Arts & Entertainment
Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), the rapper, producer, fashion designer, and quintessential figure in the contemporary American canon, is once again being widely criticized. It seems like every year or so he has a new scandal. 2022 has been uniquely exciting for lovers of Ye drama — he has now had at least three major controversies so far. His Instagram rants and diss track “Easy” directed at Pete Davidson caught the public eye for so long that many might forget the controversy surrounding his latest album Donda 2, an album he made only available to those who bought his signature $200 stem player.
For nearly a month, he had been posting regularly about his problems with the fashion industry — specifically, his deals with Adidas and Gap — whom he felt had wronged him in their deals. The posts carried a constant energy of radical candor and excitement at new possibilities. As time went on, he announced the design of new products as well as a new fashion line, which he hoped to be independent of the larger companies who had previously sponsored and managed the distribution and marketing of his clothes.
His fashion show in Paris just over a week ago was shocking, but perhaps not entirely surprising. After the event, pictures of him standing next to black conservative commentator Candace Owens wearing shirts with the phrase “White Lives Matter” printed on the back went viral across social media. To some, the purpose of the slogan seemed just to promote controversy and get people talking about his new brand. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League take such phrases seriously, calling them white supremacist slogans that only exist as a negative response to the slogan “Black Lives Matter.”
His true intentions behind the statement remain unclear, though Ye stuck by the phrase in interviews and statements on social media. He even posted a screenshot of an approving text message from his former Black Panther father, who mocked concerned media for being in an uproar over “a black man declaring the obvious.” In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Ye said, “The answer to why I wrote White Lives Matter on a shirt is because they do. It’s the obvious thing.” Though these T-shirts feel more provocative and controversial than most anything he said during his pro-Trump era circa 2018 (though his “slavery was a choice” rant may take that cake), they did not seem to come with any wider political messaging — until the Diddy conversations.
Though there were some mean-spirited posts and exchanges sprinkled throughout his month-long series of sometimes up to 20 posts in one day, things turned especially sour when he posted screenshots of his text conversations with fellow legendary rapper P. Diddy. Diddy made it clear that he disapproved of the shirts, saying it was “hurting our people.” At this point, Ye shot back saying, “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. I told you this was war. Now gone get you some business.” After a few more anti-Semitic posts, Ye was banned from Instagram for promoting hate.
Immediately after the Instagram ban, Ye took to Twitter to criticize Mark Zuckerberg for the ban, after which he went on another short-lived anti-Semitic tirade. Among the tweets was a threat to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” a reference to the US military’s defense readiness scale, DEFCON. The tweets were removed by Twitter moderators and Ye’s account was locked for hate speech. Still remaining is a tweet, “Who do you think created cancel culture?,” likely blaming Jews, though its vagueness allows it to remain up.
Ye fans on Reddit have had mixed reactions to his tweets and bans. One long-time moderator of the “West Sub Ever” community announced his resignation from his role, citing the events of the past week as one of the reasons. The rest of the top recent posts seem to be a mix of serious criticism and half-ironic memes posted by Redditors trying to cope with his comments by vigorously reminding themselves of the amazing music he has made. His largest community on the site, r/Kanye, has virtually no top posts making any attempts to defend Ye and carries an air of depression rife with claims that he has destroyed his legacy.
Though Ye was pictured hanging out with rapper-comedian Nick Cannon (who also happens to have come under fire for public anti-Semitic comments), most public celebrity discourse about Ye has not been so positive. Elon Musk, who earlier in the week allowed Ye back on Twitter before his swift re-banning, announced via the site that he, “Talked to ye today & expressed my concerns about his recent tweet, which I think he took to heart.” Even former President Trump, who has expressed his appreciation for Ye in the past, has reportedly told some of those around him that Ye is getting “too crazy.” Other celebrities like John Legend, Jack Antonoff, and Sarah Silverman have shared much more scathing criticism.
The Holocaust Museum LA sent an open letter to Ye inviting him to visit it, advertising it as an opportunity for him to educate himself about the Holocaust and raise awareness of anti-Semitism to millions. Ye has bounced back from every single controversy thus far in his long career; by induction alone, it seems unlikely he will not have some sort of explanation or apology and subsequent comeback. One thing is for sure: if his beloved fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was “an apology” for the 2009 Taylor Swift incident, he will have to shoot for even greater heights to come back from accusing Diddy of being a puppet of Jewish people. It will probably also require an actual apology.