Kanye West may have finally gone too far and can't go back.
As one of the most important cultural figures of the 21st century, West has been in and out of trouble over and over again. His many anti-Semitic comments could be too much to handle.
Ye, the musician and businessman who used to go by the name Kanye West, rapped these words on 2013's "I Am a God." In some ways, they've been a motto for his whole career. The rapper and producer became well-known for changing his style of music all the time. He didn't follow current trends, but instead followed his own inspiration, even if it meant losing fans along the way.
This philosophy has always been a part of his public persona and has come to define it in a big way. He went from being a hip-hop super-producer to a rapper who ruled the world, from being a mainstay in the tabloids to a rebel in the fashion world, from being a Grammy-nominated gospel artist to a MAGA-supporting presidential candidate. The one thing that never changed was that he was always loud, cocky, and, most importantly, the center of attention. Ye has always been able to keep his status as a respected musician and a tastemaker on the cutting edge, even though he has been in a lot of fights. But in the past two weeks, he has made a lot of antisemitic comments, which makes his status as a cultural figure feel more precarious than ever.
Since he showed off a "White Lives Matter" T-shirt at his Paris Fashion Week show in early October, Ye's latest long public outburst has caused rifts that may never be fixed. He was briefly kicked off Instagram and Twitter for making several antisemitic comments, including one in which he said he would go "death con 3" on "JEWISH PEOPLE"; he appeared in a selectively edited interview with Fox News's Tucker Carlson, in which he railed against Black Lives Matter and made the strange claim that professional child actors had been placed in his home to control his children; he announced he was buying Parler, the right-wing social
Ye had spent most of the summer posting angry comments and threats on Instagram about his ex-wife Kim Kardashian, Vogue editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson (who had called his T-shirts "pure violence"), and comedian Pete Davidson.
Ye's corporate partnerships, which helped him become a billionaire, seem to be falling apart every day. Adidas told him Tuesday morning that they would no longer work with him. This meant the end of the popular and profitable Yeezy line of sneakers. "Adidas won't stand for antisemitism or any other kind of hate speech.... After a thorough review, the company has decided to end its partnership with Ye, stop making products with the Yeezy brand, and stop paying Ye and his companies. "Adidas will stop the Adidas Yeezy business immediately," the company said in a statement. David Swartz, an analyst at Morningstar, said it was a big decision for Adidas because Yeezy brings in about $2 billion a year, which is close to 10 percent of the company's annual revenue.
Balenciaga broke up with Ye last week. Ye opened the luxurious fashion house's 2023 show. Demna, the creative director of the brand, has become one of Ye's biggest fashion allies. He worked with Ye on his Gap clothing line and the huge release of his Grammy-nominated album "Donda." Ye quit his job with the Gap suddenly in September. His longtime talent agency, CAA, said this week that it would no longer work with Ye because of what he said last week.
Kim Kardashian scolded her ex-husband and the father of her four children on Monday by tweeting, "Hate speech is never OK or acceptable. I stand with the Jewish community and demand that the awful violence and hateful speech toward them stop right away.
"I'm so tired that I'm thinking it might be time to move on. Panama Jackson, a columnist for TheGrio and a former Ye fan, said, "He's unpredictable in a way I can't predict, so it's not worth it." "It's hard for me to say I'm not a fan, but I think the person I like doesn't exist anymore."
Ye has been one of the most important people in American entertainment culture since his first album came out in 2004. He is also one of the most important people in the digital age's attention economy. He's become his own weather system, which follows a fairly predictable cycle: He basks in the culture's love, then loses it by saying or doing something outrageous or downright offensive, then digs his heels in and makes things worse while fans try to excuse his behavior. Eventually, he finds a way to come back, whether it's by saying sorry or putting out an album that changes the game.
But the cycle has become more dangerous and dark as it goes on. When Ye rushed the stage at the VMAs in 2009, President Obama called him a "jackass." Because of what he has said in recent weeks, he is now being called an anti-Semite. The culture loves him less and less, and he doesn't apologize much any more. And it seems like for the first time, he's losing both fans and important business partners.
"I don't know why it took so long for people to get here. Keith Boykin, a political commentator, asked, "Where have they been?" He had to scroll back through his Twitter feed to find out when he stopped talking to Ye. When did he tell TMZ that "slavery was a choice"? The Trump rant at the White House? Until then?
He said, "There's so much stuff." "Kanye wants all this attention, that's the thing about him."
