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“Uncancellable”: Kanye West’s album reaches first place

After almost three years, Kanye West (or “Ye”) released his latest album, Vultures 1, collaborating with Ty Dolla $ign as part of a planned trilogy. One might expect that, given the end of many business relationships due to his previous anti-Semitic statements, this album would underperform. But it reached number one place in at least 100 countries on the Apple and iTunes charts, although it was produced independently and was not initially available on Spotify and YouTube.

The implication here is that West has achieved a level of success and fandom that cannot be erased or reversed. Kanye is, so to speak, irrevocable. He has tens of millions of listeners and daily streams on Spotify alone. And that was before his last album.

Vultures 1 is already proving controversial, with its original album artwork accused of carrying Nazi connotations. Lyrically, Kanye raps, in reference to artists respectively convicted and accused of sexual abuse, that “I’m Ye-Kelly’s bitch… Now I’m rich Puff Daddy (Ha), it’s ‘#MeToo me’ rich (Ha).” And in a nod to accusations of anti-Semitism, another Western lyric says: “I’m not anti-Semitic, I just fucked a Jewish slut.”

While these lyrics aren’t the most shocking in the rap genre, they speak to the level of confidence West has about his status in popular culture. Indeed, because the rapper is now so famous, he can withstand more shock (and attempts at cancellation) than most other artists. Take, for example, Azealia Banks, who has had a promising start to her music career. It quickly sparked controversy for using homophobic insults, castigating trans women, endorsing – approve Donald Trump and the posting of irregular social media posts that damaged his reputation and career prospects. Ultimately, Banks was sidelined from major shows and festivals, leading to a decline in sales. The same can’t be said for West, as the success of his latest album shows.

But more broadly, Kanye’s relative success can be attributed to the death of monoculture. Previously, most of the general public listened to the radio, watched the same television channels, read the same newspapers and consumed the same news sources. But the growth of the Internet from the 2010s has gradually segmented this culture. Today, more and more people consume news, media, and music from smaller, more specialized sources. This means that a song could be a smash hit within an online community while most of the offline audience would ignore it and perhaps never hear it in their lives.

So it’s possible that those who aren’t regularly online or aren’t interested in social media don’t really care, even if they know about his scandals, since they just see him as a gifted rapper. The fact remains that Kanye is as “canceled” as his next album. If his albums contain at least high-quality music, they will be listened to and downloaded, talked about and thus earn more money.

True cancellation does not come from media, music or fashion elites. Like it or not, it comes from the bottom: West will only truly be “cancelled” when people stop listening to his music and demand diminishes. Until then, Kanye isn’t going away anytime soon.

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