Kanye West will visit the White House today to meet with Donald Trump, a fragile man who rose to political office by peddling a racist conspiracy theory and has spent every day since working to make America a more dangerous, callous, and openly vicious place. West will be there, CNN reports, to share his thoughts on manufacturing, violence in Chicago, and prison reform; he's also expected to join Kid Rock, standing behind Trump as he signs the Music Modernization Act into law. But West is only really there for one reason. Trump is important, and West likes it when Trump says he's a genius; West is important, and Trump likes it when West praises him.
This, then, is a good time to read Leonard Cohen's poem, "Kanye West Is Not Picasso," which was released last week in a posthumous collection called The Flame. The poem is dated March 15, 2015.
Kanye West is not Picasso
I am Picasso
Kanye West is not Edison
I am Edison
I am Tesla
Jay-Z is not the Dylan of Anything
I am the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another
I am Tesla
I am his coil
The coil that made electricity soft as a bed
I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is
When he shoves your ass off the stage
I am the real Kanye West
I don’t get around much anymore
I never have
I only come alive after a war
And we have not had it yet
This wasn't Cohen just excoriating West or dismissing his music. Actually, for what it's worth, Cohen spoke rather admiringly of West in an interview with the Wall Street Journal a year before he wrote this poem. "A lot of, say Jay Z or Kanye West—you don't have to identify with every position they take, especially if you're white," Cohen said. "It's not necessary to identify. It's the energy, it's the resonance of truth, of person, of real experience. When we are exposed to someone's real experience, it resonates and it invigorates."
But the poem is complex, strange, lyrical, thoughtful, concise, and everything that Kanye West is unable and unwilling to be in 2018.
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