In the early hours of this morning, UAE time, Donald Trump tweeted a picture of himself in the Oval Office with Kim Kardashian West, explaining that they had enjoyed a “great meeting… about prison reform and sentencing”.
On the face of things, it seems like an out-of-the-blue summit between two reality stars – one of whom happens to be the President of the United States; the other married to rap's loose cannon Kanye West – who himself hit the headlines a month ago with his controversial Trump love-in. But rap music can help us connect the dots – specifically, through two of Kanye's hip-hop associates who have spearheaded calls for prison reform in the past couple of years.
Perhaps the most visible has been Meek Mill, sometime beau of Nicki Minaj and a Philadelphia rapper with a long, complicated history with the law. Last month, he was released from prison after being sentenced to two to four years in November for violating his probation on a gun and drug conviction from a decade previously, pending a new trial. The violations included an arrest for performing a motorcycle wheelie during filming for a music video in August.
He argues that such rulings leave thousands of ex-convicts living in fear and that the black population of the US are unfairly targeted – recent figures from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics show that 4.6 million of the US population are subject to probation or on parole; campaigners say that a third of those people are black.
In 2016, meanwhile, when Hillary Clinton was running for the presidency against Trump, Pusha-T, who rose to cult status as half of the sibling rap duo Clipse, nailed his colours to the mast of the Democratic candidate. The New York-born, Virginia-raised rapper’s status was assured when he succeeded West as president of the latter’s label, GOOD Music, in 2015, and he had hoped to use his position to push a prison reform agenda into the political arena.
In a recent radio interview promoting his new album, Daytona, Pusha-T lamented Clinton's failure to get into office as causing a temporary dead-end in his prison reform ambitions – and that he had little interest in doing so using Republican/Trump channels.
Daytona, incidentally, includes a song titled What Would Meek Do?, featuring West, who also produced the record. These links run deep.
It stands to reason, then, that through her husband and his rap contacts, Kardashian West is probably rather well informed on the issue of prison reform. Perhaps her star power can succeed where the likes of Meek Mill and Pusha-T have so far hit a political brick wall.