. Eminem. Big Sean. A Tribe Called Quest. Scarface. Lil Wayne. The Coup. Master P. Ice Cube. Mos Def. Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and various other Wu-Tang Clan affiliates. R. Kelly. Pete Rock. Nas. E-40.

And don't forget this surreal moment in our nation's history.

Then-candidate Trump on SNL ... dancing to a Drake parody.(Screenshot from YouTube)

When Bun B referred to Trump on the Chopped-n-Screwed anthem "Pocket Full of Stones," he was keeping with a tradition of rappers admiring Trump. This only changed a few years ago.

But then there's Kanye West, who proudly donned the red MAGA hat after discovering Candace Owens and being called "a jackass" by our nation's first black President. Then Kanye was hugging President Trump in the Oval Office? While wearing a Make America Great Again hat, supposed symbol of white supremacy, Nazism, hate, evil?

(Screenshot from YouTube)

People flipped. Everyone did. Longtime critics suddenly — and bizarrely — embraced Kanye as an ally, while longtime defenders disowned him, abandoned him like nail clippings, often mocking his struggles with mental illness and labeling him, if you can believe it, a white supremacist.

Then, in a moment that changed music history, Kanye released the single "Ye vs. the People."

Ye vs. the People (starring TI as the People) www.youtube.com

In it, he challenges what he sees as the unspoken rule that black Americans have to vote Democrat. He had hinted at the idea on his track "Black Skinhead," from the hauntingly gorgeous album Yeezus, but now he was addressing it head-on, with the passion of a man going to Confession for the first time in a decade.

Why should black folks have to abide by any set of cultural or political or artistic guidelines to begin with? And, he argues, the pressure to adhere to this longheld framework is itself undergirded by a subtle and cleverly masked racism, imposed by a group of people who portray themselves as the champions of race and enemies of white supremacy and destroyers of dumb yokel rednecks with their Rebel flags and monster trucks and fully-automatic AR-15 assault weapons. All of which, it turns out, is some next-level projection.

Kanye also confronts the presence of these expectations and stereotypes in hip-hop. The idea that rappers must invoke a negative persona in order to succeed. And the moment they deviate from that image they are rebuked or ignored, even though the persona is damaging to the black community as a whole. Which is especially ironic given that the people who voice the most outrage tend to be highly privileged, supposedly progressive white folks who love to rant about white privilege and black oppression.

Is it better if I rap about crack? 'Cause it's cultural?
Or how about I'ma shoot you? or f**k your b***h?
Or how about all this Gucci, 'cause I'm f****n' rich?

Best of all, Kanye has answers. And they differ from the erudite solutions offered by, say, A Tribe Called Quest, who, like Kanye, have modeled a healthy, positive image of blackness for the black community.

A central theme within "Ye vs. The People" is empathy as power, rebellion, freedom.

Make America Great Again had a negative perception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction
Added empathy, care and love and affection
And y'all simply questionin' my methods.

This concept is an extension of the powerful devotion to positive energy that Kanye adopted around that time, a purview he has cultivated into a wild new form of electronic gospel.

But his personal transformation was tough.

That [MAGA] hat stayed in my closet like 'bout a year and a half
Then one day I was like, "F**k it, I'ma do me"
I was in the sunken place and then I found the new me.

This is a struggle that many Americans undergo. Researchers call it the spiral of silence. The idea that the news media and social media present biased opinions as though they are fact, and when the message conflicts with a person's opinions or values, they feel isolated, alone.

Kanye and T.I. during the making of "Ye vs. the People"(Screenshot from YouTube)

As Kanye raps in "Ye vs. the People"

A lot of people agree with me but they're too scared to speak up.

Because we have an incredible ability to sense public opinion. So when we suspect that we hold a belief that rails against acceptable thought, we tend to keep quiet about it. That silence makes the opinion seem even more taboo, resulting in a more widespread silence.

In reality, many of these supposedly taboo opinions are not only popular, they are normal and practical and logical. Healthy, even. And the real danger is in demonizing them. But too many people are afraid they'll be ostracized for expressing their beliefs.

Like how — despite what we've been led to believe — most Americans cannot stand political correctness.

But the small minority of people who champion it are powerful and loud. They're like that cardboard city in North Korea, just visible enough from the border to make it seem like a thriving community. They're the Wicked Witch of the West, or Iago from Othello, or Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants.

So far, they have been successful. Although "success" by their metric is anarchic and primal, all destruction and loudness and people nervous to speak their mind. And the cost of rebellion can be devastating.

By the time Kanye West wrote "Yay versus the People," he had gotten sick of this power dynamic. So he broke the spiral of silence."

