Kanye West’s trip to Uganda is tone deaf and out of sync

Kanye West meets Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni
Kanye West meets Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni
Image: Press Unit/Handout via Reuters
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In daily updates from his social media team and gossip site TMZ, Kanye West is exploring Uganda in a neon green sweater and no political awareness. West and his wife Kim Kardashian West wore matching fluorescent shirts with the Ye’s World Food Program logo as they visited an orphanage on Tuesday. On the back, their shirts read ‘Saving Lives, Changing Lives.’

West, who is in Uganda to finish his latest album, played some of his new music to the Ugandan orphans before handing out pairs of crisp white Yeezy sneakers to each child. He also gifted the orphanage with Beats By Dré speakers. Unaffected by Uganda’s social media tax, West broadcast videos of children dancing in their new shoes.

The Wests arrived at the orphanage in a presidential helicopter, a favor from president Yoweri Museveni. The Ugandan president hosted the celebrity couple, and praised their visit as a boost for tourism. West also gifted Museveni with a pair of Yeezys. West apparently also promised to open a world class tourism school that would serve the whole East African region, local media reported.

One of Uganda’s biggest musicians criticized West’s meeting with the president who has refused to step down for over three decades. Musician turned lawmaker Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu), told The Guardian that it was “immoral” for West to “just to rub shoulders with the president.”

Museveni, 74, has been in power in Uganda since 1986, when West just was 9. He is Africa’s third longest serving president and has overseen a change in his country’s constitution’s presidential age limit to enable him continue ruling beyond his current term.

Once known for political music, as an elected official Wine has posed a real threat to Museveni by galvanizing the frustration of young Ugandans. After surviving detention and torture in August, Wine traveled to Kenya where he was greeted by large crowds and like-minded young politicians. In another era, Wine and West may have collaborated and bonded over becoming voices for their impoverished communities, instead Wine found support from other international voices.

In Uganda “to grab the soil and be” as he completes his Yandhi album, West told fans that the “spirit of Fela is inside him,” invoking the spirit of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.

“On behalf of the Kuti family, I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn’t anywhere near Kanye West,” responded Seun Kuti, Fela Kuti’s son and an Afrobeat star in his own right.

West’s grip on contemporary Africa is unsurprising, after he referred to the continent as “what is known as Africa,” in yet another bewildering interview. It’s a far cry from the rapper on “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” who called out hip-hop’s fixation with conspicuous consumption, while ignoring the exploitation behind the jewels they wore. Today, West’s social stance is so altered, that it distracts from any measured conversations about his evolution as an artist.

In fact, the man who refuses to take off the red Make America Great Again cap is almost unrecognizable from the producer and rapper who topped charts while illuminating the African American experience, with albums like College Dropout to Watch The Throne (which West hopes he’ll better with Yandhi). After alienating fans in the United States, he now also risks turning off African fans.

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