No one needed an apology from Kanye West.
Celebrity apologies have become a predictable part of our contemporary pop culture diet. Whether it’s a bovine-themed viral star asking forgiveness for dropping F-bombs on Twitter or a popular rapper walking back an offensive comedy skit involving civil rights icons, you watch the celeb put their foot in their mouth, and wait for the “This is not who I am” and “to anyone hurt by my words” that follow.
It’s the cycle. And this week, Kanye West offered a mea culpa for his infamous tirade back in May. In the weeks prior to the release of his Ye album, West prodded and poked the general public with several controversial statements—the most inflammatory being a dismissal of slavery’s legacy during an appearance at TMZ.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said. “For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” He also added, “You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.”
This past Wednesday, during an appearance on Chicago’s WGCI-FM 107.5, Kanye sort of apologized for that statement.
“I have never really approached or addressed the slavery comment fully,” he said somberly. “This is something about the fact that it hurt people’s feelings and the way that I presented that piece of information. I could present in a way more calm way, but I was ramped up. And I apologize. That happens sometimes when people are—I’m not blaming mental health, but I’m explaining mental health.”
“I don’t know if I properly apologized for how the slavery comment made people feel. I’m sorry for the one-two effect of the MAGA hat into the slave comment, and I’m sorry for people that felt let down by that moment.”
But no one needs an apology from Kanye West.
There are Kanye fans who were still going to support him regardless of what he said about Trump. He even made some new fans on the right with his pro-Trump pandering.
Kanye used the pain of the killings in Chicago as fodder to spout more MAGA rhetoric, while he’s become more detached from his hometown than ever. Kanye says that’s going to change (“Y’all ‘bout to see,” Kanye assured the hosts.) A spat with former comrade Rhymefest earlier this year came down to West’s involvement with his Donda’s House charity. Donda’s House was named for Kanye’s late mother, founded in her honor by Kanye, Rhymefest (born Che Smith) and Rhymefest’s wife, Donnie. But a social-media feud between Rhymefest and Kim Kardashian-West led to a disassociation from the West brand and a renaming of the foundation.
“How can you criticize an organization you’ve never been to OR that you’ve never even talked to the Executive Director or any of the team,” Rhymefest tweeted in response to Kardashian threatening to “…take Donda’s House from you and let my children run it the way it should be run!”
“I actually knew and was mentored by Dr. Donda West personally,” Rhymefest responded. “And have met and spoke to hundreds of her students and mentees who not only support the work that we are doing in Chicago, but compel it. "
The feud seemed to affirm the rift that’s formed between Kanye and old associates from Chicago. Kanye said that he still sees Fest as a friend.
“I gave Fest that job because he’s my brother,” Kanye explained. “If someone has a foundation… put it like this, this is no knock to Fest, but if [G.O.O.D. Music affiliate and fashion designer] Virgil [Abloh] was head of Donda’s House, would I have to do anything? Sometimes you put your boys in certain positions but it doesn’t mean they’re exactly meant to run that. My wife is a gangsta, I can’t control what she’s doing or saying to protect our family or me.”
But the back-and-forth with Rhymefest was the most glaring takeaway from Kanye’s year of ridiculousness. There is a chasm between the ever-reclusive star and the Windy City that raised him that he needs to fix. That’s what he can do if he wants the city to know he hasn’t completely gone Calabasas. Since he’s weaponized Chicago’s plight for the sake of giving credence to MAGA ignorance, West needs to show up for his city, to be sure. Kanye still believes that he’s taking a stand for those who are “afraid” to share that they voted for Trump and for any American who has the right to have an opinion. But there is no valor in contrarianism, and voicing support for the reprehensible in the name of “diversity of thought” is misguided and silly. He hasn’t learned that particular lesson yet. In effect, he’s just sorry he made a radio host cry.
Another fallen celeb attempted to shuffle back onto his old stomping grounds this week; except Louis C.K. didn’t go on a radio station and cry. No, the disgraced comedian made his return to stand-up comedy, with a surprise appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York City followed by another unannounced stop, this time at Governors’ Comedy Club in Levittown, Long Island.
Last November, several women said C.K. had made unwanted sexual advances or masturbated in front of them, and he later admitted to the behavior. C.K.’s return has been met with criticism and reveals just how little a famous man has to do to begin the road back to respectability. C.K. and Kanye aren’t guilty of the same ills: one created an abusive work environment for the women in his professional orbit; the other is a knucklehead who just probably shouldn’t be asked about politics ever again. But the reality is they both have fans who won’t demand more from them. Mel Gibson waited almost a decade—but these guys are hoping to wash the stink of scandal off in a matter of months. Louis C.K. doesn’t need to apologize. He needs to go away and do the work to address his issues and the damage he’s done. Kanye West didn’t need to apologize. He needs to go away, educate himself on the things he’s so loudly proclaimed and ponder where he needs to stop using ignorance as an excuse to say foolish things. No more quietly creeping back into the room or shedding crocodile tears after disrespecting so much for so little. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for your faves to get back in the public’s good graces. Leave them where they stand unless/until they have done the work.
“People love a comeback narrative, and all too often they yearn for this narrative at the expense of victims who are only beginning to reconcile with their suffering,” writer Roxane Gay posited in an op-ed for The New York Times regarding Louis C.K.’s attempted comeback. That eagerness for a return to the status quo can make even the most empty gesture feel like a step in the right direction. Again—Kanye is no C.K. But we have to wonder why we think we need apologies from these folks in the first place. The most cynical take is framing the apology as solely for the fallen celeb’s benefit. But it’s just as honest to recognize how often it’s to let us off the hook, as well.