Kanye West, now known as ‘Ye,’ is an American rapper and fashion designer who has recently taken to social media to spread racist and antisemitic messages. Recently, West lost his billionaire status after being dropped by a few of his biggest sponsors, which include Balenciaga, GAP and Adidas.
On this social media rampage, West has also been targeting individuals that he feels have wronged him in some way, including Pete Davidson, West’s former spouse Kim Kardashian’s ex-boyfriend, and Trevor Noah, the former host for The Daily Show. West also made a comment to the family of the late George Floyd about his cause of death and was threatened with a lawsuit for defamation and harassment. The lawsuit was filed for $250 million, in which West submitted an apology to the family following the threat of a lawsuit.
West targeted Elon Musk and Barack Obama via Instagram, and said “Elon could be half Chinese? … He’s the first genetic hybrid that stuck… Well let’s not forget about Obama.” West finished the post with “Ye24,” alluding to his 2024 presidential campaign.
“A friend of mine told me that Kanye West actually has more followers than there are Jews in the world,” said Liza Katayev, a Jewish student at Hofstra University. Katayev still listens to West’s music, despite the controversial statements.“I love Kanye, I hate that I love him.”
West, although currently suspended on Twitter, had over 31 million followers as of November 2022.
“It is very concerning that someone with such a large following and fanbase and such stature is saying these hateful and hurtful messages. [Fans] end up adopting these beliefs, or acting on them,” Katayev said. She conveyed her anxieties about the power of West’s platform, and his potential to incite violence.
In a recent Alex Jones interview, West expressed Holocaust appreciation. “I like Hitler. I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.” he said. West was completely masked during the interview.
“I am still listening to his music,” said Sara Leftwich, a half-Jewish student at the University of Oregon. “A few of his songs are still on my playlists and I like them, but I won’t go out of my way to listen to him. I haven’t been paying super close attention to everything, but I have heard about [him] supporting Hitler and Nazis, I am honestly disgusted.”
Some fans are boycotting West’s music after his most recent controversy.
“Personally, I love his music. I love Kanye, but his personality, he’s like a really bad guy. I really can’t be supporting someone who actually thinks this way. When I see his songs on my phone, I skip them now.” said Brianna Sankar, a sophomore at Hofstra University. As cancel culture overtakes Hollywood, some consumers argue to separate the music from the musician, a method to continue to enjoy music without endorsing the ideas of an artist.
“I think someone can create good or beautiful music without necessarily being a good person. But, if an artist is perpetuating hate speech, why should we give them a platform?” said Sky Hume, a music business major at Hofstra University, who expressed concern about mental health in the music industry. “I see us talking about mental health more, such as with the Selena Gomez documentary. We need to be doing more to destigmatize mental health in these industries. People often forget that celebrities are real, authentic people.”
Some listeners, however, are more concerned with West’s influence rather than his personal mental health.
“Kanye’s overall influence is trashed,” said Alyssa Zimmermann, sophomore music business student at Hofstra University. “Apparently [he] just showed up at Skechers [headquarters] and was escorted out, which kinda screams desperate.” Zimmermann, a university student, explained some potential dangers with West’s loyal fanbase. “I think the chance of [West’s younger fans] going after… marginalized groups, whether it be through social media or physical, as some sort of weird Kanye-defense or solidarity tactic is very high.”
“In the social media universe, negative messaging just has much more traction,” said Lisa DeTora, a professor in the department of Writing Studies and Rhetoric at Hofstra University. “There is kind of a lot of discourse about Kanye West that would suggest that this is not necessarily a person whose sort of grasp of reality is everything we would like it to be. Because of [his] notoriety as a musical performer, then it lends a lot of credence to what [he] is saying when it may or may not be true.”
Dean Warren Frisina of the Stuart and Nancy Rabinowitz Honors College at Hofstra University, an expert in religion, expressed outrage at West’s platform and the response it has evoked.
“On the one hand, if you ignore it, and given the way Twitter and other things work, it gets out there, then it’s just allowed to fester in a way to generate more such responses. But, if you respond to it, you magnify its impact.” Frisina harped on the paradoxical nature of publicized celebrity drama. “I certainly can empathize with what it must feel like to have it splashed all over the newspapers, all over social media, this guy’s words.”