(October 29, 2022). So Kanye West, now known as Ye, went from being a multi-billionaire (and, reportedly, the third-richest Black man in America) to being a multi-hundred millionaire in a matter of hours…and many thousandaires are up in arms about it.
They’re crying foul, railing on social media about “cancel culture” and eulogizing freedom of speech as if that were really at stake here (it’s not, which we’ll get to later).
The beleaguered rapper and fashion entrepreneur’s biggest financial blow came when Adidas, the shoe company that first brought hip-hop into corporate consciousness more than 30 years ago by sponsoring the Queens rap trio Run-DMC who had given the company free advertising with their 1986 hit “My Adidas,” dropped its far more lucrative deal with Ye after he made antisemitic remarks during a “Drink Champs” podcast earlier this month.
The remarks boiled down to familiar tropes that Jewish people were running the companies that were trying to ruin him (or at least silence him), that they owned Black culture, and that they were linked to the rapper’s belief that more than half of Black deaths were attributed to abortion, a consequence that was evilly supported by Jewish corporate America and the liberal agenda, according to Ye.
He then doubled, tripled, quadrupled and quintupled-down on those remarks in various interviews with prominent news anchors and podcasters, including Chris Cuomo, Piers Morgan, Lex Fridman and Tucker Carlson (although Fox News mysteriously edited the remarks from Carlson’s two-part broadcast of the Ye interview, where the anchor largely agreed with the “Jesus Walks” rapper’s other rhetoric).
Someone later leaked the full version of the Carlson clips, which, above all, exposed just how opportunistic Fox News’ most-watched host is after having been triggered by Ye’s “White Lives Matter” fashion statement in Paris earlier this month and likely not knowing what he was dealing with in immediately giving the mercurial rapper his platform upon his return from France.
Ye tried to tone down the vitriol during those interviews by claiming that he couldn’t be antisemitic because “all Black people are Jew” before drawing a distinction between “Jews” and “Jewish” people, the circular logic of which unwittingly returned him to his original premise, which—whether he knew it or not—was antisemitic.
Ye’s statements align with extreme Black Hebrew Israelite thinking, which combines popular beliefs about the ancestry of Blacks with extreme views about Jewish people and their control over everything from media and entertainment to sports and popular culture.
Ye’s rants revisited the longstanding complicated relationship between Jewish and Black people, highlighted important and widening gaps in wealth and corporate ownership and, by extension, the power imbalance here in America (with Black folks historically being on the short end of that stick), and re-raised concerns about mental health…Ye’s in particular.
But it also once again brought up “cancel culture,” those buzzwords largely used by people (mostly so-called “free-thinkers”) who espouse conspiracy theories and “alternate realities.” Those who shout “cancel culture” somehow feel that free speech in America is under attack by a liberal agenda led (again) by those same corporate entities whose main goal is to control the sociopolitical discourse in this country by silencing detractors.
Or as Ye tweeted earlier in October before Twitter (and Instagram) temporarily suspended him, “who do you think created cancel culture?”
What Ye is experiencing, however, is not cancel culture.
Blackballing? Sure. Silencing? Maybe. But “cancel culture”? Not at all.
Losing $1.5B in net worth because a company like Adidas with an image to uphold and a customer base to serve fires you from your job as the face and name of their brand is not cancellation.
Having other companies like Gap, Balenciaga and more terminate their relationships and brand deals with you because you not just once but many times made offensive remarks about a race or religion of people is not cancellation.
Being removed from Twitter and Instagram because of those same comments (he posted he was about to go “def-con 3” on “Jewish people” earlier in October) is not cancellation, particularly when those companies have written policies prohibiting such behavior.
Those are consequences.
Consequence has been around for eons. It didn’t just start as a political buzz-phrase in the 2010s after the #me-too movement or as a free-speech trope for those who felt their first amendment rights were being violated (when they weren’t).
Unlike “cancel culture,” whose peddlers imply that the end result—usually ostracism from some segment of society—was unfair and unjustified, consequence goes hand in hand with accountability. It says that the person experiencing it owns some, if not all, of the responsibility for what’s happening to him or her. It has a clear cause-and-effect relationship that says Y wouldn’t have happened to you if you hadn’t done X first.
People have been getting fired from their jobs for decades (and longer) for doing or saying things their employers didn’t approve of or that were not aligned with the companies’ principles. Some of those fired people committed the acts that led to their ouster knowing full well what the consequences might be.
Ye was one of those.
In fact, he laid out those consequences for us in interview after interview, with more lucidity than many of us might have expected. He told us that companies were trying to silence him. When Instagram and Twitter temporarily did so, he went on those TV and podcast interviews doubling and tripling down on his earlier claims about Jewish-led companies.
