African Americans and The Rapper Ye West; GOAT or Jackass?




( Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, seized headlines over the past couple of weeks because of offensive behavior on social media that lead to social media bans, dropped collaborations, canceled contracts, and public outrage withal. It’s been a frenzied up and down all-around observation in recent days trying to keep up with the rants and antics of one of the most popular top selling hip-hop artists of all time. He lost favor with fans across several spectra because of charged rhetoric aimed at Jews, at the Floyd family, and indirectly against the Black public sphere.

The multi-million dollar rapper’s pronouncements left many wondering whether they were witnessing the unraveling of a man who has alluded in the past that he’s had bouts with mental health issues or if it was part of a self-proclaimed “genius” mindset that he has constantly boasted about on talk shows and in his music. After all, he’s won 22 Grammy awards, has made an undeniable mark in the fashion world, and is worth an estimated $400 million after recently being at billionaire status.

Ye, as he is now legally called, presents himself as a complex individual. To consider his braggadocious and vociferous discursivity as only a collection of lapses in judgment from a prideful simpleton is interrogatively lazy. When peripherally analyzing Ye’s behavior, it even has scholars conjecturing about his motivations, ramblings, and his prospects for the future stemming from a series of troubling days that no one seems to want to put in the past, at least for now.

Jewish Outrage

It was about two weeks ago when Ye frustratingly tweeted that he wanted to “go death con [sic] 3 ON JEWISH PEOPLE.” The tweet was removed and Ye was banned from Twitter. It would appear that Ye was a victim of his own ineloquence; quite ironic since he is known and has won awards for his skills as a lyricist. DEFCON is an acronym that refers to the state of alertness within the United States’ military. The use of the word “death” in his questionable malapropism shook those who interpreted his tweet as a reference to the killing of Jews; reminiscent, of course, to the Holocaust where it is documented that more than six million people mostly of Jewish heritage were killed between the years of 1941 to 1945 at the height of Adolf Hitler’s reign in Germany. This was estimated to be about two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population at that time. Ye’s tweet conjured up frightful images for some and created a ripple effect from social media throughout the public sphere. Jews and gentiles alike shared the tweet before it was taken down and soon after, Ye’s words were condemned as anti-Semitic.

However, what was missing from this interpretation of unconfirmed anti-Semitism was the hateful diatribe, the namecalling, or the holocaust denial: the usual discursively thematic antagonism associated with anti-Semitism that many of us who monitor media have witnessed in the censure of other public figures. What was later discovered was that Ye was really airing a personal grievance that he had with the oft-discussed Jewish cabal that acts as a coalition of gatekeepers in all matters media related. The strong Jewish presence in Hollywood is not a secret; neither are discussions surrounding their culturally systemic influences. Consequently, the label of anti-Semitism will now be a part of Ye’s legacy similar to a rite of passage like other Black notables who have been described as anti-Semitic including but not limited to: Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Jesse Jackson, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and even Michael Jackson.

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Some critical thinkers would consider Ye’s words as ‘Semitically-charged’ rhetoric rather than flat out anti-Semitism. As a scholar who prefers to view the zeitgeist through the darker-tinged spectrum of the melaninated experience, I notice that when someone, usually white, says something racially-insensitive or flat out racist, it is characterized as “racially charged” language. For example, when former University of Oklahoma assistant head football coach Cale Gundy resigned after reading the n-word aloud from a player’s iPad, ESPN’s headline read: “Former Oklahoma assistant football coach Cale Gundy read ‘racially charged word’ aloud multiple times…” Again, this “word” was reportedly the n-word–not some suggestively racist term like using the word “niggardly” rather than the words “stingy” or “miserly” or telling a Black person they look tan on any given day. The n-word is the one epithet in American culture that in many ways has come to epitomize racist language. Yet, Gundy’s utterances, which were reportedly made several times, were merely considered “racially charged” or “shameful,” according to reports from both ESPN and Bleacher Report. About one year ago, NFL fans lambasted former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden after he said that the executive director of the NFL Players Association, Dumboriss Smith had “lips the size of Michelin tires.” Those statements were also reported as “racially charged” and according to ABCNews, “racially insensitive” but not racist.

Ye’s tweets were never allowed that interpretive nuance. Celebrities seemingly lined up to take their swings at the rapper. From Jamie Lee Curtis to Sarah Silverman to Michael Rappaport, they all condemned Ye as a surprisingly bold anti-Semite. In one instance, Ye was compared to Hitler.

Yes, that Hitler: the once enemy of the German state who later rose to ascension as the former German Führer and Reich Chancellor and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Nazi Germany who directed the atrocities of the Holocaust. If that comparison seems egregiously extreme it should. But not to some, who seemed all to alacrious in taking Ye down a peg including radio shock jock Howard Stern. “This is so depressing,” the near-septuagenarian said about Kanye’s behavior. “I mean, Kanye used to be fun; crazy. Now he’s like Hitler.” The exaggerated comparison is possibly what Ye was expecting anyway as the number of platform bans and contract cancellations for him continued. Adidas here; Peloton there; even an interview with Stephen Colbert – the firestorm of discontent eventually forced the rapper to apologize.

