5 October 2022

From storming stages to presidential runs — Kanye West’s most controversial moments

With more controversies under his belt than albums, Ye has become one of the world’s most polarising figures. Here we break down his most mind-boggling gaffes and faux pas.

Over the years, Ye has made headlines as much for his talents as he does his perceived tantrums, feuds and social media rants.

While his sales may have dipped as time goes on, the artist manages to constantly keep himself in the limelight, at times overshadowing the art he holds so dearly. Case in point — yesterday, West presented his Yeezy Season 9 show in Paris, and naturally, everyone was excited. The result, however, was Ye donning a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt alongside right-wing commentator Candace Owens, swaying much of the attention off of the show and once again onto his behaviour. 

In what could be an incredibly long list, we’re taking a look back at the musician’s most controversial moments, from the ridiculous, to the outrageous, and to the concerning…

George Bush 

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005, celebrities were quick to provide aid in any way they could. Ye, who helped host NBC’s A Concert For Hurricane Relief alongside Mike Myers, however, decided to use the opportunity to go off script and claim that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Taylor Swift

This was arguably the biggest moment in awards show history, but for all the wrong reasons. On that fateful day in September 2009, Ye stormed onto the stage at the VMAs while Taylor Swift was making her acceptance speech. “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” he shouted. At the time, Swift was just 17 years old, and Ye later apologised following the outrage from fans.

Wiz Khalifa

In one of the strangest beefs we’ve seen, Ye went at fellow rapper Wiz Khalifa for, well, no reason at all. Following the release of Yeezus, Ye mentioned wanting to title the album Waves and Wiz Khalifa, who happened to have a child with West’s ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, took offence to the idea. He claimed Ye didn’t give ample credit to rapper Max B, who popularised the terms “wave” and “wavy” in rap. West then decided to go on a massive Twitter rant about how he owned Khalifa’s child because he dated Amber Rose first. Then, Khalifa wrote “KK” in one of his tweets and Ye assumed it was a dig at his then-wife Kim Kardashian’s initials — turns out “KK” stands for Khalifa Kush, the artist’s brand of weed. Awkward.

Bill Cosby

While promoting his 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, Ye released his song called ‘Facts,’ in which one of the lyrics questioned if anyone felt bad for Bill Cosby. In typical Ye fashion, with zero context whatsoever, the Chicago native went on to tweet: ”Bill Cosby is innocent!” Bill Cosby was later found guilty of drugging and raping up to 60 women at his home in 2004, and was later sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.

‘Famous’

Ye held a fashion week show for Adidas, which ended up becoming his album listening party. Tonnes of notable figures were in attendance including Gigi Hadid and members of the media. It was at that event that those individuals heard those controversial ‘Famous’ lyrics we all now know: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous.” Ye later claimed that Swift signed off on the lyric but she denied ever doing so. As if the song lyrics weren’t enough, the musician released an equally, if not more outrageous music video. The video depicts him and his ex-wife Kardashian naked on a bed alongside wax figures of celebrities who were also nude. The celebrities included were Taylor Swift, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlyn Jenner and Bill Cosby.

Supporting Donald Trump

When Ye began rubbing shoulders with former US President, Donald Trump, the internet went into meltdown. Ye showed his support for Trump during the presidential race and then later met the president-elect at Trump Tower to discuss multicultural issues.

Ye defends R. Kelly ahead of ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

In January 2019, Ye publicly defended R. Kelly before the release of the documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, in which the rapper claimed fans should still listen to the singer’s music as they should separate the art from the artist. In September 2022, R. Kelly was found guilty of child sexual abuse and racketeering.

Ye runs for President

Back in August 2015, Ye announced he would run for president in five years, and in July 2020 he did just that. Even Elon Musk supported Ye but it didn’t amount to much as he only gained 0.04% of votes nationally.

Ye invites DaBaby and Marlyn Manson on stage during Donda listening event

During a listening event at the Mercedes Benz Stadium for his album Donda, Ye was joined on stage by Marilyn Manson and DaBaby. This of course caused fans to slam the artist due to Manson’s sexual assault allegations and DaBaby’s homophobic comments at Rolling Loud.

Kid Cudi fallout 

In February 2022, Ye revealed that the almost 15-year friendship with fellow musician Kid Cudi was over. Ye revealed he was upset over Cudi’s supposed friendship with Pete Davidson, who was dating Kardashian at the time. Taking to Instagram, the rapper said: “Just so everyone knows Cudi will not be on Donda because he’s friends with you know who.”

Ye attacks Pete Davidson in ‘Eazy’ music video

In a clip of the music video for ‘Eazy,’ Ye’s collaboration with The Game, there’s an animated version of the star walking in front of an ambulance while rapping: “God saved me from that crash. Just so I can beat Pete Davidson’s ass.” After that, a red monkey beats up a man with a blurred face who is wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Skete” on it. “Skete” being the nickname Ye made up for the comedian. Later on, in the video Ye is seen holding Davidson’s decapitated head. Probably should’ve left that part out, Ye.

  • Writer Chris Saunders

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