Before being temporarily muted by Instagram, Ye even posted about how companies like Gap and Adidas included clauses in their contracts with him to prevent the entrepreneur from engaging in standalone activities that profited off of any footwear, apparel and accessories resembling designs used for his Yeezy brand now owned by the two companies.
That means Ye actually wanted his independence from those companies and that his acts leading to them severing ties with him were likely deliberate and intentional. Is it possible that those companies’ hands were tied by Ye’s racist rhetoric? Sure.
So they fired him for what they viewed as misconduct.
But Ye is still a free man. As evidenced by the many platforms he’s been given to express his views, many of which came after his WLM fashion statement in Paris or his first antisemitic remarks this month. Sure there may have been a train-wreck aspect to all of those interview opportunities, but Ye’s freedom of speech was and is still intact.
The government hasn’t restricted that speech or threatened imprisonment or otherwise violated the first amendment to the constitution as it relates to Ye’s ability to express his views publicly.
His censorship on Twitter and Instagram—both non-government entities—was temporary. He still has tens of millions of followers on both platforms.
Instagram reinstated him last week whereupon he promptly posted to another company’s CEO (Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel) that he lost “two billion dollars in one day,” acknowledging the impact of Adidas’ response. Twitter will likely follow suit now that Elon Musk owns the company and has vowed to allow more free discourse on the platform.
Ye is also still free to buy Parler, the extreme right-wing social media platform that the rapper has expressed interest in owning following this month’s sagas with IG and Twitter. Parler has struggled to build an audience—it averages 40,000 daily users compared to Twitters 237 million, despite being touted as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter and a “champion of free speech”—mostly because it essentially serves as a conservative echo chamber and competes with several other politically focused social media platforms just like it (GETTR, Gab, and Donald Trump’s Truth Social are examples).
Ye could be just the star-power Parler needs to move it past “choir room” status and into the big leagues with those other companies. (He’d just better be prepared to back up his acquisition proclamation and not be forced to have to buy Parler like Elon Musk was with Twitter this month).
But the fact that Ye is still free (and wealthy enough) to purchase Parler, along with his ownership of the Yeezy brand (with some restrictions by Adidas), the rights to his master recordings and music publishing rights, plus his five-percent stake in ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS shapewear company, means that the rapper-turned-entrepreneur is still a half-billionaire, one who can (and still does) say whatever he wants whenever he wants to anyone willing to give him his bully pulpit.
Ye is not the victim here. He was not silenced (other platforms were always available to him and he took full advantage), and he still has more wealth than 99 percent of Americans will ever see in their lifetimes.
And Ye is still free to conduct his fashion business by shopping his brand to those companies run by people who share his views, or perhaps sell his brand independently going forward, as he has expressed was his desire to do all along.
None of that seems like cancellation to this blogger.
And just as Ye is still free to speak his mind—and continues to do so with consequence—people who’ve continued to stream his music or who’ve burned their Adidas and offered other expressions of support for Ye are also free to express their views about his plight, self-inflicted as that plight might be.
Just do so knowing that if Adidas was willing to take a $200M hit in revenue by nixing Ye’s lucrative Yeezy brand, they likely couldn’t care less if you burn up a pair of shoes you’ve already paid for…in support of a one-time (and possibly future) billionaire who knows nothing about you and probably doesn’t even like what you stand for.
Bottom line: In what arguably has been Ye’s most unfiltered month yet, the “Gold Digger” rapper has doubled down on his aggressive and offensive tropes without any attempt at contrition (except for maybe the lame “all Blacks are Jew” explanation). He launched all of this by donning a “White Lives Matter” slogan used by racists as a retort to the BLM movement initiated to address Blacks’ struggles for equal treatment both in America’s justice system and socioeconomically.
Racists then claimed Ye was right about his antisemitic remarks, likely making him the one Black man they’ve ever found allegiance with in modern times. Ye is already the most notable exception to right-wing conservatives’ well documented disdain for so-called elite celebrities. He may also be one of the few Black celebrities who’ve simultaneously managed to piss off Black and Jewish people (and many WASPs) with his actions this month alone.
As many everyday Americans have learned throughout life and through dealings with our own employers, without contrition there’s consequence.
With that in mind, you may still consider Ye a fashion genius, you may even think him to be very lucid in his expression after watching his many interviews this month, or you may consider him the greatest rapper of all time!
But you can hardly call him “cancelled.” Ye’s ability to engage in free expression and free debate is still alive and well.
And the consequences he’s suffered are of his doing…
And those consequences are not our fight.
Free-writer and consequence champion DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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