Kanye West, the part-time musician and full-time provocateur, has spent the entirety of 2018 tearing down any sense of goodwill he still possessed in order to spite an amorphous set of enemies. His verse on XXXTentacion’s “One Minute” is the latest example of a man fully aware of what he’s saying, but wholly unconcerned with the ramifications of his rhetoric. In his appearance on the controversial rapper’s posthumous album Skins, West opts to suggest that women who accuse men of sexual assault may be lying, a pernicious gotta-tell-both-sides argument over a beat.
“She wanna give you the cookie, you Famous Amos,” Kanye raps. “She gave you the pussy, but you ain’t pay for the anus / Now your name is tainted, by the claims they paintin’/ The defendant is guilty, no one blames the plaintiff.” Those lyrics are horrendous on artistic level, and take on a sinister undertone when considering their place on XXX’s first posthumous release project. Before XXX died at the age of 20, he was facing numerous charges stemming from a 2016 domestic abuse case, including aggravated battery of a pregnant victim, domestic battery by strangulation and false imprisonment.
In October, Pitchfork received secretly recorded tapes of XXX admitting to abusing a woman. “I put my source of happiness in another person, which was a mistake initially, right? But she fell through on every occasion until now. Until I started fucking her up bruh. I started fucking her up because she made one mistake. And from there, the whole cycle went down. Now she’s scared. That girl is scared for her life. Which I understand.” the Florida rapper detailed. “I will kill that bitch if she play with me.”
That’s what makes Kanye’s verse on “One Minute” as damaging as it is baffling. One of the most famous artists in the world has opted to publicly side with rumors that the serious claims against Jahseh Onfroy were a hoax.
Kanye has a habit of blindly defending men accused of heinous acts, the majority of which are perpetrated against women. He infamously tweeted, “Bill Cosby innocent” in all caps and ten exclamations points. The Chicago rapper is an avid supporter of 6ix9ine, the controversial rapper who was placed on probation for use of a minor in a sexual performance and was featured twice on his latest album, Dummy Boy. He’s also a fan of President Trump’s “dragon energy,” a man who has also been accused of various acts of abuse and harassment against women. To get mad at West’s lyrics on XXXTentacion’s “One Minute” is to ignore his recent history.
For the past few months, Kanye has been in soft rebrand mode — a sort of stuttering damage control with frequent backslides. This week he apologized for his “lack of etiquette” after incessantly checking his phone during a Broadway performance of “The Cher Show” (he claimed he was taking notes). In October, he decided to distance himself from politics and Candace Owens after the disastrous introduction of Blexit, her appeal to black voters to leave the Democratic Party. “My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative !!!”
Kanye knows who to apologize to and when. He’s remorseful in certain crowds, then goes back to crowing whatever it takes to push a button the next moment. When it comes to hip-hop, it seems he’s still comfortable leaning into the controversy — there are less gatekeepers he’s interested in courting around than on Broadway, and shock value is a renewable currency in his music as of late.
It’s possible to discuss the implications of XXXTentacion’s death and impact of his career — West was an avowed fan — without invalidating a woman’s story in the process. It takes a lot more work, but if 2018 has proven anything it’s that West isn’t willing to do it.