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The Controversy of Kanye West

By jmalik6209 | Random Things | 18 Mar 2023


The Controversy of Kanye West

Kanye (Ye) West is a famed African American rapper, producer, and fashion designer who accumulated his great success in the industry through his powerful music. Since the beginning of his career in the early 2000s, he went from a small local producer with a dream to someone that many consider to be one of the greatest rappers of all time with 9 different studio albums. From there, Ye expanded his scope into the fashion industry, making big brand deals with the likes of Adidas and GAP and establishing himself as one of the richest rappers, with a net worth over $1 billion. His story was an inspiration to many, demonstrating how hard work pays off, and developing a huge fanbase as a result, However, West has recently created a realm of controversy and scandal for himself as he made statements many perceive to be outright hate speech, thrusting him into the controversial spotlight. Kanye West’s recent, unprecedented comments have proved to have a great social, cultural, and even economical impact on many aspects of our world today. 

 

Controversial Remarks

 

While the rapper may have been a subject of controversy in the past, the most recent (and arguably most significant) events began nearing the end of 2022. On October 3rd, during Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion show in Paris, he wore a shirt with the words “White Lives Matter'' on it. This is a term associated with a Neo-Nazi group founded as a racist response to the BLM movement, with motives described as being “dedicated to promotion of the white race and taking positive action as a united voice against issues facing our race.1” West’s choice to wear this was indicative of his support for such groups, and was a shock to many, considering he is African American himself. In this act, he established his racist, anti-semitic position to the world and began to open the controversial realm he then put himself in. In the following weeks, the rapper didn't stop making such comments. According to a Forbes article, “CNN reports that West wanted to name his 2018 album after Adolf Hitler and, citing several anonymous sources who used to be close to West, says the rapper had an “obsession” with the Nazi leader. … West praised Adolf Hitler during an appearance on Infowars, the broadcast run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, claiming that while he “loves Jewish people,” he also “likes Nazis'' and can “see good things about Hitler. ”

 

These claims West made are highly offensive to the Jewish community, who were horribly treated by Hitler in the Holocaust - one of the most traumatic times for many people during World War II, with lasting effects to this day. It didn’t end here, however. To add insult to the injury, he even went as far as to post a disturbing photo of the Star of David and the Swastika, or the symbol used by the Axis forces (Nazis) during WWII, combined in one on social media, fully establishing his anti semitic, “White Lives Matter'' persona that has been on display since then. West continued to appear on various talk shows, put unprecedented messages on social media, and make statements to the public, and while they appeared in different forms, they all demonstrated the strengthening of his same hateful views. From appearances on more podcasts to statements on social media combined with seemingly baseless accusations that nobody had foreseen, Ye truly made his recent views a defining part of his character quickly. Over the course of hardly a few months, multiple statements inciting hate and racism from Kanye West were made which shockingly altered his- and others’- views and brought a plethora of consequences.

 

Potential Causes

 

The statements made by Kanye were unprecedented, and even though the exact reason for him to make such comments isn’t clear, there are a few potential contributing factors based on past statements and events which may have led to this. Through Kanye West’s previous issues and struggles, combined with pressure he may be facing, a few inferences can be made as to why he might be doing these things which mainly trace back to his mental illness, as well as past trauma. Previously, Ye has been open about his bipolar disorder, even calling it a “superpower” and speaking out about his complications while taking medication for it.  His ex-wife, Kim Kardashian also asked for compassion at the time to help others get an idea of what he was going through. In 2019, Kim Kardashian said “being on medication is not really an option, because it just changes who he is,” and the following year she pleaded for compassion towards her then-spouse, saying on Instagram, “He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his mental illness.1” This demonstrates that West was dealing with many complications, pressure, and struggles, being a figure constantly in the limelight.

 

On top of his mental illness coupled with this stress, he has also had to deal with the loss of his mother, as well as criticism from the media or individuals regarding his actions even before this controversy began. Mental pressure that comes in all forms can result in humans doing things others perceive to be irrational, which may be what is being seen here. Other potential ideas based on West’s past behavior include that he may be doing this for publicity or media attention more than anything, which has been seen before where West has ran for president and previously dabbled in controversy. While yes, it received backlash, it also put him in the spotlight once more. The reasons behind this desire, however, still link back to his mentality and mental state. It is not entirely certain what is the motive behind Kanye’s anti semitic remarks, but some of these may be contributing factors as to what caused his impulse to make them. Even though one should not judge without knowing the whole story, Kanye West’s remarks are hate speech regardless and cannot be excused or ignored by the public either. 