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In the words of German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Whoever has language has the world."

Humans alone have it.

But in order for us to know freedom in our world, our language has to be public, shared, active. Because each of us thrives constantly with language, a stream of it always in our mind. Aristotle defined "thought" as the infinite dialogue between the soul and itself. Conversation is the exchange of thought between people. When we converse, we simultaneously release our infinite dialogue and accept the other person's. By speaking, we shape the world and free ourselves.

*

Another way to say it is that Donald Trump might have inspired the song that could very well signify the end of Hip-Hop, which is not only the most popular genre of our zeitgeist, it's the most popular, and successful, form of music in American history, which is the most important era of musical history.

If the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and Drake literally outpaces the Beatles, then, well, you get the point God forgive me. And Kanye is bigger than Drake. So who better to have the final word on the capacities of Hip-Hop than Kanye West?

Nobody.

Every genre must come to a close. There's a reason why people aren't eagerly awaiting the next great disco album, or flocking to arenas to hear the newest bluegrass superstar, or asking to get their hair done like the latest syringe-armed guitarist of Guns N Roses.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

The great era of Rock 'N' Roll ended roughly about the time Radiohead traded their guitars and drums for synthesizers and sequencers, not long after Kurt Cobain took an insane amount of heroin and cradled a shotgun in his guesthouse, only to be discovered several days later by an electrician. Even worse, Nickelback soiled Cobain's legacy with godawful anthems, and who have their own weird and contradictory and hilarious connection to President Trump.

These days, Rock N' Roll lives mostly via nostalgia, as evinced by the explosion of cover bands. Notice how you don't see any hip-hop cover bands. You will, someday. But, for now, Hip-Hop reigns supreme. And Kanye is the King.

The brilliant Nina Simone once told a reporter that "An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times."

Because music accords itself to the gravity and creative truth of the era. And currently we entrust hip-hop with this complicated maneuver.

But the past year, Kanye has been crafting a new sound through his Sunday services, weekly jam sessions with acoustic musicians and a choir and everyone dressed in white, praying through song, herding us into a better place, looking above for guidance. If it's anything like his track "Ultralight Beam," it will bring calm to our divided culture.

Mark my words: The resultant album will usher in an entirely new era, a magical flash in human history.

So far, hip-hop has been the defiant child of R&B and Electronica, the grandchild of Spoken Word and Steve Reich Minimalism, with tinges of Punk. Not for much longer. Kanye will see to that. And, weirdly, President Trump has helped inspire this transformation.

Meaning, Donald Trump will have had a hand in reinventing music as a whole, in spreading a movement of positive reformation. Love him or hate him, it does not matter. What other politician can make that claim?

There's an optimism to this that Dave Chappelle captured in his now-infamous Saturday Night Live monologue, just days after Trump was elected, asking Americans to at least give the man a chance. And again in his special "Equanimity," when he said

I swear no matter how bad it gets, you're my countrymen, and I know for a fact that I'm determined to work shit out with y'all.

In a moment of now-tired irony, the usual suspects heaped a barrage of hate at Chappelle for these remarks. But their outrage does not matter, in the grand scheme of things. Because it is an incredible time to be alive. It's beautiful. We should never forget that, no matter how petty or outrageous daily life gets.

At the moment, we are a country that is — everywhere, secretly — hurting. But we are Americans. Together. This is America. And, every day, God delights in our greatness and our empathy and our endless gift for love. So open your heart and listen. Say what you need to say.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

The Omicron COVID-19 variant: Should we ACTUALLY panic?

Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

As the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus approaches, it seems like those in power want everyone to be terrified, Glenn Beck argued on the radio program Monday.

The chair of the World Medical Association's Council, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, is already comparing the variant to Ebola and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has declared a state of emergency, despite the doctor who announced its discovery describing the new variant's symptoms as "unusual, but mild." So, should we really be worried or not?

In this clip, Glenn and producer Stu Burguiere reviewed what we know about the Omicron variant so far and gave a few reasons why we should wait for more information before succumbing to panic.

Note: The content of this clip does not provide medical advice. Please seek the advice of local health officials for any COVID-related questions & concerns.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Faced with an oppressive government that literally burned people at the stake for printing Bibles, America's original freedom fighters risked it all for the same rights our government is starting to trample now. That's not the Pilgrim story our woke schools and corporate media will tell you. It's the truth, and it sounds a lot more like today's heroes in Afghanistan than the 1619 Project's twisted portrait of America.

This Thanksgiving season, Glenn Beck and WallBuilders president Tim Barton tell the full story of who the Pilgrims really were and what we must learn from them, complete with a sneak peek at the largest privately owned collection of Pilgrim artifacts.

