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Renée Graham

When there’s no such thing as negative attention

Donald Trump and Kanye West pose in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 13, 2016.AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Once, the left loved Kanye West, as the right hated him. Now the left hates Kanye, while the right loves him.

Love him or hate him, if we’re talking about Kanye, Kanye wins.

For days, the Grammy-winning rapper-producer has been on a Twitter tear, rivaling the kind of disjointed spew we expect from the man for whom he recently professed his love: President Trump.

Calling Trump “my brother,” Kanye tweeted, “You don’t have to agree with trump [sic] but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy.”

Kanye and Trump do have a certain kinship. Both possess a pathological need to be at the center of everything, and there’s no such thing as negative attention. Ultimately, Kanye’s recent statements have nothing to do with any shift in his political view. The only view that concerns him is the one he admires in the mirror.


After a lengthy absence, Kanye is trying to thrust himself back onto a cultural landscape that has progressed quite nicely without him. Beyoncé shook up the world with a Coachella performance blacker than a Juneteenth picnic in Wakanda. Kendrick Lamar’s acclaimed album “DAMN.” won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Jordan Peele won an Academy Award for writing “Get Out,” the most socially and racially provocative film of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Kanye’s “dragon energy” sounds a lot like the “tiger blood” Charlie Sheen once claimed coursed through his own veins. That led some to speculate that Kanye was having a comparable public meltdown. Until recently, Kanye had kept his head low after canceling a late 2016 tour where his behavior was increasingly erratic. At the time, he was hospitalized for what was tagged with the oldest celebrity cover story: “exhaustion and dehydration.”

In a recent radio interview, Kanye said he was hospitalized because he was “addicted to opioids.” In all seriousness, I hope Kanye is clean and maintaining his recovery. Still, this is clearly having no effect on Kanye’s addiction to attention.


After social-media moratorium nearly a year long, Kanye has set off a Twitter tsunami. It began with uplifting refrigerator-magnet wisdom like “Don’t trade your authenticity for approval” — very Eat, Pray, Kanye. He mentioned upcoming projects with Kid Cudi and Nas. That got hip-hop heads buzzing that the creatively restless brain behind “Yeezus” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was back.

Then Kanye pivoted with all the subtlety of a record needle ripped across vinyl.

He loves Trump. He loves Candace Owens, a black conservative and Black Lives Matter hater. He tweeted video from “Dilbert” creator and Trump- stan Scott Adams. He showed a photo of his Trump-signed “Make America Great Again” hat. He wore a MAGA hat. Trump retweeted him with a comment: “Thank you Kanye, very cool!”

Kanye lost followers. He gained followers. Alex Jones, who for years called the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax, invited Kanye on his show. Longtime fans declared themselves done with him. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she didn’t know of conversations between Trump and Kanye “over the last week or so.”

Given Sanders’ aversion to the truth, this probably means they speak at least once a day.

Few should be surprised by Kanye’s affection for Trump. If he had voted, he said would have cast his ballot for Trump. And there he was at Trump Tower, posing for a photo op with the then president-elect. When Trump said he had Kanye had been “friends for a long time,” the rapper didn’t dispute it.

Despite what he wants us to believe, Kanye is not a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. He is a raging egotist, wrapped in narcissism, inside an attention whore. After all, this is a man who married into the Kardashians, who are as much a franchised brand as a family.


The #NeverTrump card has been played, so Kanye is dealing from the bottom of his own deck. If cozying up to this disaster of a president gets Kanye retweets, likes, and yes, column inches, he’ll keep at it until we get bored or disgusted. Then he’ll move onto his next piece of “look at me” performance art.

Back in 2005, Kanye shocked everyone (especially Mike Myers) by going off-script and saying, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” during a Hurricane Katrina telethon. That was true. Now we know this as well: To a man for whom any attention is paramount, the only person Kanye West cares about is Kanye West.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham