Declaring that his red “MAGA” hat makes him “feel like Superman,” rapper Kanye West made a free-styling appearance in the Oval Office on Thursday.
Ahead of a private lunch, President Donald Trump and West spoke with reporters as they sat across from each other at the Resolute Desk. West dominated the conversation with a series of monologues that touched on social policy, mental health, endorsement deals, his support for the president and his home city of Chicago.
“Trump is on his hero’s journey right now,” West said, tossing out an expletive to describe himself.
West said that many people believe that, if you’re black, you have to be a Democrat and said he was pressured not to wear his red “Make America Great Again” hat. But he said “this hat, it gives me power.”
In rapid fire, West touched on everything from what he says was a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder to building factories in the U.S. to gun violence. In between, he tucked in comments about his vow to move back to Chicago, about attending a White Sox game with his son and a meeting at the trendy Soho House with Michael Sacks, who happens to be a close confidant and top campaign donor to outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
West said he and Sacks discussed job creation, which West said is one of the ways to make Chicago great again.
“You’ve got Levis … making their jeans in Vietnam,” he said after referencing the meeting in Chicago and noting that creating factories and “ideation centers” are the things that will empower people living in this country.
The rapper also asked Trump to pardon on of Chicago’s more infamous convicts: Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover. He was convicted of murder in 1973 and was serving a lengthy prison sentence when he ran into more legal troubles In 1998, he was sentenced to six life sentences for running the gang’s drug empire from behind bars.
West described Hoover as a man who was turning his life around when law enforcement went after him.
Hoover “is a living statue” to African Americans, West said. Hoover’s attorney was present in the Oval, but Trump did not comment on the request.
Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were also in the meeting.
West credited Trump with preventing a war with North Korea and encouraged Trump to swap his usual Air Force One for a hydrogen-powered plane. West also argued that Trump deserved more respect, saying: “If he don’t look good, we don’t look good.”
During one pause in West’s comments, Trump said: “I tell you what that was pretty impressive.” He also described West as a “smart cookie.”
The president talked broadly, even awkwardly, about Chicago — letting West and perhaps the viewing audience know that he has some insight to the city because of his hotel here.
“I have nice things in Chicago, as you know,” he said, adding: “They have numbers of people being shot and killed. They have to do something.”
At one point, West rose and walked over to hug the president seated behind his desk, saying, “I love this guy right here.”
The rapper also spoke against stop-and-frisk policing policies, which Trump recently expressed support for, especially in the city of Chicago. Trump said he was open to other ideas after West expressed reluctance on the policy.
“We feel that stop and frisk does not help with the relationship in the city and everyone knew I was coming here said, ‘ask about stop and frisk,’” West said.
Trump recently tweeted praise for West, who closed a “Saturday Night Live” show wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and delivering an unscripted pro-Trump message after the credits rolled, earning the ire of much of the cast.
West is married to reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who successfully pushed Trump to grant a pardon for a drug offender this year.