I no longer miss the “old” Kanye West, now known as Ye. I’m tired of hearing about the new Ye, and I wish we could stop talking about him altogether. Many of you are probably in the same boat, especially about the latter. But we can’t, because he remains one of the most influential people in the world, and he’s using that power to spread hatred and division. It would be irresponsible not to call it out.
Last Sunday, Ye said on Twitter, a platform on which he has twice as many followers as there are Jews in the world, that he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” It’s important to note that despite being only 2% of the U.S. population, Jews are the targets of nearly 60% of religious bias crimes.
We should stop talking about Ye in general as a musician, a fashion designer and as an artist, but we should keep speaking out loudly against the hatred that he’s using his massive platform to sow.
In response, Twitter locked him out of his account. It’s a move that came shortly after an anti-Jewish post from the rapper on Instagram caused that account to be restricted.
Days before that, he appeared with far-right pundit Candace Owens flaunting “White Lives Matter” T-shirts during Paris Fashion Week. Ye later told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he thought wearing the shirt was “funny.” According to the Anti-Defamation League, “White Lives Matter” is a “white supremacist phrase” that’s popular with the Aryan Renaissance Society, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.
It should be clear to anyone that the Ye, who once said that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” on national TV over the former president’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, is no more. As a former fan, I have to accept that as a fact.
And I wish others who once loved him for being a cultural trendsetter in music, fashion and even in self-confidence would do the same. This includes to stop asking for the “old Kanye” back. Doing so skates dangerously close to absolving him of his harmful behavior in the present.
This is not to say that I don’t understand the longing for the Ye of the early 2000s. To me, he was one of the good ones. He was handsome, smart and dripping in style. Like me, Ye was a son of the South. He was born in Georgia; I was born in Texas. We were both raised by strong Black single moms.
But fueled by ego and self-delusion, the artist has morphed from a creative genius offering new visions for the future of Blackness into a purveyor of antisemitic conspiracy theories and an apologist for white supremacy.
As he’s transformed into this new version of himself, we have been unable to turn our eyes and ears away from him even as his once magnetic energy turned manic. It’s like the way we slow down to stare at car crashes. Some people have blamed this downward spiral on his bipolar disorder or his inability to come to terms with the death of his mother, Donda West, in 2007. My own mom died the year before. I felt like the entire world was falling apart. So, I understand the utter sadness and grief that losing the most important person in your life can cause. But no matter the reason, his current toxic behavior is not excusable.
Producers for Lebron James’ online talk show “The Shop” recently found that out. On Tuesday, it was announced that an episode featuring Ye would not be aired. The reason? Ye used the show “to reiterate more hate speech and extremely dangerous stereotypes,” according to SpringHill Company CEO Maverick Carter, who produces the show. After Ye was booked on the show weeks in advance, Carter said that he had spoken to Ye the day before taping and “believed he was capable of a respectful discussion and he was ready to address all his recent comments.”
Needless to say, Carter was wrong. It’s a clear example of how Ye keeps getting chances — I suspect because people yearn to get back the version of him that once meant so much to the Black community — only to have him prove to us (again) that he doesn’t deserve it. The only way to talk about someone like this is to be critical without casting him as being “deep” or a “free thinker.” That means not giving him any benefit of the doubt on any platform or in any industry (I don’t care how great you think his clothes or music are).
My love of Ye started in 2004 with the release of his first album, “The College Dropout.” It made even a straitlaced goody-two-shoes person like me feel, if not quite cool, at least cool adjacent. His lyrics were nakedly emotional, gorgeous in their dexterity, and showed new possibilities for what rap could be.
Ye keeps getting chances — I suspect because people yearn to get back the version of him that once meant so much to the Black community — only to have him prove to us (again) that he doesn’t deserve it.
But the Ye who rapped “I want to talk to God, but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long” on his first album no longer exists. Let’s stop trying to find him.
I say this as someone who has tried. I pushed aside my queasiness after Ye grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift to go on a rant about Beyoncé at the MTV Music Awards in 2009. After side-eyeing his 2013 performance at the wedding of the grandson of the authoritarian president of Kazakhstan, I again moved on. In 2016, when his “Life of Pablo” album dropped days after he tweeted his support for Bill Cosby, who had been accused of sexual assault by more than 50 women, like many fans, I still sang the lyrics of the album’s track “I Love Kanye.”
The song opens with “I miss the old Kanye, straight from the go Kanye. Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye.” At first, I sang the lyrics with hope that the “old Kanye” who once had such a hopeful swagger would return, that he would get past his ego and be born again as the creative powerhouse whose every move we followed with anticipation instead of dread. Then, I recited the lines wistfully, losing hope as Ye continued to fall.
What followed next were things like him saying “slavery is a choice” in a 2018 interview with TMZ. Later that year, he took photos wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat with Donald Trump and flirted with increasingly bizarre propaganda. Now, I can no longer bear to listen to that song or any other that he’s made.
Kanye has devolved into everything he once railed against. Rather than challenging racism in all its forms, he is falling deeper into its cesspool. He’s become like a carnival barker hawking antisemitic lies and providing entertainment for bigots. We should stop talking about Ye in general as a musician, a fashion designer and as an artist, but we should keep speaking out loudly against the hatred that he’s using his massive platform to sow.