Kanye West’s latest alt-right stunt — dressing his models during a 2022 Paris Fashion Week show for his YZY brand in “White Lives Matter” T-shirts, including Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley’s daughter Selah Marley — drew self-righteous condemnation from the fashion world and beyond. There were the usual calls to “divest” from West, or rather, to stop supporting his work. The problem is that West’s true audience consist of would-be creatives — a multi-racial following that, yes, includes Black people — who see him as a troubled genius and willingly minimize his misogyny and increasingly hard-right politics. His most recent album, the aborted Donda 2, featured Alicia Keys, Jack Harlow, Future, and many others. Will the cream of mainstream rap and R&B stop working with him after this? On social media, Jaden Smith patted himself on the back for walking out of the YZY show after seeing the “White Lives Matter” shirts. Left unspoken is why he was there in the first place.
Freedom Archives, an online database focused on progressive and radical historical movements, has documentation on BLU magazine, which was published between 1998 and 2001. While most press at the time limited their coverage of politically minded rap to dead prez and Black Star, the New York magazine threaded between overlapping scenes like spoken word and Afro-Cuban sounds, featured interviews with activists like Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt and Yuri Kochiyama, and dedicated issues to the Puerto Rico independence movement and women’s right. Each issue includes a CD from major names like Tony Touch as well as lesser-known acts like Rico Pabon. All together, BLU’s 14 issues depict a complex hip-hop movement that’s often omitted from histories of the period.