Kanye West on slavery: 'For 400 years? That sounds like a choice'

In a confrontation in the TMZ newsroom, the rapper talks about his view on slavery as well as reaffirming his support for Donald Trump

Kanye West has said that 400 years of slavery is “a choice” in a TMZ interview that resulted in a confrontation.

The rapper, who has been tweeting out support for Donald Trump in recent weeks, was talking about the president, free thinking and labels before he moved onto slavery.

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said. “For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison because slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks. Slavery is to blacks as the Holocaust is to Jews. Prison is something that unites as one race, blacks and whites, that we’re the human race.”

He then proceeded to talk directly to the entire office before TMZ reporter Van Lathan shot back at him for his comments. “I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything,” he said.

He continued: “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 he was “unbelievably hurt” about Kanye morphing into something that’s “not real”.

West’s comments were met by anger and incredulity. Fellow rapper Will.i.am told Good Morning Britain that West’s comments were “ignorant” and “broke my heart ... when you’re a slaved, you’re owned... that’s not choice, that’s by force.” Prominent civil rights activist Deray McKesson said West “continues to fuel the racist right-wing folks who believe that black people are responsible for their oppression,” while fellow activist and TV host Marc Lamont Hill wrote: “There has never been a moment in history when Black people didn’t resist slavery... Our resistance led to our freedom.”

There has NEVER been a moment in history when Black people didn't resist slavery. Some did it by jumping off ships. Some killed masters. Some ran away. Some did it through everyday forms of resistance. Slave masters didn't retire. Our resistance led to our freedom.

— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 2, 2018

Kanye’s rhetoric continues to fuel the racist right-wing folks who believe that black people are responsible for their oppression.

— deray (@deray) May 1, 2018

Earlier in the conversation, West reaffirmed his support for Trump calling him his “boy” and explaining why he tweeted a picture wearing a Make America Great Again cap. “I felt a freedom in doing something that everybody tells you not to do,” he said.

West’s return to the spotlight has preceded the release of two new albums out in June. The rapper dropped two new tracks last weekend, including Ye Vs the People, where he elaborated on his support for Trump with another nod to slavery: “See that’s the problem with this damn nation / All blacks gotta be Democrats, man, we ain’t made it off the plantation”. Referring to the Make America Great Again cap also worn by Trump, he rapped: “Make America Great Again had a negative perception / I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction / Added empathy, care and love and affection.”

In the wake of his comments on slavery, West wrote on Twitter: “Once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas”. He also posted a quote he attributed to 19th-century antislavery activist Harriet Tubman (though never proven to be spoken by her): “I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves,” suggesting an ongoing kind of slavery, a topic he explored previously in his 2013 track New Slaves. “You know that niggas can’t read / Throw ‘em some Maybach keys,” he rapped. “Spending everything on [designer] Alexander Wang: new slaves.”

Today also saw the release of an hour-long interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God which saw West say he’s in “a stronger place” than he’s ever been, and that he was taking an unspecified medication – “an imperfect solution, it helps calm me down” – in the wake of a two-week spell in hospital in 2016 following a mental breakdown he now characterises as a “breakthrough”.

He also expressed hurt over Barack Obama calling him a “jackass” in 2009. “Don’t tell the world I’m a jackass,” he said. “I’m fighting hard enough. Something about me going on stage was similar to what you was doing. ’Cause I’m fighting to break the simulation, break the setup. That didn’t make no sense.”

In the same interview, West also briefly touched upon slavery and Tubman. “When I saw Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, that’s when I wanted to use bitcoin,” he said. “It’s like all the slave movies. Why you gotta keep reminding us about slavery? Why don’t you put Michael Jordan on the $20 bill?”


Benjamin Lee and Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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