Economic Impact

 

Moving onto the consequences for West’s actions, this has not only negatively affected himself economically, but even others around the world. The organizations which the rapper has worked with, including Adidas and GAP were significantly impacted in various ways. Even clothing and sneaker stores such as Foot Locker have chosen to no longer sell Yeezy products. In a statement to the public, a Footlocker spokesperson said, “Foot Locker, Inc. does not tolerate any form of antisemitism, or hateful and discriminatory behavior. While we remain a partner with Adidas and carry a wide assortment of their collections – we will not be supporting any future Yeezy product drops.” As a result of Kanye West’s spontaneous actions, he has lost a massive portion of his net worth and is no longer a billionaire. Due to these events, his relationship with Gap and Adidas ended. The value of West’s deal with Adidas alone was estimated at a whopping $1.5 billion. 

 

Without Adidas and Gap, Kanye’s net worth is now about $400 million - a massive drop. This occurred when Kanye believed both of these partnerships were untouchable, regardless of the current state of his public image. On a podcast, West said, “I can say anti-Semitic things, and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” making statements establishing his belief that he was invaluable and therefore could not be cut out by either organization. However, both organizations were being put under lots of pressure and called out for still having relationships with the rapper after the controversial statements he recently made by other groups working against anti-semitism/hate speech. There was even a petition started on Change.Org, which urged Adidas to terminate their partnership with Kanye, quickly gaining more than 100,000 signatures. Eventually, this buildup led to the ultimate decision of them and other major corporations involved no longer selling, manufacturing, or having any type of association with West. These decisions were applauded by groups against anti-semitism, including the Anti-Defamation League, StopAntisemitism, and The International Legal Forum. 

 

Gap, Foot Locker, Balenciaga, and various other major fashion brands all had a significant partnership with the rapper, who all sold streetwear from his Yeezy clothing line in collaboration with the brand. However, the greatest impact was on Adidas, who had to make the tough decision to cut ties with Ye for moral reasons regardless of how it would affect them. Due to this, the long-standing partnership which began in 2013 finally came to an end. Herein lies arguably one of the greatest economic impacts to not only individuals, but larger groups of people and corporations who were further affected by Kanye’s antics. Kanye’s Yeezy brand brought in around $2 billion for Adidas annually, or about 10% of all of its revenue, so the loss was heavy for the company when the partnership was terminated. A CNBC article states that “Adidas said this would have a short-term negative impact of up to 250 million euros ($246 million) on net income in 2022 due to high seasonality in the fourth quarter. It added that it was the “sole owner of all design rights to existing products as well as previous and new colorways under the partnership” and would provide more information during third quarter earnings on Nov. 9. Adidas fell 4% in morning trading in Frankfurt, Germany, after Bloomberg reported early in the day it was planning to end the partnership.” These statements made by Adidas reveal the costly economic impact of the cut relationship ties. They are now stuck with more than $500 million worth of Yeezy products, unable to sell and worsening the weight of the burden. Furthermore, this could impact sentiment around the company’s future success as the business takes a hit on various aspects, lowering stock prices. Based on publicly available stock data, the trend in Adidas stock price during the time period of these events (October- November) was negative, and share prices went down nearly 20% (high 50s to mid 40s), which was a huge decline. Although the company’s shares have recovered now, and they are beginning to regain the money lost with the value of the deal, it still goes to show how this left a lasting footprint on Adidas, GAP, and other major corporations. 

 

The economic impact doesn’t stop here - these splits had results that have trickled down to a consumer level, where even individuals are impacted. Specifically, those with some relation to Yeezy products. Resellers, “Sneakerheads”, or anyone who owns Yeezy products are all in luck, as nearly all products from the brand increased greatly in value shortly following the split. A Wall Street Journal article states that, “According to publicly available data on StockX, a streetwear reselling site, prices of Adidas Yeezy sneakers have risen by more than 20 percent.” This is a huge increase, and much of it happened overnight, shortly after the news broke. That same article mentions the words of an 18-year-old student and sneaker-reseller based in West Orange, NJ, named Geovanny Monroy. He said, “Over the past 24 hours since Adidas and Kanye ended their partnership, the market has been going insane.” Monroy then mentions that he saw resale prices of Adidas products shoot up at least $50 to $100 overnight. 

