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Kanye's First Album Since Going MAGA Isn't MAGA at all: West ditched the MAGA hat for his seven-track mini-album

Friday, June 1, 2018
Sen. Ted Cruz greets President Trump at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, on Thursday. Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

I Beg Your Pardon?: Trump keeps talking about celeb pardons, but hasn't said a word about Alice Johnson

Kim Says She's Optimistic, Though: Trump "really spent the time to listen to our case," she said

Kanye's First Album Since Going MAGA Isn't MAGA at all: West ditched the MAGA hat for his seven-track mini-album

Kate Bennett is off. Her section will return in two weeks.

Hunter Schwarz

What Washington is Talking About:
Reaction to President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Repubs including Speaker Ryan and House Ways and Means Committee chair Kevin Brady have come out against them.

What America is Talking About:
Koinonia: K-O-I-N-O-N-I-A, koinonia. Eighth-grader Karthik Nemmani won the Scripps National Spelling Bee yesterday with the word, which means "intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community."

Reminder:
Rent is due.

Poll of the Day:
Teens are on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. A Pew poll released Thursday found those are the three most popular social networks for US teens, and that Snapchat is used most often by 35% of US teens.
Credit: Pew

May 2018, a Retrospective:
It started with Kanye on TMZ and it ended with Kim in the Oval Office. Amazing.
Credit: Hunter Schwarz

I Beg Your Pardon?:
Kim Kardashian flew all the way across the country to Washington to advocate for Trump to pardon Alice Johnson, and Trump hasn't said a word about her. But he has been talking a lot about pardoning.

Trump pardoned Dinesh D'Souza (who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws) and said he's considering pardoning former "Apprentice" stars Rod Blagojevich (who's serving time for trying to solicit money in exchange for a US Senate seat) and Martha Stewart (who was released from federal prison more than a decade ago after being convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice). Cool.

Kim Says She's Optimistic, Though:
In an interview with Mic, Kim K said she's "really hopeful that this will turn out really positive, I hope" and that Trump "really spent the time to listen to our case that we're making with Alice." She also seemed to defend her decision to meet with Trump."If it takes me to go talk to the highest person in power, the only person that can make this happen, which is President Trump, then I will definitely do that," she said.
Credit: @Mic/Twitter

Sam Bee is Sorry:
After making NSFW remarks about Ivanka Trump Thursday, Samantha Bee apologized in a statement. "I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable," she said. "I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it."

Use Code SP20 for 20% Off Your Teami Order:
I wasn't sure whether we'd see another brand post from Sarah Palin, but here it is. Palin posted her second Instagram post about Teami last night, praising their Alive Tea ("it keeps me energized & ready for these longer days 😎," she wrote). Her first post offered 15% with her code, this one is 20%. #ThankYouTeami
Credit: @sarahpalin97/Instagram

Kanye's First Album Since Going MAGA Isn't MAGA At All:
Kanye West released his new album, "Ye," at a live-streamed listening event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last night. The seven-track mini album is no "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" or "The Life of Pablo," but it's good, a worthy addition to the Kanye canon. Missing from the album, though, is any trace of MAGA. 

West's embrace of Trump defined the lead-up to his eighth studio album. He called Trump his dragon-energy brother, and got a Twitter shoutout from @realDonaldTrump himself ("Thank you Kanye, very cool!"). But the closest "Ye" comes to Trump is a line about Stormy Daniels, and even then, it's used not as a comment on or about the 45th president, but because it rhymes ("If I pull up with a Kerry Washington that's gonna be an enormous scandal / I could have a Naomi Campbell and still might want me a Stormy Daniels" he raps on "All Mine").
The album cover for "Ye." Credit: via Spotify

Like a good pop star, West has evolved both his sound and his style over the years, using fashion to mark album cycles. There was the pink polo of "The College Dropout" and the shutter shades of "Graduation." Latter-day Yeezy is oversized, torn clothing in neutral colors, and graphics in Pablo Gothic font. 

For his latest evolution, West tried on a signed, red MAGA hat. It's turned out to be less a political statement than a fashion one, meant by West as something punk rock, and not an endorsement of Trump's stance on things like anthem protests or trade wars.

During his pro-Trump tweetstorm in April, West said his wife called to make sure he let everyone know he doesn't agree with everything Trump does. But he likes how Trump represents "the ability to do what no one said you can do, to do the impossible," he told T.I.

Although aligning himself with Trump and claiming slavery was a choice did not make West completely toxic -- the CEO of Adidas said the company stood by him and Christina Aguilera released "Acceleration," a song produced by him, as the lead single to her forthcoming album -- it didn't serve him well in the court of public opinion or on the charts.

A CNN poll found 52% of Americans who were familiar with West's comments on politics and slavery thought he was doing it for publicity rather than because he really believed what he was saying, and "Ye Vs. the People," a pre-album single in which he defended his Trump support to T.I., peaked at No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100 before falling off. 

The song's failure to take hold came as other black artists have used their music to elevate and celebrate the black experience, like Janelle Monae's "Dirty Computer," Childish Gambino's No. 1 hit "This Is America," and the "Black Panther" soundtrack, featuring and curated by the Pultizer Prize-winning Kendrick Lamar. For a rapper who's defined musical trends, from sped-up soul samples to earnest autotune and emo rap, West suddenly felt out of step.

So MAGA Ye appears to have been quietly retired, and "Ye Vs. the People," which does not appear on the tracklist for "Ye," forgotten. It joins other songs seemingly meant to launch albums that flop and are are demoted from would-be lead single to stand-alone "buzz" single, like Britney Spears' "Pretty Girls" and Ariana Grande's "Focus."
A selection of MAGA comments in the livestream for West's album listening event. Credit: via WAV

There were only a few reminders of West's recent foray into politics at the listening event. The comments section on the livestream had a few references, but they were largely outnumbered by follow requests and comments about the Cavs-Warriors game. And Candace Owens, the Turning Points USA communications director West catapulted to fame when he tweeted he "liked the way [she] thinks" (that makes her to "Ye" what Bon Iver was to "MBDTF," no?), was there, posting photos of celebs to her Instagram story less than a year after saying on YouTube no one cares what celebs think.
Credit: @realcandaceowens/Instagram story

But there were no MAGA hats in sight. West wore to the event a neon yellow shirt that said "Following The Light" and orange "Wyoming" hoodie that's available for purchase for $85 and comes with a digital copy of the album. And for his hat, he wore one that read "Kanye West Album Listening May 31 2018 Jackson Hole."
Credit: via Pitchfork

Street Art Sighting:
In honor of Ye, today's street art sighting is a thrashed-up Kanye 2024 poster across from LACMA.
Credit: Hunter Schwarz

If you spot political street art, tweet me @hunterschwarz, tag me on Instagram @hunterschwarz, or email me at coverlinehunter@cnn.com with your sighting so I can feature it in COVER/LINE.

P.S.:
As for my fav songs off "Ye," the ones I keep spinning are "Yikes" and "Ghost Town." Curious what you guys think of the album. Email me your thoughts, have a good weekend, and I'll see you back on Monday. Schwarz out.
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COVER/LINE is where politics meets pop culture. From CNN's Hunter Schwarz and Kate Bennett, this daily newsletter is the must-read lunch date in Washington and beyond.

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