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Losing Billions

Kanye West says he lost $2 billion almost immediately after Adidas, Balenciaga, and Gap severed ties with him. But those weren’t the only companies that cut the collaborative cord. Vogue, Balenciaga, JPMorgan Chase, MRC, his former talent agency, CAA, and others all decided that his bombastic messaging was too caustic for their brand. In an Instagram post Ye wrote, “I lost 2 billion dollars in one day. And I’m still alive. This is love speech. I still love you. God still loves you. The money is not who I am. The people is who I am.”

Ye’s merchandise was also pulled from shelves at TJ Maxx and Foot Locker. Adidas is expected to lose nearly $250 million as a result of dropping Ye. But the artist himself has lost out on much more financially.

The Apology Tour

Ye is on record as apologizing roughly twice for his angering tweets. The first hint of an apology was pushed out of him during a Piers Morgan interview where he expressed some remorse. It’s worth noting here that Morgan, in his often misguided embrace with white hegemonic sentiment, said that West was not just anti-Semitic but also racist for his “death con” comments, but not of course, for West’s “White Lives Matter” T-shirt wearing stunt with conservative iconoclast Candace Owens at a Paris fashion show weeks before. The second apology was more transparent in a YouTube clip where he was interviewed by MIT research scientist Lex Fridman. West said he wanted “to give a sincere apology to the Jewish people.”

“Causing people to hurt is not helping,” said the 45-year-old artist and mogul.

Speaking about the WLM T-shirts and for that matter, the moment within recent weeks when Ye said that George Floyd in 2020 died from the drug Fentanyl and not because of the suffocating neck pressure under the knee of a hyper-aggressive police officer, Ye’s contrition on its face appears to be strategic or short-sighted. West seemed very certain that despite a conviction from a jury and a 22.5-year sentence handed down by a judge that the judicial system seemed to have it all wrong to convict Floyd’s killer. Ye’s pushback was also met with outrage. The Floyd family threatened to sue West for a quarter of a billion dollars although Floyd’s remaining relatives have postponed the suit for now– perhaps feeling a bit of sympathy for the embattled rapper who dropped from billionaire status as a result of his insensitive pomposity. Will West apologize to members of the Black community for the hurt he caused them by stating white lives matter and subtly diminishing the need to protect adversely affected Black life? It’s not like most of us haven’t been indoctrinated into thinking that white lives are preferred over Black lives in America. And speaking of which, will Ye publicly apologize to the Floyd family for hurting them as to be dismissive of the obscene way in which Floyd was murdered? Something tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath.

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Timed Tirade

It was known for a bit of time that the relationship between Ye and his biggest former shoe collaborator, Adidas, was nothing short of tenuous. He was publicly critical of the company and its CEO, Kasper Rorsted. He accused the sneaker and sportswear brand of restricting control over the line and told reporters about the company that “they were copying my ideas.” After West’s controversial tweets and warnings from Adidas executives, the company decided to terminate their relationship with Ye most likely very anxious to put any associations of anti-Semitism behind it as it hastily had to do in another unrelated anti-Semitism scandal back in 2019.

The timing for Ye’s Twitter ban may also have worked out to his advantage.

This week, Twitter has been acquired by Electric Vehicle (EV) car magnate Elon Musk. Musk, who has been on a free speech/anti-censorship campaign, has reportedly allowed Ye’s restored access to the platform. It would be a waste of time trying to predict what Ye will tweet with his newly restored account – especially if it is to redress any demonstration of deference to Black society by apologizing for some of his offenses like those senseles WLM T-shirts. However, Ye’s school, Donda Academy in California’s Simi Valley, has re-opened after being initially shut down following the fallout from Ye’s ostensibly erratic behavior.

Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and other music streaming services seem to be sticking with West citing that the lyrics in his music do not violate their policies. It is apparent that words do matter especially in the right spaces.

The Adidas contract that Ye lamented being locked into with limited creative control is now in the past allowing the artist freedom to seek deals elsewhere. However, that deal won’t be happening at Skecher. This week, Ye was escorted off of the company’s campus while filming without permission. The company issued a strong statement that read: “The Company would like to again stress that West showed up unannounced and uninvited to Skechers corporate offices.” According to Los Angeles Magazine: “The CEO and founder of Skechers is Robert Greenberg, is Jewish, and the co-founder and president of the company is Michael Greenberg, also of Jewish decent.”

Ye has also teased at running for President of the United States. There’s no better way to score some political points than to pander to a majority demographic even at the exploitation of his most loyal base, Black America. Ye’s actions could be strategic, but they could also be foolish. Perhaps former President Barack Obama’s reiterated assessment of the musical talent who also hails from Chicago was spot on when he said about West in 2012, “He is a jackass. But he’s talented.”

Staff Writer; Dr. Blackademic

One may connect with this brother via Twitter; DrBlackademic.