source: Press Materials
To say it’s been an interesting week for Kanye West is a vast understatement.
This week we saw two different sides of the rap legend. One: a vulnerable, talented artist who channeled past familial traumas, battles with mental health, and complicated relationships with other notable Black icons like Jay-Z and former President Barack Obama. The second Kanye was a man who appeared at the TMZ headquarters on Tuesday where he had this to say:
"When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... For 400 years? That sounds like a choice."
At first, it had seemed that Kanye was reentering the media spotlight with good intentions. Here was a man who had irrevocably shifted the rap music genre with powerful songs and heartfelt lyrics. In the nearly two-hour interview between West and Charlamagne on his radio show—which you can see below—the rapper revealed much about the ups and downs in both his personal and professional life over years.
He explains that, ever since the infamous moment where West walked on stage to interrupt Taylor Swift at the VMA’s in 2009, the music industry has treated him differently.
"Ever since the Taylor Swift moment, it's never been the same," he said. "The connection with radio. It's like whatever powers that be it was much harder after that."
Which brings us to the here and now. On Tuesday Kanye West appeared at the TMZ headquarters to declare in an interview where he and host Candace Owens explained free thought to express that African slaves had a choice whether to be enslaved for 400 years.
The provocative statement, on the heels of other eye-opening admissions—such as when the rapper proclaimed his love for President Donald Trump last week—was immediately met with harsh criticism. TMZ employee Van Lathan confronted West shortly after the remark was made.
"And while you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you've earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives," Lathan said. "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."
After validating West’s right to offer up an opinion, Lathan continued:
"Frankly, I'm disappointed, I'm appalled and, brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that's not real," Lathan concluded.
West attempted to clarify his comments later that day, firing off a Twitter storm that, as some people note, may not have smoothed the situation as much as the rapper would have hoped.
“The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought It was just an idea.”
Of course, the Internet fired back at Kanye for his now infamous quote. Already bordering the territory of memes, it seems West’s statement about whether slavery was a choice has gone incredibly viral. Already, hundreds of thousands of tweets, under the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice, and pictures have exploded across popular sites like Imgur and Reddit.
Fellow pop legend Will.I.Am joined the conversation as well, selecting his words carefully in a poignant Tweet.
Lathan had more to say about Kanye after the TMZ interview. In an ‘emergency’ episode of his podcast ‘The Red Pill,’ Lathan describes the rap superstar as “someone I’ve lost all respect for.” You can listen to the podcast here.
What do you think? Will Kanye be able to bounce back? Sound off in the comments.