Known equally for his impressive musical career and his long history of scandal, Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. Nevertheless, his most recent incident leaves fans and haters wondering how, and whether the rapper will salvage his reputation. West recently made a series of antisemitic remarks that resulted in widespread criticism and caused multiple companies to end their partnerships with him. Even Donald Trump, whom West has supported for years, called him “crazy” for his tirade. How did Kanye grow into the larger-than-life figure he is today despite his controversies, and why is his most recent tantrum the final nail in his coffin?
Kanye West, who legally changed his name to Ye in 2021, rose to prominence in the early 2000s. While producing for Roc-A-Fella Records in New York City, West became especially famous for his contributions to Jay-Z’s 2001 album “The Blueprint,” which is widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. However, his true dream was to be a rap artist. His debut album, “The College Dropout” (2004), launched him into stardom, garnering multiple awards the following year. Among the awards were best rap song (for “Jesus Walks”), best rap album and best R&B song. He went on to release a whopping 11 studio albums, as well as collaborate on countless songs with other famous artists (including Jay-Z himself) and garner a massive, loyal following.
West’s tendency toward scandal has characterized his time in the public eye. In 2005, the year following the release of his freshman album, West appeared on a telethon to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief and shocked viewers by stating, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Despite the ensuing outrage, years later the Black Lives Matter movement would co-opt West’s remarks to spread awareness of the disproportionate amount of African Americans affected by natural disaster.
Nevertheless, in 2009 West made one of his most divisive decisions yet, and spurred a feud with a fellow musician. During the MTV music awards, Taylor Swift — who was just 17 years old at the time — received the award for best female video for her hit song “You Belong With Me.” As the singer received her award on stage, West ran onto the platform beside her and interrupted her acceptance speech, insisting that Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time for her song ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).’
The audience (Beyoncé included) watched in horror, and despite a Twitter apology from West, the incident divided fans between the two artists. West realeased his song “Famous” five years later, which included the line: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous.” While Swift responded in disgust, West’s wife at the time, Kim Kardashian, released a video in 2016 of a conversation between West and Swift in which the latter seemed to approve the line. Today, the two artists continue to have a tense relationship, and there is speculation that Swift indirectly calls out West in her song “Vigilante Sh*t” on her most recent album, “Midnights.”
Even two former presidents weighed in on the controversy as it unfolded. Then-President Barack Obama called West “a jackass”, and former President Donald Trump characterized his behavior as “grandstanding to get attention.”
However, West’s relationship with Trump would drastically develop during the presidential campaign of 2016. He was a vocal Trump supporter, and even visited the candidate at Trump Towers that December where the two discussed “life” and “multicultural issues.” Two years later, in an interview with Charlamagne tha God, West (while sporting an iconic Make America Great Again hat) expressed his support for Trump, explaining that the “nonconventional” nature of Trump’s background made his political victory “prove something” about what one could achieve in America. That same year, West once again returned to meet with Trump, this time in the Oval Office. During the exchange, the rapper delivered an infamous speech in which he, among other things, likened his MAGA hat to a “Superman cape.”
Since then, West has been quite vocal about his conservative political views. At this year’s Paris Fashion Week he introduced his fashion brand’s new line of “White Lives Matter” T-shirts and announced that he would purchase Parler, a controversial right-wing social media platform.
Nonetheless, few of West’s stunts have received as much universal backlash as his recent slew of antisemitic comments. Responding to the backlash directed at his Yeezy shirt design, West posted the antisemitic conspiracy theory that rapper Sean Combs, known more commonly as Diddy, “was being controlled by Jewish people” after he publicly condemned the shirts.
Instagram suspended West’s account; he then took to Twitter to continue his grievances. West made a series of tweets — including one in which he violently threatened to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE” — and in due time was suspended from Twitter as well.
West continues to reject all accusations of antisemitism and even claimed he “doesn’t believe” in the term itself. He continued to defend himself and made more inflammatory comments in an interview with the “Drink Champs” podcast, in which he claimed that the “Jewish media… blocked” him. Later, during an interview with conservative pundit Piers Morgan, West dismissed a “Karen” for condemning his comments, claiming he did not regret his statements at all, saying he “fought fire with fire” and was “not here to get hosed down.”
West’s actions spurred immense outrage from the public and other celebrities alike, including “Friends” star David Schwimmer. In an Instagram post, Schwimmer stated, “Whether or not Kanye West is mentally ill, there’s no question he is a bigot,” referring to the rapper’s struggles with bipolar disorder. Designer brand Balenciaga and the talent agency CAA cut ties with West in response to his comments. Furthermore, Adidas ended their relationship with West on the 25th after he claimed that he could “literally say antisemitic s***” without facing any repercussions.