Seneca Baldi ‘26
“Devil in a New Dress” will always be one of my favorite songs, but recently, Kanye West has become indefensible. Past controversies of his include those surrounding his mental health and the infamous divorce between him and Kim Kardashian, which was mourned by Kimye fans. Their separation has culminated in a series of Instagram arguments between Kanye, Kim, and their family members. Some of the fights included him bashing Kim’s then boyfriend, Pete Davidson. Many of his comments involved his own family members. But not all – like when he stormed the 2009 VMAs stage and said that Taylor Swift’s award belonged to Beyonce. Taylor did deserve that award, and Kanye did not make her famous; I say this not just because I’m a Swiftie, but because it’s true. He also has been making blatantly anti-Black comments for years, and his rhetoric has now grown to include a level of antisemitism.
One of his most recent controversies surrounds his assertion that George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis in 2020 from Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck, actually died from a fentanyl overdose1. This was proven untrue during the trials of Chauvin. Previously, he has been a slavery-denier, wore ‘White Lives Matter’ shirts in contrast to the Black Lives Matter movement, and argued that racism no longer exists2. These examples of his anti-Blackness were not addressed by his strongest financial connections, including Adidas and Balenciaga. However, his recent antisemetic marks have pushed these businesses to drop their connections to Kanye. Not only are his remarks being criticized, but so is the fact that companies waited until now to cut ties, rather than when he made other racist comments in the past. Kanye only acknowledged his wrongdoing after the brands dropped him, which removed him from the Forbes Billionaires List. He has since only reiterated that he has been humbled, and God is showing him what Floyd experienced, saying “I know how it feels to have a knee on my neck now” in a podcast interview1. This is an extremely dramatic and inaccurate comparison to make. He seems to be missing the entire point, which I’m sure he does not care about since his goal is to make money, and he assumes he will have a loyal fan base through anything. Without this financial cut, I doubt he would have acknowledged the wrongness of his actions.
Although it is touchy to push people to get mental health care, it is more accessible to Kanye than almost anyone else in the world. He has said before that he suffers from bipolar disorder3, and many people attest his offensive statements to be a result of a manic episode. If this is true, he has a responsibility to get help. If it is not, his mental health is being used as a scapegoat for derogatory thoughts he feels necessary to share with the world, which is not a viable excuse. Being labeled one of the greatest artists of our generation has allowed him to escape punishment for past controversies. This can no longer happen.
However, in terms of our response to his hateful words and actions, I do not think if we stopped listening to his music it would have a real impact. Kanye is already worth $400 million4. His net worth recently took a major hit from losing brand deals which made up the majority of it. Now that financial action has been taken, and an effort to remove his influence from the public eye, the most important thing to do is prevent him from having a platform. Refusing to follow him or promote the extreme things he says will help prevent the attention he receives. However, I think that continuing to listen to his music is okay considering it will not make him a substantial amount of money or promote something people are unfamiliar with. His music is well known at this point and listening to it will not change that.
1 Dan Heching, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/30/entertainment/kanye-west-remarks 2 Lisa Respers France, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/29/entertainment/kanye-west-antisemitism-anti-black 3 Kiana Fitzgerald, Vox, https://www.vox.com/culture/22955055/kanye-west-ye-divorce-manic-bipolar
4 Chris Isidore, CNN Business, https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/25/business/kanye-west-ye-billionaire
Photo courtesy of npr.org
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