By Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Kanye West caused a stir as he joined the throng of supporters at the Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park in New York City earlier today. Appearing somewhat more demure than usual—gold chains notwithstanding — West congregated briefly with mogul Russell Simmons, who tweeted a photo of the two at the ongoing public demonstrations addressing corporate greed, corrupt politics and social injustice.
Despite a penchant for Maison Martin Margiela and tricked-out Maybachs, West has long espoused very vocal opinions about the US government and socioeconomic malaises; most famously in 2005, when he derided President George Bush for not “caring about Black people” during Hurricane Katrina. The extent of West’s official support for Occupy Wall Street remains to be seen.
Last week Talib Kweli also visited the site as the first rapper to publicly lend his support in the lower Manhattan protests. The Brooklyn native marked his appearance with a preview of a new song.
Kweli is no stranger to taking up social and political causes, but these protests have a firm grasp on his attention. “There’s no other place in New York City to be,” Kweli said. “People are taking their destiny in their own hands. This is one of the most American, if not the most American, things that I’ve ever seen.
“When I see things like Occupy Wall Street, I just try to align myself with things that make sense,” he continued. “Shame on me if I know something and don’t spread it, you know? If I know, it becomes my responsibility to spread the information.”
Hundreds of protesters gathered in silence around the pulpit where Kweli stood, rapping a cappella without the aid of a mic. The audience hung on his every syllable as he performed an as-yet-unreleased song, “Distractions,” a cutting indictment of American complacency in the face of important issues.
“People are out here from all walks of life, all colors, all classes, people that have jobs, don’t have jobs,” said Res, Kweli’s Idle Warship collaborator. “People just want to get the word out and say, ’Look, we’re sick of this, we need a change, and what you guys are doing in the White House is not hitting it.’ ” Following the performance, Kweli used the protesters’ human PA system (the speaker says a few words which are then repeated by the audience) to thank the activists for their dedication.
“They want to know what the end game is?” Kweli asked. “This is the end game.”