How has the Joe Rogan Experience gone from being an amateurishly produced watering hole for foul-mouthed LA comedians, sponsored by a masturbation aid, to being among the most influential media platforms in America? Democrat and Republican politicians have been beating a path to the comedian and commentator’s door. Donald Trump challenged Joe Biden to a debate on the podcast. Now, Kanye West has insisted on talking to Mr Rogan about his quixotic presidential ambitions.
“I believe that my calling is to be the leader of the free world,” says West. It is easy to make fun of the man’s self-importance. Very easy. Still, it does not come from a place of simple narcissism. It is clear that the rapper has a deep core of spiritual conviction. His belief in God might be a somewhat shapeless belief in a grander, more loving force than man, but it is real. He expresses powerful truths, movingly, such as in his comments on the ludicrous contortions men squeeze themselves into in order to excuse their porn habits, or the culture of death surrounding abortion, and his horror that he might have sacrificed the family he loves due to being “busy” with more trivial things.
But then he is off again, into another riff. He likes the Star Wars prequels. He is outraged about the contracts musicians are bound to. At one point, he appears to forget what he is doing there and starts asking himself whether he wants to be in “content” or “tech”. “Kanye!” you want to say, “You want to be the president of the US! Remember?” “It’s almost like Kanye [is] five people talking about different things,” one commenter jokes, “And each person gets a turn every twenty seconds.”
Such haphazardness is to some extent inherent to the platform. Without scripts or preparation, one’s thoughts flit about much as they do when one is talking to friends in real life. Still, the sheer extent of West’s conversational randomness is symptomatic not just of his own colourful personality, but the extent to which, in an internet age, we consume more information than we can ever process.
Of course, it is good to consume a lot of information. No one wants to be blinkered. But the flip-side of our freedom from the narrow epistemic confines of the mainstream media is the difficulty of discerning what is worthy and unworthy of our focus. What is true and what is not? What should be prioritised? Hell, what we thinking about in the first place?
West’s moments of striking poignancy faded into a blizzard of frenzied rambling, which made for one hell of a podcast, but could be a problem for someone who wants to change the world.