Ye may have learned how to get attention outside of music when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in 2005, four days after he released his second album "Late Registration" and three days after Katrina hit. Ye was on a live telethon with comedian Mike Myers when he went off script and said, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." This was shown on all of the major networks.
Ye became something of a liberal hero because of this event, but it was never something he wanted and didn't really fit. Even though some of his early songs had lyrics that were critical of racial profiling by police and the drug war, he was never a member of a political party. Ye has always been most loyal to himself.
If Katrina brought Ye into the public eye, 2009 was the year when he became impossible to ignore. Taylor Swift, who was 19 at the time, took the stage at that year's MTV Video Music Awards to accept the award for best female video. Ye didn't agree with this turn of events, so he put on sunglasses, climbed onstage, grabbed her microphone, and said, "Hey, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, but I'm going to let you finish. But Beyoncé had one of the best music videos ever." When he gave the mic back to Swift, who looked confused, everything had changed.
Ye was suddenly everyone's worst enemy. Kelly Clarkson, Russell Brand, and Katy Perry, among others, made fun of him. Along with Obama, Jimmy Carter, who was president before Obama, said it was "completely uncalled for." Ye had the attention of the whole country, but this was the first time he didn't seem to like it.
"I'm just ashamed that my pain caused someone else's pain," he said tearfully on NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" when Leno asked how his late mother, Donda, would feel about his actions. Donda West, a professor who supported Ye's career, was especially close to him. Their closeness is shown in charming scenes from the Netflix documentary "Jeen-yuhs." In 2005, Ye debuted the song "Hey Mama" ("I want to scream so loud for you/ 'Cause I'm so proud of you") with Donda in the audience. People often say that Ye lost her ground when she died in 2007 after having plastic surgery.
Ye said he would stay out of the spotlight for a while so he could "think about how I'm going to get through the rest of my life." He chose Oahu, Hawaii, where he started writing "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," his huge masterpiece. By the time it came out in November 2010, his reputation had already started to improve, but the album moved things along a lot faster. "Twisted Fantasy" was a cultural phenomenon with artists like Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, John Legend, and Elton John. It is still considered one of the best albums of the era.
People who knew him when he was younger, like Terry Parker, who raps under the name Juice and knew Ye when he was a rising star in the Chicago hip-hop scene, weren't surprised by how quickly he came back to the spotlight. Ye was always smart, very competitive, and brilliant. Parker said that people would "look past the annoying things he would say because they wanted his beats."
Ye's undeniable talent has always been thick enough to cover some of the things about him that could irritate people. Parker saw it as a kind of raw honesty, the kind that would make Ye known as a provocateur and troll in the future.
"He was as honest as he could be because he didn't have a filter. He didn't worry about what would happen. He'd say something, and then he'd just have to deal with the ashes," Parker said. His talent protected him and gave him a reason to act the way he did.
People think that because he is a musical genius who has changed the course of modern pop music many times, he must be a little crazy. Boykin doesn't buy it. "People are let off the hook for other social responsibilities when they say this phrase. "It's a way to excuse their bad behavior," he said, adding that fans of R. Kelly also use the same term of respect. "That's not enough, though. You can't make people feel good one day and then talk about how much you love Trump and preach against Black people the next."
After the success of "Twisted Fantasy" and "Watch the Throne," his song with Jay-Z and a kind of victory lap, Ye set his sights on the fashion world. Even though he had never been a designer before, he set out to change a world that was known for being closed off.
Throughout the rest of the decade, Ye worked with well-known brands and released one-off capsules, but fashion critics didn't like his collections very much. Robin Givhan of The Post wrote recently that his first show in Paris in 2012 was "catastrophic."
During his "Yeezus" tour in 2013, Ye spent part of almost every show ranting and raving about his problems. "Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, wouldn't talk to Kanye West on the phone for eight months!" he said on stage in Washington that November. He said later in the show, "They'll tell you I'm crazy." "That's because their own dreams scare them."
But in the second half of the decade, Ye's collaboration with Adidas on the Yeezy show was a huge hit. The big and unrealistic goals he had set for himself had turned out to be true. Yeezy helped bring the sneaker business back to life and became its own billion-dollar brand. In interviews, he compared himself to Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. His self-confidence was starting to resemble a kind of messianism, and he was starting to do things like open a private school in Los Angeles and make plans for big dome houses at his compound in Wyoming.
