Review: Kanye West’s ‘Break the Simulation’

Yeezy taught me. Or he’s trying to, anyway.

Illustration+by+Cedar+Thomas

Cedar Thomas

Illustration by Cedar Thomas

Sophie Vilensky

About two weeks ago, Kanye West announced that he was writing a philosophy book — “Break the Simulation.”

That same day, West took back to Twitter after a long hiatus. There were a few days of “inspirational” messages that played out like knock-off Chance the Rapper account tweets. Everyone was retweeting, and every Snapchat news app was reporting the messages.

Then … surprise! On April 18 West announced that his return to Twitter was the book. “Break the Simulation” was to exist — much like West’s most recent album “The Life of Pablo,” in which songs were being reworked post release — in a constantly evolving form.

“Oh by the way this is my book that I’m writing in real time. [ … ],” West tweeted.

And then the storm began. More inspirational messages, text screenshots … and a slew of messages praising Donald Trump’s energy and supporters that included a photo of West in a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

West’s follow count dropped significantly, with un-followers including a number of West’s Kardashian sisters-in-law.

As Tweets rolled out and replies rolled in, West’s celebrity friends took to Twitter to defend and argue with him. One opponent in particular was John Legend.

“You’re way too influential to endorse who [Trump] is and what he stands for [ … ],” Legend wrote West.

These messages, of course, overshadowed West’s earlier Twitter outputs:

“Some people have to work within the existing consciousness while some people can shift the consciousness,” he wrote on April 15.

And then, on April 22: “People demonize people and then they demonize anybody who sees anything positive in someone whose been demonized.”

Subtly, these earlier messages foreshadowed the current conversations.

But the politics got the headlines; they were more fun to talk about.

This Friday night, West attended a dinner with Legend; they posted a smiling selfie.

Unabashedly sweet looking (through the very calculated window of an Instagram story, anyway), the nonchalance of their gathering showed that everyone seemed to be in on it.

The pair was existing simultaneously in angry Twitter messages and IRL in friendly piano concerts. Maybe they had been tweeting their disagreements while sitting next to each other all along.

That same night, West dropped two songs. The first, “Lift Yourself,” began like any Kanye song might — with some soul sampling. Specifically, a sample of Amnesty’s 1973 song “Lift Yourself” from the album “Free Your Mind” (a phrase that sounds particularly inclined to become a @KanyeWest tweet).

West’s verse, teased with plenty of fire emojis, comes toward the end of the song. 

“Poopy-di scoop, Scoop-diddy-whoop, Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop,” West raps. Yes, that’s it.

“Free Your Mind” was a dare. A ‘you’re going to talk about it, please do. But just know I’m in on it too.’ From all over, replies rolled in. Celebrities played the song and laughed, memes were created. No doubt the expected reaction.

The second song, “Ye vs. The People,” was a nod, a wink. Premiering only on one particular LA hip-hop radio station, it was released on Kanye’s website and streaming services the next day. The song plays out as a political debate between West and rapper T.I.

“You on some choosin’-side shit, I’m on some unified shit,” West raps. Of course he doesn’t completely agree with Trump, he says. But he likes that his win meant that West himself could be president.

Throughout the song, West and T.I. touch on everything his past few days of tweets have said … and all of the arguments that came out of them.

“Why don’t we just cut the beat off and let the people talk?” West raps at the end. And it does cut out, and they do talk — they still are. On Twitter, in line at the coffee shop, in college newspaper articles.

With the song, West seems to say he did plan it all, to get people talking.

As reply-tweets keep pouring in, these realizations of the calculated-ness of it all feel like little cracks in a simulation.

Saturday night, West tweeted a photo of Parkland shooting survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez with the caption “my hero Emma Gonzalez,” followed by a photo of West with a newly shaved head and the caption “inspired by Emma.”

Drastically different forms of head accessory, same reaction — new followers from the other side of the political spectrum clicked unfollow.

So yeah Yeezy, we get it.

You’re trying to break the simulation, destroy polarities and bring light to spectacle.

It’s working. And we like it.

But there better be an album at the end of this. Not everyone has the energy to think this all out, to be hurt by an idol, to care about anything else right now.