After a week of controversial Twitter postings, Kanye West has defended his political views in a new song.
The track Ye vs. The People sees the star trading lyrics with fellow-rapper T.I., who takes him to task over his support of Donald Trump.
“You representin’ dudes who seem crude and cold-hearted,” argues T.I., adding that West is emboldening “white supremacy”.
But the star stands his ground, insisting that he’s “fighting for the people”.
Alluding to a photo he posted of himself wearing Donald Trump’s famous Make America Great Again baseball cap, West raps: “Wearing the hat will show people that we are equal.”
“You gotta see the vantage point of the people,” spits back T.I. “What makes you feel equal makes them feel evil.”
West won’t be swayed, however.
“Make America Great Again had a negative perception,” he says. “I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction/ Added empathy, caring, love and affection/ And y’all simply questioning my methods.”
West – a mercurial and contrary performer at the best of times – has courted controversy with his support for President Trump and conservative commentators like Scott Adams and Candace Owens, who has spoken out against the Black Lives Matter movement.
He first suggested an affinity with Trump during his 2016 US tour, praising the president-elect’s communication style while noting he had not voted.
Speaking on his reactivated Twitter feed earlier this week, West called Trump “my brother” and said they shared the same “dragon energy”.
But he later added: “I don’t agree with everything Trump does. I don’t agree 100% with anyone but myself.”
“I love Hillary too,” he added in another post.
‘Kind of a big deal’
Nonetheless, the president has seized upon this rare, A-list endorsement and tweeted his approval.
“Kanye West has performed a great service to the black community,” he wrote on Friday. “Big things are happening and eyes are being opened for the first time in decades – Legacy stuff!”
“Kind of a big deal,” added his son, Donald Trump Jr, on Instagram. “Seems like a cultural turning point.”
However, West has come in for criticism from fellow musicians, including his friend and former protégé John Legend.
Legend pleaded with the rapper not let his support for Trump tarnish his “legacy” in a private text message, which West later posted online.
“Think freely,” he advised West. “Think with empathy and context too. Your words and actions have consequences.”
But after President Trump praised his comments, the star issued a clarification.
“Unfortunately, my attempt to support Kanye is being used to discredit my brothers and sisters in the movement and I can’t sit by and let that happen.”
A prolonged publicity campaign?
Ultimately, it’s possible the entire controversy has been a bizarre, prolonged publicity campaign for West’s new music; but the exchange of views seems genuine.
T.I. even hinted that Ye vs. The People was recorded just two days ago, amidst the fallout of West’s return to Twitter.
“Yesterday spent the day with Kanye,” he wrote on Instagram on Friday.
“Still optimistic something from our discussion gon stick… I refuse to just give up on him.”
Before the release of Ye vs. The People, West trolled his fans by releasing another song – Lift Yourself – filled with nonsense lyrics.
The track opens with a sped-up sample of the 1973 Amnesty song Liberty, a soulful call to arms that states, “we need to strive for more liberty”.
However, West’s sole contribution was a verse built around the lyrics: “Poopy-di scoop / Scoop-diddy-whoop / Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop.”
The two releases are West’s first new music since 2016’s Life Of Pablo album.
He has hinted he will release a new album on 1 June, followed a week later by a collaborative record with Kid Cudi.