by Reggie Goudeau
October of 2022 is far from the first time Mr. West has been in the news headlines for controversial actions. I recall him interrupting Taylor Swift at the 2009 Video Music Awards, supporting Donald Trump during and following the 2016 Presidential Election, running for president in 2020, and even saying on live television that George Bush does not care about Black people. I’m not scratching the surface of Ye’s impulsive and chaotic history but continuing the list would not benefit the rest of this article. Despite the long list of (more than) questionable actions and positions, he’s remained largely unfazed by the backlash he’s received... until recently. Within the past two weeks, he’s faced the loss of a few deals from brands such as Gap, Balenciaga, and Foot Locker, along with scrutiny from crowds who long gave up on him caring about more than his brand. However, his recent antics have terminated partnerships and deals that Mr. West claimed were immune to his self-destructive tendencies. A few of these recent offenses include crafting and distributing “White Lives Matter” merchandise, giving away said merchandise to the homeless, and the spread of misinformation regarding George Floyd on “Drink Champs.”
What most brands and followers of Ye considered the last straw as of late were his antisemitic remarks that began on Twitter. This blatant disregard for the well-being of a community besides his own continued through his recent string of press disasters such as the aforementioned
Drink Champs interview, and in his nearly two-hour long talk with Tucker Carlson. As of October 25, Foot Locker has pulled Yeezys from their shelves, Adidas has terminated their relationship with Ye, and MRC shelved a documentary they had been developing about the rapper. Since this pattern is nothing new for a man like Ye, this string of consequences for the former billionaire raises one particular question. Is this the moment where Ye’s immunity to cancel culture finally ends, or is this merely another setback that he’ll amend with a new song and fierce rebranding? To understand how Ye’s situation now seems more impactful or notable than previous controversies, it is vital to note his typical methods for avoiding consequences. By doing so and analyzing the excuses that seemed satisfactory in the past, we may understand why this meltdown seems more notable (if there is a rational reason). The first and most obvious is that Ye’s music and contributions to hip-hop rival that of legends like Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. The sheer volume of great music he’s produced and written for himself and others is enough to make any unsuspecting listener more forgiving of Ye acting out.
I’m even guilty of still blasting his music following events that had represented the last straw for many others in the Black community (such as his 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent backing of Donald Trump). I apologize to anyone who feels that makes me a fake activist, but his bangers speak for themselves. I still rap along to classics like “Yikes,” “Touch the Sky,” and “Off the Grid” in the shower to this day. My music habits aside, Ye and many other famous people like him often gain this immunity to cancellation (to a degree) because their talent excuses their shortcomings. Or the public believes that it should. Another common defense for Mr. West is that his mental health (specifically his bipolar disorder) causes him to act out during whatever episode of the month. As a frequent advocate for mental health, I have many feelings on this defense. First, unstable mental health does not give anyone the right to do anything regardless of their legacy, income, or background. Society has many written and unwritten rules in place, and while not all of them are necessarily just, most exist to help people instead of limiting us. If Ye is going to constantly act out and make polarizing statements and decisions in the name of “free-thinking,” he needs to accept the possibility that others can like or dislike those choices from him too. It's also notably hard to sympathize with Ye’s potential struggles with mental illness when he’s spent the past year tormenting Pete Davidson. Some of the most notable moments in that saga include Pete’s death in the “Eazy” music video and many deleted Instagram posts documenting Kanye’s dislike of the comedian. It would be one thing if he simply made one or two comments about him, but this obsession and pattern indicate that Kanye went too far long ago.
Many alleged mental health experts claim that Ye cannot control his outbursts, especially because of his aforementioned mental health and his lack of guidance following the death of his mother, Donda West. While I empathize with Ye for what he’s been through, I also acknowledge the reality that he’s a grown ass man. Specifically, he’s a grown ass man with more than enough money, resources, and people surrounding him to keep him in check if he wants to be. If Kanye wanted therapy, medication, or any other practical remedy besides
prayer to help him through tough times, he could have access to all of it by now. However, both Ye and his ex-wife Kim Kardashian have been on record multiple times denying his need to take medication. Kim has declared this in a handful of interviews, and Kanye has done so in his music, particularly on his 2018 album Ye. In typical Kanye fashion, he alludes to his mental state at the end of one of my favorite songs by him. At the end of the track “Yikes,” Kanye raps the following: “That’s my bipolar shit nigga what. That’s my superpower nigga ain’t no disability I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero.” While this is admittedly pretty funny, it is still very telling that he’s been this open about refusing to accept help and embracing his mental illness for years. If anything, it further proves that someone good at their job (in Kanye’s case, being skilled at rapping, producing, and clothing design) and entertaining to the masses has even more dangerous potential than anyone could have anticipated. The slew of brands now dropping Kanye could have avoided this recent PR disaster if any chose to both see and acknowledge these warning signs.
Ye's last major public act of contention was showing up to a Los Angeles Skechers HQ in a failed attempt to find a new home for Yeezys. He was ignorant to the fact that many higher-ups there are Jewish, and thus did not feel kindly about his threat to go Def Con 3 on them. After this and the many other deals he lost, it seemed like Kanye could not fall much deeper into the sunken place. However, that changed when he attempted to apologize for some of his recent antics, particularly the antisemitic comments (likely because he lost most of his opportunities after making those). I’ll list a portion of the apology below, but in short, he made an even worse point than usual. According to a piece from Alex Young’s “Kanye West Now Sympathizes With George Floyd’s Family After Losing Adidas Deal,” Kanye said the following: “I want to apologize. Because God has showed me by what adidas is doing, by what the media is doing, I know what it feels to have a knee on my neck right now. So thank you God for humbling me and letting me know how it really felt. Because how could the richest Black men ever be humbled other than to be made to not be a billionaire in front of everyone off a comment.”
This horrible parallel left me with one final, grim conclusion: this is the best we’re gonna get anytime soon from Ye in terms of an apology unless platforms actually start removing his music. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure he’s just gonna either double down on the problematic points he’s made or go on a social media hiatus for a few months to a year until this all blows over. I sadly think Kanye is beyond the point of seeing the depth of his descent into cancellation. At best, this was a poor attempt at lightening the mood during this interview, and Kanye genuinely does feel bad for the Floyd family but is too egotistical or unstable to give them a genuine apology. At worst, he’s doubling down on his unpredictability and going completely off the deep end, realizing this string of nonsense is something he may not immediately (if ever) recover from. No matter his reasoning, looking at this spiraling is painful to see as a longtime fan of Ye. I only hope that someday he’ll accept the help he clearly needs, or at the very least learn to keep his mouth shut and focus on his craft.