Kanye West Speaks at Sprawling South Carolina Campaign Event
West covered everything from corporate boards to the merits of farming
Wearing a bulletproof vest and sporting a haircut that incorporated the year 2020, Kanye West held the first event for his presidential campaign at the Exquis Event Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.
As one might expect from West’s quixotic campaign, it was surreal. It was very surreal. That weirdness began with a logistical matter: West did not use a microphone to address the crowd. The strangeness of this was addressed early on: “Moving forward, we will be in rooms where the acoustics will be absolutely incredible, because I will be involved with the design,” West said.
That line got a warm reception from the audience, and served as a reminder that West can be a very charming presence on stage. Over the course of the event, all sides of West were on display — from the self-deprecating to the pontificating. He could go from sounding like a political reactionary to sounding like a Jacobin contributor in the span of seconds. The effect was often dizzying.
There were times when it seemed like a traditional campaign event. There were times when West spoke at length on candid topics, including being addicted to percocet after plastic surgery. And there were stretches where he ceded the floor to other attendees to hold forth on subjects like police reform. One part religious revival, one part town council meeting and one part press conference, maybe?
At various points, West blended critiques of corporations with the perspective of a relative insider in that world. West also expressed his frustration at not being on the board of Adidas, despite Yeezy’s long history of collaborating with them. He called for a change in that “or I walk away.”
West also broke down in tears when discussing abortion, which was a subject he returned to repeatedly over the course of the afternoon. Though in keeping with the event’s freeform nature, West also said that he believed that abortion should be legal in 2020 — but that “maximum increase,” which would involve paying large sums of money women who had given birth, should also be an option.
It wasn’t the only time a comment of West’s provoked a strong reaction from the crowd. A number of moments (including calling for people imprisoned for offenses related to marijuana) garnered substantial applause. Others received a harsher reaction; the line, “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves; she just had them work for other white people” received some of the loudest groans of the event.
West’s event lasted a little over an hour. Near the end, West turned his attention to guns and touted an agrarian lifestyle, invoking Nikolai Tesla along the way. He also said, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” unironically. It might be the strangest event on the campaign trail this year — at least, until the next one.
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