One of the most telling bits of insight we got from Kanye West’s social media confrontation with rapper Wiz Khalifa in the past few weeks was a particular string of tweets referencing model and founder of eponymous not-for-profit organization, Amber Rose. Before Rose was married to, had a kid with, and divorced Wiz, she was in a long relationship with West that culminated in a harsh breakup, as evidenced in tunes like the distorted dirge of “Blame Game” off 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The tweets in question were throws at Wiz that ended up slighting Rose: “you let a stripper trap you,” “I know you mad every time you look at your child that this girl got you for 18 years,” and “…I own your child!!!!”
While the two did patch it up after — the original tweet that ignited the outburst was a fundamental confusion between Kim Kardashian’s initials and slang for weed — with Kim Kardashian and Amber taking a hatchet-burying selfie in tandem, this still highlights one of the few, but major detractors from an otherwise flawless career: that Kanye has a tendency to reduce the women in his life to the same one-dimensional caricatures featured in his most recent work.
Reading over the lyrics and context in “Bound 2,” his verse on Future’s “I Won,” and “I’m In It,” references of Kardashian are limited to her as a “trophy,” a sexual object, and, well, the entirety of the latter track. This would be thinkpiece-worthy if I stopped now (and it was, as evidenced by articles from Vox and Essence), but, as we found in the reporting of the feud, from music news/opinion sites Pitchfork and Stereogum to the multifaceted Buzzfeed, there was focus on the more stunting-focused tweets, incredible as they were (two words: “cool pants”), than an opportunity for pointed commentary.
We even see the same thing Kanye did in the criticism of his words as well. Self-described “music nerd” Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop, in discussing the fallout from the tweets, reiterated how it’s wrong for “selectively shaming women for sexual behavior,” not even an hour after reducing Kim, the leader of a now successful media empire, to her previous sex tape status in an initial reaction to the outburst.
So why is this still relevant? Because in 2016, we should expect more than the slightest cut in the regular dissection of our cultural icons. Because, while I’m not looking for Kanye to be a feminist hero — I already have Amber Rose for that — I’m hoping that, after having a girl and spending time with powerful women on the daily, we see The Life of Pablo take care of this family business. And lastly, for as much as we can say that Kanye has a women problem, we need to address our own problematic reception of his cultural engagement in order to be “real fans.”