 

The impact on the sneaker and streetwear market itself for individuals is great, and could be seen as both positive or negative depending on which side of the market you’re on. Sellers will be making great profits, especially over time as the value of these shoes increase with a rise in demand and not enough supply to support it. However, it’s bad news for buyers who have been wanting Yeezy products, as they will now be paying a greater premium for the same product which will no longer be sold through retail stores. As a whole, it created a great interest in Yeezy products and changed how they were perceived in the resale market, resulting in various impacts that differ between each individual. 




Social & Cultural Impact

 

Although the rapper’s anti semitic remarks had many consequences in all areas, the greatest ones lie in society’s social and cultural aspects. Not only has it caused a great public uproar and backlash with various groups of people criticizing his antisemitic, conspiracy-filled rants, but it has also resulted in him somewhat being rejected by a great portion of society, and even spreading poor ideas that have incited violence. One specific example of this can be seen in a Los Angeles Times article, which reports that hate crimes are on the rise. In 2022, hate crime reports in LA were up 13% from last year’s already record-breaking levels. LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore, speaking on behalf of many, believes that statements online being left unchecked is one of the major causes. Specifically, he calls out Kanye West for his recent antics related to this, saying, “We see Kanye West and others that have gone to Twitter and other social media platforms and we’ve seen other platforms such as Parler that have been created solely ... for people with extremist views to have a platform … And that, I think, is dangerous.” In this case, West has been given a platform for his hate speech online, which has led to his information spreading and having an impact on many more people than it should have. The result has been an incitement of violence, not just through hate speech, but also through the controversy around Kanye’s rants themselves, which can best be seen through social media and public reaction to these issues. 

 

Kanye has received a great backlash for his actions, as many people are now discussing these topics to a greater extent than before. It has brought up talk regarding anti-semitism, racism, and hate speech in general. While it may have a slightly positive impact in bringing more awareness to these issues as people realize the consequences of such acts, it has also brought conflict among people and an uproar as people condemn Kanye’s acts. Many celebrities, including Kanye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, who previously tried to defend him, have spoken out against the things he has been saying, and groups against prejudice/anti-semitism also condemned his actions. Twitter as a whole was one of the major platforms which Kanye attempted to post his hateful speech on, but because of his rants, West’s account was suspended indefinitely. Twitter CEO Elon Musk even shared images of text where he told the rapper, "you have gone too far. This is not love,” indicating his severe disapproval. 

 

Even though Kanye continued his anti-semitic comments on other platforms, many banned him quickly, yet he still tried to express his rants on podcasts or other places on the internet which still hosted him. As a result, there was a great uproar and backlash of people condemning his actions. According to an article from music website Billboard2, “Twitter users expressed their concern and disdain for the comments across the platform and soon enough, “Kanye” was trending on Twitter across the country.” Social media dove into chaos as a result of the rapper’s antics, criticizing him every step of the way. In general, the online community has had a huge reaction to Kanye West’s controversial hate speech, with sites such as Twitter platforming discussions regarding the topic, podcasts mentioning these events, and Kanye being invited on shows to explain himself, furthermore sparking social discussion. 

 

One of the most significant responses was from the president of the United States himself, Joe Biden, who tweeted about hate speech shortly after Kanye made some of his statements. President Biden tweeted, "I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. … Silence is complicity.” Although not naming specific people, it was clear the intent was to call out Kanye and others who may share the same hateful views, rightfully denouncing hate speech against certain groups of people. 

 

The underlying message here is that as a result of Kanye’s actions, he is now facing not only a heavy amount of pressure as people criticize what he has done so far, but also rejection from many parts of the world today. His online presence which he gained much of his fame from has been severely diminished. Furthermore, people no longer look up to him in the light he once was in as a famed, hardworking African American artist who overcame many challenges to reach success. Instead, it can be seen that the majority of the public, media, and celebrities view him as someone who is racist and looks to incite violence/hate speech. The School Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) even revoked an honorary degree awarded to Kanye as disapproval for his actions in the past months, showing how quickly the rapper has been cut off from nearly everyone he’s worked with in the past. In a statement made by them, the SAIC said, “The School of the Art Institute of Chicago condemns and repudiates Kanye West’s (now known as Ye) anti-Black, antisemitic, racist, and dangerous statements, particularly those directed at Black and Jewish communities. Ye’s actions do not align with SAIC’s mission and values, and we’ve rescinded his honorary degree.” Kanye’s statements have caused a load of problems for him as he now faces societal rejection and global disapproval. The collective public showed West that hate speech would not be tolerated or taken lightly, setting an example for the world. 