Juice said, "He did everything he said he was going to do, like he was going to take over fashion."
Ye also got a lot of attention from the tabloids when, in 2012, he started dating his longtime friend, reality show star Kim Kardashian. Their relationship seemed almost like it was meant to be. They were both famous people who seemed to want attention all the time.
Ye's credibility as an artist gave Kardashian, who was mostly known as a reality TV star at the time, more cultural legitimacy, while Kardashian's TV show helped make the controversial rapper seem more real.
The family helped smooth out his rough edges, and on TV, he went from being a bombastic superstar to an overwhelmed husband, acting shy around his wife's loud family and helping Kardashian deal with the news that her stepparent, Caitlyn Jenner, was a transgender person. He didn't show up very often, but once he told a story on camera.
"We're used to seeing Housewives and Kardashians do talking heads," said Ryan Bailey, host of the reality TV podcast "So Bad It's Good." When Ye went on the show, he said, "There were real human moments that made me realize they were a real couple. Then, unfortunately, things began to go wrong."
Ye's attacks became stranger and less connected. Those rants became a big part of the live show, and 2016's "Life of Pablo" tour ended with Ye giving a stream-of-consciousness speech at a show in Sacramento in November. He then stormed offstage, canceled the rest of his shows, and went to the hospital because he was so stressed out and tired.
The rapper was very quiet until the next spring, when he surprised many of his longtime fans by saying that he liked President Donald Trump. At the same time, his friendship with Candace Owens, a young conservative activist, began to grow.
He also told the public that he has bipolar disorder. He said he was diagnosed after being hospitalized in 2016 and called it his "superpower" in the song "Yikes" from the album "Ye" in 2018. On the cover art, the words "I hate being bi-polar, but it's awesome" were written by hand. Ye's openness about his bipolar disorder has led some to say that it explains his behavior. Experts agree that people with the disorder can act strangely and may sometimes lose their "filter" and say or do things that aren't socially appropriate.
Ye's speech became more and more dangerous when he went to TMZ's headquarters in May 2018 and said that slaves chose to be slaves. This was another turning point on Ye's path toward dangerous speech. Van Lathan, who worked at TMZ at the time, told him to stop right away. Lathan told Ye on camera that he was done with him. He used to like the rapper's music. That he couldn't tell the man from his music anymore. But that wasn't exactly right. Later that summer, the two men talked to each other through email. Lathan reached out to Ye because he thought his tendency to say what's on his mind was being used against him.
"The more I thought about it, the more I thought, 'Jesus, man, everyone is pointing this guy in whatever direction they want to point him in. Lathan said, "I think I took advantage of him at that time." He added that Ye was an adult, and he didn't want to "childify" him.
Lathan thinks that the back and forth didn't lead to anything good.
"I don't think I feel any different than most people when he says something disgusting once every six months," he said. Last week, Lathan said on his podcast "Higher Learning" that Ye had praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis during that interview, but those offensive antisemitic comments did not make it on air.
"I'm done. At this point, it seems like you're hurting yourself. "When he makes "F—- MLK" shirts in two years, I won't bat an eye," Lathan said. But he did say that Ye is still hard to forget.
"What is the cultural weapon we give to some powerful people? "We build it, not they," Lathan said. "We gave [Ye] this huge bazooka of cultural power for years and years, and one day we were looking down the barrel of it."
In 2018, when Ye showed his full support for Trump by wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat in the Oval Office and telling Trump that he had given him a "Superman cape," he was once again the target of public anger. (But he also became more and more popular with Trump supporters and commentators.) Ye's next version would focus on religion instead of politics. He announced this change and made it official by making a full switch to gospel music and starting a weekly Christian music event called Sunday Service.
Joshua Wright, who teaches history at Trinity Washington University and wrote the recent book "Wake Up, Mr. West: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of Black Celebrity," said that "The Sunday Service helped to rebrand him and get people to like him again."
It led to "Donda," which was named after his mother and was up for Album of the Year at the Grammys. The docuseries "Jeen-yuhs" on Netflix was mostly praised by critics. After another time of trouble, it looked like Ye would be accepted by most people again, as he always had been. Even as the anger grew this month, Ye felt like he couldn't be hurt.
"The thing about me and Adidas is that I can literally say anti-Semitic stuff and they can't drop me," he said on the Drink Champs podcast on Oct. 16. "I can say things that are bad for Jews, and Adidas can't fire me. What's next? "What now?"