Kanye’s Ye Is a Soundtrack for Gentrifiers

Illustration for article titled Kanye’s Ye Is a Soundtrack for Gentrifiers
Photo: Matt Cardy (Getty Images)

I was once a resident of Yeezus Island, but this spring has compelled me, finally, to put my house on the market. I doubt there will be any buyers, though. Maybe Jonah Hill might be interested, but my optimism has limitations.


Anyway, Ye—which I listened to a few times last weekendis many things. Undercooked. Scattered. Perhaps laced with Wyoming-specific hallucinogens, considering the hosannas about it from those at the listening party for it. Like much of Kanye’s music, Ye has moments of miscellaneous misogyny so random and distracting and juvenile that it feels, sometimes, like listening to a 6-year-old peppering “This Little Light of Mine” with Andrew Dice Clay punchlines.

Also, it’s boring. Oh so fucking boring. For all the things you could say about Kanye’s music, boring was a thing you’d at least never say. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It’s easily his worst album, but it’s still not terrible. There are stretches of music on it that are not difficult to listen to. It’s just ... inert. Existing for existing’s sake.

That in mind, I am officially suspicious of people who have claimed to enjoy Ye. (Just in case the subtext isn’t clear enough, by “people” I do mostly mean “white people.”) I’m not qualified to provide a mental health diagnosis for Kanye, but he claims to be suffering from bipolar disorder, and I have no reason not to believe him.

Either way, considering his recent behavior and the lazy chaos of Ye, the clearest message on his album is that he should not be making albums right now. Finding pleasure in this particular work requires a strain of voyeurism and consumptional sociopathy not unlike what you’d need to possess to enjoy torture porn.

So I’m going to share a thing here that I’m not sure I should be sharing: While driving through the city last weekend and listening to Ye, I felt shame. It wasn’t enough to compel me to stop listening, but it was enough for me to listen at a much lower volume than I usually prefer. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was betraying blackness by even listening long enough to assess it, and also that I was enabling a possibly sick man who perhaps needs some friends and some solitude instead of more streams. And that made (and still makes) me sad. We’re all existing in and battling against the same leviathan of white supremacy. And perhaps what saddens me most about all of this is that he just stopped fighting.

I happened to be driving through East Liberty—a hypergentrified neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End—when I recognized those feelings. I rode past David’s Shoes, an East Liberty landmark that’s now in the middle of a going-out-of-business clearance sale, and then made a left on Highland Avenue past one of the several loft and condominium spaces now straddling East Liberty’s blocks.


It’s funny how, regardless of where and how gentrification happens in America, it has the same signifiers. The same types of stores. The same types of restaurants. The same types of housing. The same types of people. It’s so uncanny that it can no longer just be considered a replacing of culture. It is its own culture. A derivative soullessness that doesn’t even feign to pretend that it’s not replicative and parasitic. There’s no need to not be transparent when you have no shame.

It exists in the space and in the spaces where empathy for regular black people ends. And Kanye was kind enough to give it all a soundtrack.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



Honestly I just shake my head at everyone I’ve seen that have critiqued and somehow justify their reasoning or “shame” for listening to this album.

I mean at least find some way to illegally download it. Just wish people would sit this album out to prove a point to Kanye.

But I guess they did prove a point by listening. Kanye can say and do whatever “Whitney Houston picture” and still have his supporters.