Singer, pop star and multi-millionaire Kanye West has been acclaimed and recognized for decades for his record albums, such as "Life of Pablo," alongside his public marriage to Kim Kardashian. However, West is known first and foremost for his contributions to the rap community, alongside his outspoken and frequently offensive narrative within pop culture. This narrative, lacking pushback from a majority of his fanbase, showcased personal struggles for the rap star as well, as he has publicly struggled with his diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
This attitude, whether rightful with his own mental health struggles or not, has taken a vicious turn towards marginalized cultural groups. It’s safe to say his platform is profiting off of malicious claims against these communities. Yet West’s fan base may have a bigger hand in the matter than we may realize.
In the past few years, his controversialness seemed to take a turn with the help of social media, fueling a fast and accessible way to spread his messages that connect to a massive audience. West's most recent outburst was captured on the podcast "Drink Champs," featuring statements where he verbally claimed George Floyd's death was the result of a fentanyl overdose.
Yet, these claims are completely false and defamatory, as it has been proven George Floyd was killed by the asphyxiating knee to his neck by Derek Chauvin, one of the convicted Minneapolis police officers responsible.
Floyd's family responded to West's false and obligatory comments with a multifaceted lawsuit, filing for harassment, misappropriation, defamation and infliction of emotional distress.
Further, West has treaded on an alternate path within this same theme of the Black Lives Matter movement. His recent appearance at the Paris Fashion Week showing with his brand “Yeezy” promoted his radical position disagreeing with the Black Lives Matter movement. Here, his models' clothing was labeled with "White Lives Matter'' slogans as they — West included — walked the runway.
Even more recent have been West’s public antisemitic hate speech towards the Jewish community. Following this speech, groups of demonstrators lined a highway in Los Angeles holding signs labeled “Kanye was right about the Jews” with the inclusion of a Nazi salute. West also made claims on twitter announcing a “death con 3” on Jewish people, referring to the defense system of the United States military.
His claims have both invited and encouraged hate speech against Jewish communities. Eyes have been directed on his partnering brand Adidas, which features his own brand Yeezy’s line, to terminate the partnership with West, which eventually ended Oct. 25. The wide range of communities and groups West is attacking seems unprecedented and almost facetious.
These three events, occurring back-to-back, are examples of the dangerous statements and actions West has made, and what they mean for the communities he tears apart. But, where has the pushback been from his fans? It seems as though public figures have voiced their loud opinions, yet West’s strong following allows for these messages to resonate with far too many people.
Because his madness is closely tied to his genius, his music and fashion empire have built him the reputation of being "unrivaled." Fans and the general public wrongly excuse his rampant behavior and separate it from his music and fashion.
This week, artists and public figures such as his former wife Kim Kardashian have stepped forward to stand with the Jewish community and denounce Kanye’s platform. Yet the question must be asked, why did it take this long?
The long-time label of "Kanye just being Kanye" with regard to West’s statements is over. The lack of retaliation from powerful voices, as well as fans, is essentially how the singer came to achieve the power.
In this way, West became unbound. His platform and voice were built by fans who no longer support his mantra, yet strongly support his music and fashion. The singer holds a dangerous amount of power within society and is not discouraged by backlash but rather, is empowered. The attention he gets from these ridiculous claims is a spark to his flame.
While listeners, myself included, may think they are immune, we all may be at fault for letting West get to the place he is. In the same manner, it has become part of our responsibility to take that platform back.
Maddy Heuler is a freshman staff writer studying Journalism and Political Science. Do you believe that Kanye West’s fans bear some responsibility for enabling his defamatory actions? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.