Problematic rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West, known now as Ye, has attracted widespread condemnation following a series of public antisemitic statements—the kind that lead people to groan, “What did Kanye say now?” when they see him trending.
Among most notable detractors? His own fanbase.
On Reddit, the once-supportive community r/Kanye, a space with 760,000 members dedicated to discussing Ye’s music and fashion, transformed almost overnight in December 2022.
Following Ye’s declaration of his admiration for Adolf Hitler and a controversial tweet featuring a swastika merged with the Star of David, the subreddit erupted with Holocaust education posts and vocal denunciations of antisemitism. It represented a collective stand by the fans against their former idol.
The content displayed on the page ranged from photos and information about Nazi Germany’s atrocities to educational book and movie recommendations about the Holocaust. Some shared personal stories and images of their visits to Holocaust memorial sites, while others posted photos of relatives who had suffered under the Nazi regime. Interspersed with these educational posts were memes celebrating pop star Taylor Swift, whom Ye infamously interrupted at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, illustrating a further shift away from their one-time hero.
More recently, the Reddit forum has been more positive, with posts on his music taking some precedent—at least for the moment.
Outside the Reddit sphere, Ye’s actions drew reprimands from multiple fronts and recent news doesn’t seem to be altering his public perception.
What started this?
Ye was already on a bit of a controversy bender in the months leading up to the December 2022 events that outraged his Redditors.
And that also came on the heels of Ye dining with former President Donald Trump and white nationalist Nick Fuentes. Politico reported on the Nov. 22, 2022 dinner several days after it happened, noting Trump tried to depict the dinner as “quick and uneventful.”
And then Ye and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones got together.
As the Daily Dot reported at the time, regarding an appearance Ye made on Jones’ InfoWars talk show, “The rapper purportedly made statements denying the Holocaust on the right-wing program, stating, ‘I don’t really care that much about Hitler. I love him. No, he seems like a cool guy, you know, it’s like he had a really cool outfit and stuff and he was a really good architect but he didn’t kill six million Jews; that is factually incorrect.'”
How did Twitter react to what Kanye said (and posted)?
Following his incendiary posts and an interview with Alex Jones, Twitter (now called X) suspended Ye’s account in December 2022. Despite a brief reinstatement when Elon Musk bought the platform and reactivated banned accounts, Ye soon lost access again after making the swastika/Star of David post.
Musk subsequently tweeted about the suspension, citing a rule against incitement to violence as the reason. He also said, “I tried my best,” in response to a tweet that said, “ELON FIX KANYE PLEASE.”
According to CNN, Ye’s account was reactivated yet again in July 2023, concurrent with Musk’s rebranding of Twitter to X, though the social media company claimed he “will not be able to monetize his account, and no ads will appear next to his posts.”
Though the current account for Ye on X has 31.7 million followers, it has no posts displayed and he’s not following anyone.
Did President Biden talk about what Kanye said and tweeted?
ABC News reported that President Joe Biden weighed in, releasing a strong statement condemning antisemitism and Holocaust denialism. He emphasized the reality of the Holocaust and referred to Hitler as a “demonic figure,” urging political leaders to condemn hate speech.
“I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened,” the president tweeted. “Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity.”
The fallout: Public reactions from what Kanye said
Various entities have disassociated themselves from Ye. London-based Naama Studios offered to remove Ye-inspired tattoos for free. YouTube is said to be removing reuploads of Ye’s controversial Infowars interview unless they denounce the antisemitism within.
Moreover, as NME noted, Howard Stern felt compelled to speak out on his SiriusXM show, criticizing Ye’s antisemitic sentiments and speculating on Ye’s self-perception.
In a recent lawsuit, separated from the antisemitism, Ye is (according to a Yahoo! story) accused of firing the caretaker of a “dilapidated” Malibu home, which he allegedly wanted to turn into a windowless, power-less bomb shelter.
Academic Revocation: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago rescinded an honorary doctorate previously awarded to Ye in 2015. The institution expressed its condemnation of Ye’s recent racist and antisemitic comments.
Social Media Suspensions: Beyond Twitter, Clubhouse suspended Ye for his antisemitic comments, as Billboard reported, emphasizing their platform’s no-tolerance policy for hate speech or abuse. Instagram has also banned the rapper at various times.
Dishonorable Titles: The watchdog group StopAntisemitism named Ye the “Antisemite of the Year” for 2022—via tweet—highlighting his consistently hateful remarks.
Corporate Decisions: After parting ways with Ye last October, due to controversies preceding the InfoWars comments, Adidas announced plans to sell the remaining inventory of Ye’s Yeezy brand and donate the proceeds to organizations harmed by Ye’s comments.
The Washington Post, reporting on the Yeezy offloading, noted, “Since Adidas ended their relationship, it has struggled to find a replacement for Yeezy, financially or emotionally,” adding, “There have also been rumors since last fall that Adidas could produce at least some of the models Ye designed, but without the Yeezy branding.”
WWD reported high-end fashion house Balenciaga also parted with the artist last October.
‘What did Kanye say’ threads on Reddit
Plenty of people have made up their minds about Ye. But a number of threads in r/Kanye, of the “What did Kanye actually say,” or even “What did Kanye say to get cancelled?” variety, show that some fans are willing to try to explain or provide context for Ye’s various statements regarding Jewish people.
And even nine months after the controversy first broke, Ye’s Reddit group still remained in the top 1% of subreddits, with an active group largely invested in discussing his music, even in an era where he’s making news for extramusical reasons.