Kanye West’s recent return to social media quickly gathered the online world’s attention - but what was initially a universal celebration of his random motivational messages ("Be here now. Be in the moment. The now is the greatest moment of our lives and it just keeps getting better") soon turned divisive as he began enthusiastically posting about his love of President Trump. Fans of the President were THRILLED about Yeezy's embrace of the "Make America Great Again" motto, but many Kanye enthusiasts (and some of his friends in showbiz) were confused and disappointed and began messaging him to beg him to reconsider his position on Trump.
Fellow performers like John Legend texted Kanye directly to discuss the issue with him, which we know because Kanye took to posting screenshots of these texts on Twitter. Oof! Kanye’s main response to anyone criticising his position on Trump - or, at the very least, suggesting perhaps he hadn’t really educated himself about many political issues - was that he had ‘free thought’ and wouldn’t be told what to believe by anyone.
Which leads us to what ended up being described by TIME Magazine as ‘viral internet history’ as a clip of the following moment was streamed 1.2million times within its first 24 hours online.
CONTEXT: Kanye had dropped into the TMZ offices in LA and went on air ranting about how 400 years of slavery in America was seemingly a “choice” - as though slaves could have changed their circumstances if only they’d had his positive can-do attitude. After the cringeworthy interview (never has the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song been so aptly applied as a backing soundtrack), Kanye asked everyone working in the TMZ offices, “Do you feel like I’m thinking free and feeling free?” and that is when something truly incredible happened.
A TMZ staffer named Van Lathan then stood up and clearly and passionately completely laid it all out for Kanye, who looked confused and sulky as he listened but even he dared not interrupt because it was clear to everyone that this guy was right on the money.
Watch it here:
I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought, and the reason why I feel like that is because Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion. You’re entitled to believe whatever you want. There’s fact and real life consequence behind everything that you just said. While you are making music and being an artist and living a life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice. Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled, and brother, I’m unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real.
That’s the transcript of the short version of their interaction that spread like wildfire online, but if you’re interested in seeing the extended cut, here it is.
As Lathan later explained to TIME, “I am my ancestors, I am their survival, I am their will. I am the descendant of slaves who refused to die and we all are if you’re black and in America. Any speech that is used to weaken them and make them culpable for the wretched and putrid circumstances, I don’t feel like I could really tolerate that.”
What was Kanye’s response to Lathan’s critique of his free thought? It wasn’t long before he returned to his beloved Twitter account and compared himself to famous 19th century abolitionists Nat Turner and Harriet Turner, and then for good measure also threw in a fake Harriet Tubman quote often used by pro-slavery types to support their beliefs. Damn, Kanye!
These Twitter posts by Kanye have since been deleted and now in their place, a sea of videos and images relating to his fashion related business... but the internet has a long memory and while many believe Kanye West is simply stirring up controversy for publicity reasons, it will be interesting to see if some of these recent remarks have crossed a line for his core audience and if this eventually negatively affects his bottom line.
In any case, while Kanye recently announced (on Twitter, OF COURSE) “I no longer have a manager. I can't be managed”, it might be worth someone in his life - Kim? Kris? - stepping in and removing the Twitter app from his phone for the sake of his brand. To see so much goodwill transform into extreme disappointment and mockery within such a short period of time? Might be time for another social media break, Yeezy.
‘It's Crippling to See What's Happened.' Why TMZ Producer Confronted Kanye West Over Slavery Claims (TIME)