‘I miss the old Kanye’: what has happened to rap’s most complex star?

Self-delusion is inexhaustible, it seems

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His suggestion that black people have been complicit in their own slavery has prompted widespread outrage. What lies behind Kanye West’s recent provocations?

Photograph: Smallz & Raskind/Contour by Getty Image

In a video viewed more than 6m times on Twitter, 21-year-old Chika Oranika summed up the current feelings of many black Americans about Kanye West. She delivered her own lyrics over the beat of the rap star’s Jesus Walks. “How you say you Yeezus but do nothing to restore us? You support the people up in power that abort us,” she raps into the camera. “It don’t matter how much money you got or you lack, when that cheque clear don’t forget that your children are still black.”

Why the opprobrium, which has come from activists, Hollywood stars and fellow musicians, as well as withering online freestyles? West, one of the most significant, complex and celebrated rappers in the US, has used a 350-tweet stream of consciousness over the past fornight to throw his support firmly behind Donald Trump. But yesterday, he went way beyond party politics in an interview with TMZ, saying, in a sloppy bit of rhetoric: “You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”

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