 

Conclusion

 

Due to all of the controversial remarks he made recently, Kanye West has gone from an esteemed, popular music artist and fashion designer to someone condemned by most of society. In the span of only a few months, the rapper has lost the majority of his fortune, faced rejection from nearly every facet of modern society, been banned by major social media platforms, caused economic losses for major corporations in fashion, and caused a public uproar as a response to his incitement of hate. Although the motive behind Kanye’s actions is unclear for now, and the direction where he may take this is just as uncertain, the impacts are, on the other hand, very easy to mark out, and they are great in the effect they have had on the modern world thus far. From cultural and social rejection, controversy, backlash, and uproar, to the ending of great economic partnerships resulting in the loss of millions of dollars, it seems there is not a field left untouched by this realm of controversial scandal. These recent events have undoubtedly had a profound impact on his career, reputation, and legacy, and it will take a lot of work for him to repair the damage that has been done, which could be even longer depending on how he chooses to move forward. Only time will tell what the future holds for Kanye West, but one thing is certain: his choices have gone to show how even the actions and words of even one individual can have an impact on the masses.

 

Works Cited

 

"Adidas Must End Its Partnership with the Antisemite Ye (aka Kanye West)." Change.org. 2022. 

Web. 20 Jan. 2023. https://www.change.org/p/adidas-must-end-its-partnership-with-the-antisemite-ye-aka-kanye-west

 

Bowenbank, Starr. “Kanye West's Hate Speech: A Consequences Timeline.” Billboard, 2023. 

Web. 13 Jan. 2023. https://www.billboard.com/lists/kanye-west-hate-speech-consequences-timeline/

 

Dellatto, Marisa. "Kanye West's Anti-Semitic Troubling Behavior: Here's Everything He's Said 

In Recent Weeks." Forbes, 2 Dec. 2022. Web. 12 Jan. 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marisadellatto/2022/12/02/kanye-wests-anti-semitic-troubling-behavior-heres-everything-hes-said-in-recent-weeks/?sh=481bd9156de3

 

Gallagher, Jacob. "Kanye West's Breakup With Adidas Sends Yeezy Resale Prices Soaring." The 

Wall Street Journal, 9 Jan. 2023. Web. 27 Jan. 2023 https://www.wsj.com/story/kanye-wests-breakup-with-adidas-sends-yeezy-resale-prices-soaring-15637a72

 

Hutzler, Alexandra. “Biden denounces antisemitism after Ye's remarks praising Hitler.” ABC 

News, 3 Dec. 2022. Web. 26 Jan 2023. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-denounces-antisemitism-after-remarks-praising-hitler/story?id=94395541 

 

Jaschik, Scott. "Kanye West stripped of honorary degree." Inside Higher Ed, 12 Dec. 2022. Web. 

10 Jan 2023. https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2022/12/12/kanye-west-stripped-honorary-degree

 

Jany, Libor. "LAPD Chief Blames Hate Crime Rise on Social Media, Kanye." Los Angeles 

Times, 14 Dec. 2022. Web. 16 Jan. 2023. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-14/lapd-chief-blames-hate-crime-rise-on-social-media-kanye

 

Mann, Jyoti. "Adidas is stuck with $500 million worth of Yeezy sneakers, according to a report." 

Business Insider, 16 Dec. 2022. Web. 30 Jan. 2023. https://www.businessinsider.com/adidas-stuck-with-yeezy-sneakers-worth-500-million-report-2022-12

Reid, Jenni. "Adidas terminates partnership with Ye following rapper's antisemitic remarks." 

CNBC, 25 Oct. 2022. Web. 30 Jan. 2023. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/25/adidas-terminates-partnership-with-ye-following-rappers-antisemitic-remarks.html



"Twitter divided over Kanye West return amid anti-Semitic backlash." The News International

13 Dec. 2022. Web. 17 Jan 2023. https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1019671-twitter-divided-over-kanye-west-return-amid-anti-semitic-backlash

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