Professing “I love this guy” and giving President Trump a big hug, rapper Kanye West visited the White House Thursday to discuss his ideas about criminal justice reform and unifying Americans.
“Trump is on his hero’s journey right now,” Mr. West told reporters during a meeting in the Oval Office. “He might not have thought he’d have a crazy motherf— — like [me]” as an ally.
He credited Mr. Trump for negotiating with North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
“You stopped the war,” Mr. West said.
“We did stop the war — saved millions of lives,” the president replied.
Some of Mr. West’s proposals might not go far. For example, he encouraged Mr. Trump to attend the next Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who started protests against the national anthem, demonstrations the president has criticized vehemently.
Mr. West suggested the president and Mr. Kaepernick both wear hats proclaiming “Make America Great,” dropping the word “Again” from Mr. Trump’s signature campaign slogan. Mr. West said “black people have an issue with the word ‘again’ … because of the idea of racism and slavery.”
“I would love to see, at the Super Bowl, Trump wearing the ‘Make America Great’ hat and Colin wearing the ‘Make America Great’ [hat], showing that we can benefit on this side, and we can benefit on this side, and we can learn how to be malleable in the infinite universe that we are, and the loving beings that we are,” Mr. West said. “We are one country.”
The president didn’t respond to that idea in front of reporters.
Mr. West said his top priority was to dissuade Mr. Trump from promoting “stop and frisk” police tactics in Chicago. The president had just supported stop-and-frisk Monday in a speech to police chiefs, saying “it works. It was meant for problems like Chicago.”
“We feel that stop-and-frisk does not help the relationships in the city,” Mr. West told the president. “Everyone that knew I was coming here said ‘ask about stop and frisk,’ that’s the No. 1 thing we’re having this conversation about.”
Told by reporters that Mr. Trump recently had expressed support for stop-and-frisk, Mr. West said to the president, “I didn’t mean to put you on blast like that, bro.”
The president replied, “I’m open-minded. If we could do it a different way, Kanye, I’m totally open.”
Mr. Trump told reporters, “It’s also a respect issue. They [Chicago residents] respect this guy.”
“I think it’s a shame what’s happening in Chicago,” Mr. Trump said. “The numbers of people being shot and killed, it’s not for this country.”
When a reporter asked about gun control, Mr. West said, “The problem is illegal guns, not legal guns. We have the right to bear arms.”
In a 10-minute discourse in the Oval Office, Mr. West said he was misdiagnosed as bipolar, adding that he’s actually sleep deprived.
“We can empower the pharmaceuticals,” he said.
He showed the president a video on his phone of a plane powered by hydrogen, and suggested Mr. Trump fly in it.
“We’ll get rid of Air Force One,” the president replied.
When Mr. West stopped his monologue for a moment, the president commented, “I’ll tell you what, that was pretty impressive.”
“It was from the soul, I just channeled it,” Mr. West said.
The hip-hop artist is being harshly criticized by many blacks on the left for working with Mr. Trump. Referring to his “Make America Great Again” hat, Mr. West said, “They tried to scare me to not wear this hat.”
In a recent appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Mr. West said cast members tried to talk him out of wearing the hat on TV.
He criticized liberals who are pressuring him to oppose Mr. Trump.
“A liberal would try to control a black person through the concept of racism, because they know we are very proud, emotional people,” he said. “When I say I like Trump, they say ‘Oh, but he’s racist.’ Do you think racism could control me? That won’t stop me.”
Mr. Trump said of the rapper, “He can speak for me any time he wants. He’s a smart cookie. He gets it.”
Mr. West said his intention is “to release the love throughout the country.”
“We don’t have the reparations, but we have the 13th Amendment,” he said of the amendment that abolished slavery in 1865. “We got to open up the whole conversation.”
The musician asked the president to pardon Larry Hoover, founder of a Chicago street gang who is serving six life sentences in federal prison.
“We don’t need sentences, we need pardons,” Mr. West told the president. “As soon as he tried to turn his life around, they hit him with six life sentences. Larry Hoover is a living statue. He’s a beacon for us that needs to see his family, that needs to go out and represent.”
Mr. West’s wife, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, also has met with the president, pushing for clemency for a grandmother who was serving a lengthy prison sentence for a relatively minor drug charge. Mr. Trump granted the woman’s release from prison.
NFL legend Jim Brown also attended the meeting. The president said the session “was just set up to be a lunch of two people I like.”
Mr. West interrupted, saying, “I love this guy. Let me give this guy a hug.” He moved around the Resolute Desk and hugged the president, who was still seated.
“That’s really nice,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s from the heart. They’re special people.”
The president asked Mr. West how it felt to be sitting in the Oval Office.
“Oh, it is good energy,” he replied.
The meeting came on the same day that Mr. Trump signed the Music Modernization Act, which closes loopholes in digital royalty laws to ensure that songwriters, artists and producers receive fair payment for the licensing of music. The president hosted legendary musicians such as Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Kid Rock, John Rich, Jeff Baxter and Sam Moore to witness the bill signing.
“This is a historic moment,” Mr. Moore said. “When Mr. [George W.] Bush was in, we couldn’t get it done. When we had Mr. [Barack] Obama in, we couldn’t get it done.”
Turning to Mr. Trump, he said, “But we got it done with this man.”