Ever since Kanye West made his return to social media in late August, let’s be honest, it’s been a disaster for the once revered artist. From calling out Adidas and GAP execs and donning a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt to his anti-semitic comments, Ye has committed career suicide.
Unfortunately, the controversy doesn’t stop there. According to a new extensive Rolling Stone report by Cheyenne Roundtree, staff and contractors have alleged they’ve experienced terrible mistreatment in the workplace. “Abusive.” “Toxic.” “Chaotic clusterfuck.” Those were just some of the words used to describe the Yeezy work environment.
Numerous sources claimed they accepted positions believing they were walking into their dream job. However, they quickly found themselves in a “cult-like atmosphere” that came with 12-15 hour shifts, inconsistent or delayed payments and abrupt firings for minor missteps.
“Nothing has ever compared to the amount of chaos, the amount of stress and anxiety you go through working for Yeezy,” an Adidas x Yeezy senior team member told the magazine.
One ex-staffer recalled an incident in 2015 at the Yeezy studio, just weeks before Ye would unveil the brand’s inaugural collection. The source claimed Ye would often play his own music in the space — but asked for other recommendations after someone suggested he play something else. Ye reportedly scanned the room before singling out an employee and asking them what they wanted to hear. “I thought, ‘Oh, he’s a rapper, I should probably mention some rap,’” said the ex-staff member, who ultimately proposed Drake music. “Big mistake – the next day I was fired.”
A Yeezy executive also described a time when a top creative was called out for wearing a yellow sweater to work. The employee was allegedly told to “dress for the palette, or you dress in black” and was subsequently fired.
One employee believed that the constant firings may have resulted from Ye’s mistrust, particularly towards his inner circle. “Everyone’s always on the verge of losing their job, so the dynamics are total chaos,” the former employee said. “He doesn’t necessarily have people that he can trust around him.”
Another contractor relayed the theory. “The biggest issue is that he doesn’t appear to have high-level operational people that he trusts,” they explained. “Without the operational backbone, no company can really exist for a super long time. You can’t build a multi-billion-dollar brand without an operations director who stays in the job for more than six months. He needs professionals that don’t give a shit that he’s Kanye West.”
Other employees stated that payment was a constant issue within the company, as some would have to wait months before receiving their Yeezy checks. At one point, the situation became so frustrating that employees went on a “mini strike” until they were compensated. It’s alleged that some staff members are still awaiting payments.
A former Yeezy employee suspected that Ye’s ego ultimately led to the delayed payments, as he appeared to push back against Adidas’ demands by withholding funds. “I’m not sure he ever realised that people in his orbit weren’t getting paid,” the individual said. “I think he just thought, ‘I’m not approving this stuff because I’m pissed for XYZ, so I’m just gonna put a halt on whatever [Adidas] bring[s] to us for payment.’ I really don’t know that he ever looked deep enough to know that it was affecting his own people.”
Sources also supported previous reports regarding the musician’s alleged fascination with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. One employee described being in the Los Angeles showroom as the team prepared for the infamous season 9 presentation, which included the “White Lives Matter” shirts. While Ye was going through the collection’s designs, he allegedly told the room that “skinheads and Nazis were his greatest inspiration.”
“It’s a point of inspiration for him because I think there’s so much pain that comes from that place, especially for Black people,” an employee said. “The minute he turns it around, uses it, [and] puts himself in a position of making money off of it, I feel like he does something to it – he takes ownership over it.”
Some said they were completely blindsided by the “White Lives Matter” slogan and believed it was a slap in the face to those who had put so much time and effort into the rest of the collection. “It was like, ‘What the fuck?’” one employee said. “It was definitely a topic of conversation among everyone. A lot of us were very uncomfortable with it. It was professionally frustrating for everybody who had worked really hard and then for the talk of the whole thing to be the shirt.”
Another source said the team were brainstorming ideas for a shirt that included a message about race, possibly one that “made fun of white people.” One idea was to emblazon the pieces with the phrase: “We Are N***erish.”
“It was definitely supposed to be something that called on race,” the employee said. “White Lives Matter [and] Candace Owens in combination just made it political, and just stupid.”
Elsewhere in the report, employees described having to spend their weeks at Ye’s Wyoming properties, as well as his fallout with GAP and Adidas and his irrational expectations from his staff.
“When you work for somebody with that much vision and that much money, you really can make incredible change,” said one Yeezy contractor, who described the gig as “both the worst job I’ve ever had and the best job I’ve ever had, concurrently. Everything he does is a giant mess of vacuuming up all of people’s time – just consuming their entire lives and then the output just gets left on the side of the road somewhere.”