Watch the video below

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Saule Omarova, President Joe Biden's nominee for comptroller of the currency, admitted she wants to fight climate change by bankrupting coal, oil, and gas companies. Alarmingly, Biden's U.S. special climate envoy, John Kerry, seemed to agree with Omarova when he said "by 2030 in the United States, we won't have coal" at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, earlier this month. But that could end in massive electrical blackouts and brownouts across the nation, BlazeTV host Glenn Beck warned.

Carol Roth, author of "The War On Small Business," joined "The Glenn Beck Program" to explain what experts say you can do now to prepare your family for potential coming power outages.

"It's interesting. Usually when I go out and talk to experts in areas that are not 100% core to my area of expertise and I say, 'I would like to give you credit.' Usually I get, 'OK, here's how you credit me.' But everyone is like, 'No, no. Let me tell you what happened, just don't use my name.' And this is across the country," Roth said. "This isn't just a California issue, which obviously [California] is leading the nation. But even experts out of Texas, people who are monitoring the electric grid are incredibly concerned about brownouts or blackouts now, already. So forget about 2030."

"You want to have a backup source of power," she continued. "Either a propane, diesel, or combo generator is something that you're going to want to have. Because in a state, for example like Texas, I'm told that once the state loses power, it will take a minimum of two weeks to restore plants back to operations and customers able to use grid power again. So, this isn't something that we've got nine years or whatever to be thinking about. We should be planning and preparing now."

Watch the video clip below to catch more of this important conversation:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

This year marks the four hundredth anniversary of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag allies in 1621. Tragically, nearly half of the Pilgrims had died by famine and disease during their first year. However, they had been met by native Americans such as Samoset and Squanto who miraculously spoke English and taught the Pilgrims how to survive in the New World. That fall the Pilgrims, despite all the hardships, found much to praise God for and they were joined by Chief Massasoit and his ninety braves came who feasted and celebrated for three days with the fifty or so surviving Pilgrims.

It is often forgotten, however, that after the first Thanksgiving everything was not smooth sailing for the Pilgrims. Indeed, shortly thereafter they endured a time of crop failure and extreme difficulties including starvation and general lack. But why did this happen? Well, at that time the Pilgrims operated under what is called the "common storehouse" system. In its essence it was basically socialism. People were assigned jobs and the fruits of their labor would be redistributed throughout the people not based on how much work you did but how much you supposedly needed.

The problem with this mode of economics is that it only fails every time. Even the Pilgrims, who were a small group with relatively homogeneous beliefs were unable to successfully operate under a socialistic system without starvation and death being only moments away. Governor William Bradford explained that under the common storehouse the people began to "allege weakness and inability" because no matter how much or how little work someone did they still were given the same amount of food. Unsurprisingly this, "was found to breed much confusion and discontent."[1]

The Pilgrims, however, were not the type of people to keep doing what does not work. And so, "they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery."[2] And, "after much debate of things" the Pilgrims under the direction of William Bradford, decided that each family ought to "trust to themselves" and keep what they produced instead of putting it into a common storehouse.[3] In essence, the Pilgrims decided to abandon the socialism which had led them to starvation and instead adopt the tenants of the free market.

And what was the result of this change? Well, according to Bradford, this change of course, "had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been."[4] Eventually, the Pilgrims became a fiscally successful colony, paid off their enormous debt, and founded some of the earliest trading posts with the surrounding Indian tribes including the Aptucxet, Metteneque, and Cushnoc locations. In short, it represented one of the most significant economic revolutions which determined the early characteristics of the American nation.

The Pilgrims, of course, did not simply invent these ideas out of thin air but they instead grew out of the intimate familiarity the Pilgrims had with the Bible. The Scriptures provide clear principles for establishing a successful economic system which the Pilgrims looked to. For example, Proverbs 12:11 says, "He that tills his land shall be satisfied with bread." So the Pilgrims purchased land from the Indians and designated lots for every family to individually grow food for themselves. After all, 1 Timothy 5:8 declares, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

We often think that the battle against Socialism is a new fight sprouting out of the writings of Karl Marx which are so blindly and foolishly followed today by those deceived by leftist irrationality. However, America's fight against the evil of socialism goes back even to our very founding during the colonial period. Thankfully, our forefathers decided to reject the tenants of socialism and instead build their new colony upon the ideology of freedom, liberty, hard work, and individual responsibility.

So, this Thanksgiving, let's thank the Pilgrims for defeating socialism and let us look to their example today in our ongoing struggle for freedom.

[1] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856), 135.

[2] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856), 134.

[3] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856), 134.

[4] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856), 135.