The Downfall of Ye

Anya Agarwal, Staff Writer

Kanye West has been portrayed in various different lights by the media over the course of his career, based on his public appearance and the lyrics of his music. West captured the attention of individuals and sparked conflict in the minds of many. It is clear that West has had a profound impact on the hip-hop industry and on popular culture as a whole. He has received numerous awards for his skills and has continued to create and release art for his audience. On the other hand, Kanye West has never steered away from controversy throughout his career. “I think he practically exists to cause controversy,” says Nife Shoyinka ‘25. In fact, he has a proclivity for stirring the pot. West is outspoken about his beliefs, whether he’s speaking his mind or criticizing another celebrity for something he disagrees with.

Kanye Omari West developed an early love of the arts by drawing and writing poetry when he was just 5 years old. In the third grade, he started rapping, and by middle school, he had created his own music. According to The Strive, West’s rise to fame started with the release of his debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004. After releasing his debut album, West began designing and manufacturing his own line of sneakers and clothing. He released “Air Yeezy” in 2009, which grew to be highly popular. On December 3rd, 2013, the Adidas Yeezy Boosts were officially released. In addition to releasing several fashion lines, West launched the production firm and record label, “GOOD Music” in 2004. Since then, the label has signed musicians such as Mos Def, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Big Sean, and John Legend. West served as an example for everyone who wanted to pursue their aspirations. “Shoot for the stars, so if you fall, you land on a cloud.” The “Kanye West Foundation,” now known as the Dr. Donda West Foundation was established by West and his mother in 2003. The foundation strives to give underprivileged children access to an arts and music education. At the time, West’s music contained influential messages related to racism and political issues. An example of West’s messages relating to racism is his expressed support for Black Lives Matter in the song “Feedback” from the album “The Life of Pablo,” in which Kanye sings, “Hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us. Hands up, hands up, then the cops shot us.” An obvious reference to the protests against police brutality. The rapper and fashion designer had it all: money, power, status, and freedom. But it wasn’t enough in the end. 

“Racism is a dated concept. It’s like a silly concept that people try to touch on to either… to separate, to alienate, to pinpoint anything. It’s stupid.” This is West’s response to the question, “Have you lived in this social racism?” He continued: “It’s like a bouncing ball in a room with two cats. Let them literally fight over the bouncing ball. And the bouncing ball has nothing, no purpose, anything other than that: it bounces. That’s racism. It’s not an actual thing that even means anything.” Over the years, West has made many inflammatory statements that have alienated the black community. As if that wasn’t enough, Kanye questioned slavery’s history in a 2018 interview with TMZ. Around the same time, West revealed that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which would provide a possible answer to some of his erratic behavior; however, it does not provide an explanation about his general personal values. According to The Brag Media, West states, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sound like a choice,” Ye claimed (West changed his name to “Ye” in 2018). Talk about controversial statements. His comments caused quite an uproar in the U.S.

West arranged “White Lives Matter” T-shirts down the runway at his YZYS9 presentation in Paris on October 3, 2022. It would be nice to dismiss the shirts as just another prank to disturb the peace, raise eyebrows, or cause a commotion. 

The next day, in response to criticism he received for wearing “White Lives Matter” shirts, Ye claimed that he was to thank for the Black Lives Matter movement’s demise. “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam,” Kanye wrote on his Instagram Story. “Now it’s over. You’re welcome.” Seriously? This is how he chooses to leverage his influence and fan base? “Kanye used his huge platform numerous times to spread problematic messages, which are usually disregarded; but now he’s suffering from the repercussions,” says Brina Abere ‘25. 

On October 24, 2022, following Ye’s recent antisemitic remarks, an antisemitic hate group created a banner that read “Kanye is right about the Jews” and draped the banner over a busy Los Angeles highway.

Several companies have publicly cut ties with the rapper. Adidas is the most well-known. “I can say antisemitic sh** and Adidas can’t drop me,” Ye said on the Drink Champs Podcast on October 16, 2022, just days before the banner was hung over the 405 Freeway. After the incident in Los Angeles, Adidas terminated its relationship with Ye. The result, a $246 million loss for the sportswear manufacturer. Ouch. And that’s not all. Without Adidas, Ye’s billionaire status vanished, leaving him with an estimated net worth of $400 million (down from $1.9 billion). Over time, companies ranging from Balenciaga to his own talent agency (CAA) have parted ways with Ye. To make matters worse for Ye, Instagram and Twitter locked him out of their platforms due to his anti-Semitic posts.

Many of Ye’s fans and associates are torn between his music and who he is as a person. Many view Ye as a musical genius, so fans may turn a blind eye to everything Ye has said and done. “The downfall in his career hasn’t really affected me much because I can still listen to the music without supporting his actions,” says Nife Shoyinka ‘25. Ye’s supporters tend to believe he is brilliant and a virtuoso; whether they agree with everything he does or not, they commend him. Ye’s opposition paints him as a racist and a narcissist. Some people believe both sides of the coin and are at a loss as to what to do next. “His old music was fantastic. Taking his personal profile aside from what he creates, I would say he was one of my favorite artists growing up……transparently, older music that sits in my playlist, I still listen to it,” says Shivani, Director of Audience Engagement, Entertainment Company.

Those people often end up “splitting” Ye’s personalities in order to have the best of both worlds. For example, one might split West up into Ye the man, Ye the musician, and Ye the fashion icon. They might choose to focus their attention on Ye the musician or Ye the fashion icon. Similar to condemning Ye’s hate speech while still enjoying his music. My question for you is: where do you stand? Which side are you on?