Last Tuesday, Oct. 25, Adidas officially cut ties with rapper Kanye West, ending their Yeezy shoe line indefinitely. This comes in the wake of many anti-Semitic comments made by West regarding alleged Jewish control of the media and banks, a common theory in conspiracy circles. This break seems to have hit West hard, both financially and mentally, calling into question his motivations and mental health over the last year.
The downward spiral seemed to start during the 2016 election cycle. West came out in support of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Normally, musicians endorsing politicians would not raise any eyebrows, but coupling this with Kanye’s own presidential candidacy announcement and later conversion to Christianity, West was clearly going through a number of major life changes all at once. This sudden shift towards the political right culminated in 2018 when West met President Trump in the Oval Office. By this point the two had a long history of back-and-forth compliments, with Trump saying the following: “He’s actually a different kind of person than people think. He’s a nice guy.”
West was relatively quiet for a long time until 2022 when he officially entered his “Skete” era. His divorce from Kim Kardashian took a toll on him. Kanye took to Twitter and, more prominently, Instagram to rant about custody law and Peter “Skete” Davidson, Kim’s new boyfriend. At this point, a number of his fans expressed sympathy for his situation, which, at the time, seemed like nothing more than personal drama on a global stage. This all changed in early October when West’s Twitter account was banned for hate speech. “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” he wrote. “The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to blackball anyone whoever opposes your agenda,” he continued in a second tweet.
True to form as a rapper, the two tweets use puns while conveying antisemitism. Firstly, “death con” is a reference to the military term DEFCON, which indicates how ready the military is for action on a scale of 1 to 5. By swapping DEF for death, West may imply that he is the threat rather than simply preparing for it. Additionally, the term “black ball” means to exclude someone from a secret club or organization. Here it has a double meaning of implying racist exclusion due to West being Black himself.
The tweets rubbed most the wrong way. West’s supporters dried up almost overnight. Even his self-proclaimed #1 fan prodbyzaqq withdrew support. He is known for commenting on West’s every Instagram post with “Ye da [goat emoji] no [cap emoji]”, but has changed his tune, instead using his comments to express support for himself and his music career.
This leads us to the biggest upset in West’s career: the Yeezys. The more backlash West faced, the more pressure Adidas was under to drop him from the contract. When they finally did, it was a huge hit to West’s pride and finances. “After a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies,” they said. “Adidas will stop the Adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.” West has not taken the news well, and was recently kicked out of the Skechers offices for trying to sell them his shoes without an appointment.
It is also important to remember that this isn’t the first time this has happened. According to Charlamagne tha God, a radio host and tv personality, over nine years ago, West said “’Happy Kwanzaa to all the artists and happy Hanukkah to all the label execs,” again implying that the music industry consists of evil Jewish executives exploiting Black artists. We should also understand that these comments did not stop after he was banned on Twitter. Just two weeks ago, West admitted he was being anti-Semitic but continued to support his previous allegation that Jews run the media.
Looking at the effects this situation has had is disturbing. A group of white nationalists recently staged a small march in the city of Los Angeles, where they held up a large white sign reading “Kanye is right about the Jews.” The danger here is not that West is himself bigoted or anti-Semitic, the real danger comes from the effect that this will have on those who look up to him.
While racism and anti-Semitism rarely develop through mere exposure, the conspiracy theory that a secret group of powerful Jews runs society can absolutely develop that way. In fact, the most common tactic of the proponents of these theories is to recruit by way of, according to an alt-right strategy thread, getting people to simply “ask questions” and “notice patterns” until they reach their own conclusions. These questions and patterns are of course often misguided, but when supported by a mega-celebrity like West, they appear to have more credence. There is the notion that West, as a member of the elites himself, would know more than any regular citizen, which makes his points have inherently more sway.
Regardless of whether West is fully serious, mentally ill or simply pulling stunts, it has become clear that his actions have had consequences. Not just for the country, but for himself as well.