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Kanye has a new album, but he isn’t worth our time anymore

In the past, we’ve overlooked his antics because of his transcendent music. That Mr. West is gone.

Nine years ago, Kanye West prepared for the release of his fifth album, 2010’s classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, by unleashing one of the more creative rollouts in rap history.

He used a viral campaign called GOOD Fridays — named after his G.O.O.D. music label — dropping new songs every Friday leading up to his album release date on Nov. 22, 2010. The songs often featured high-profile collaborations with artists such as Jay-Z, Pusha T and Nicki Minaj. As a result MBDTF stands among the best of the decade.

We don’t owe Kanye our time anymore and it’s totally fine to skip out on his latest project, Jesus Is King and the circus Mr. West brings with it. A circus that now includes multiple pushbacks, false starts and an October 25th midnight release that still hasn’t materialized.

West has always toed the line between being provocative and a glorified internet troll. For every gesture, such as calling out President George W. Bush in 2005 for his negligence toward black people wading through Hurricane Katrina waters, there’s a West who rushes the MTV Video Music Awards stage to interrupt Taylor Swift for winning an award over Beyoncé. But his antics were acceptable because, for more than a decade, his efficiency rating for classic albums rivaled those of Ice Cube, Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest and the other greats in rap history.

A celebrity’s acceptability often depends on the intersection of the severity of that person’s transgressions and the brilliance of his or her art. The more brilliant the art, the more we’ll put up with. West’s brilliance pushed that intersection to its limits. His albums, The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation and MBDTF, are all seminal works in rap music. His production credits for albums such as Jay-Z’s The Blueprint revolutionized the way we absorbed hip-hop. And his contributions to the overall culture as a fashion icon can’t be ignored.

So we were always able to look past his tantrums and Twitter feuds because the journey was leading to transcendent music. That isn’t the case anymore.

West has spent the last three years being a staunch defender of President Donald Trump, a move that goes beyond being a publicity-seeking annoyance. He has paraded around in a “Make America Great Again” hat, pretending he desires an open, honest discourse when he’s instead rubbing an oppressive symbol in black America’s face. He even said that slavery was a “choice.”

I can’t imagine how great an album West would have to put out for all of that to be acceptable. Which leads to one of the biggest surprises of the past few years: West’s new music just isn’t that good. His 2018 album, Ye, for instance, was a cacophony of sophomoric lyrics and a creative wasteland.

His latest album, Jesus is King, is an outgrowth of his recent fervent religiosity. He’s spent the last year or so touring the country putting on “Sunday Services” shows. The shows are supposed to mirror the aesthetic of churches, playing mashups of gospel songs and secular music. While West has been credited with doing something innovative with these blends, the black church has been doing this forever — from changing Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “You’re The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me” to “Jesus Is The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me” to Kirk Franklin going viral for Milly Rocking a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, West maintains his support for the president even as he performs at the historically black Howard University and the black megachurch New Birth Missionary Baptist in Atlanta — a church that rejected his donation due to his support for Trump, and instead sent the money to Morris Brown College, a historically black school where his mother, Donda West, previously taught.

There’s too much bad in this world to be focusing our attention on West. Being black in America means being an emotional reservoir that holds an endless flood of trauma, from reports of black folks killed by police, political turmoil or our own personal battles to survive in this land.

We don’t have to subject ourselves to West’s ridicule and anti-black trolling. There are too many artists who love us and are putting out content that make us feel good about ourselves — whether that be the affirmations we get from Solange or Rapsody or the energetic fun from artists such as Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby — to let this faux philosopher take up that real estate in our minds.

We don’t have to give West the benefit of the doubt based on his past brilliance. That Mr. West is gone. And we don’t have to wait for him to return.

David Dennis Jr. is a senior writer at Andscape and an American Mosaic Journalism Prize recipient. His book, The Movement Made Us, will be released in 2022. David is a graduate of Davidson College.