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The top 10 controversies of Kanye West


From stealing Taylor Swift’s mic to his YEEZY shoe line, here are some of the most famous controversies of Kanye West.

The name Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has been synonymous with controversy for quite some time now. While widely recognised for his considerable body of work in music, his reputation has also been buoyed by several highly popularised scandals throughout his career.

Born in Atlanta to a middle-class couple that later divorced, Ye had always indicated an affinity for the arts growing up. He started penning poetry of his own at five years old before going on to attempt rapping in the third grade, which eventually led to a budding career in music at thirteen when he began creating musical compositions that were sold on to other artists living in the Chicago area.

Of course, those efforts would come to pave the way for his repertoire as one of the industry’s best-selling artists after being hesitantly signed on to a record deal under Roc-A-Fella Records, in a bid to keep him from leaving. While the company harboured doubts over Ye’s commercial viability as he lacked the ‘gangsta’ persona that was highly popular at the time, his debut record, The College Dropout, would prove those concerns to be completely unwarranted.

Peaking at No.2 on the Billboard 200 charts at the time of its release, it went on to become one of the genre’s most defining works. The same can be said of Ye’s subsequent releases, making him a household name almost overnight.

However, his fame would be marred by his oftentimes erratic behaviour, with instances such as his infamous Taylor Swift tirade during the 2009 VMA Awards deriding the many successes he enjoyed as an artist. With that said Ye has never been one known to shy away from outrage, and continues to march to the beat of his own drum in spite of brickbats. But if you’re curious to learn about the many controversies that have been associated with Ye, otherwise known as Kanye West, then read on.

Top 10 Kanye West controversies ranked

10. American Music Awards 2004

Some may think that Ye’s propensity for controversial moments may have started late in his career, but the truth of the matter is that he has never been one to shy away from acting or speaking his mind. Especially at an award show. Back in 2004, one of the earliest instances of this behaviour was witnessed by those attending the annual American Music Awards when the rapper walked out of the event after losing the ‘Best New Artist’ award to country singer Gretchen Wilson.

While backstage, he was allegedly overheard telling others that “I was the best new artist this year.”, adding “I am what Michael Jackson was to me”.

9. MTV Europe Music Awards 2006

Two years later, a similar incident occurred during the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, where Ye was in the running for three categories including the award for Best Music Video. As was the case back in 2004, he failed to cinch the title and lost out to the Justice remix of We Are Your Friends by Simian.

Taking offense to the snub, he immediately crashed the stage just moments before the French DJ duo could accept the award to express his dissatisfaction over the award results.

8. MTV Video Music Awards 2007 

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 16: Kanye West, left, and his son, Saint West, got front row seats next to Golden State Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber as they watch the game against the Boston Celtics in the second quarter at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
Image credit: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 16: Kanye West, left, and his son, Saint West, got front row seats next to Golden State Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber as they watch the game against the Boston Celtics in the second quarter at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

While many will no doubt remember Ye’s now iconic and infinitely meme-able tirade during the 2009 MTV VMAs, some may not realise that his run-in with the VMAs first started in 2007. Despite being in the running for five major categories which included Best Music Video and Best Male Music Video, the rapper took home not a single award.

Upset over the results, his anger was further exacerbated when he was tapped to perform for the award show from the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa, instead of the main stage, as MTV recounts. He even went so far as to claim that he would ‘never return to MTV’.

7. Private Performance for President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2013

It’s no surprise that artists from within the music industry are often hired to stage private performances for a privileged few who can afford to foot the bill to spectate their craft up close. In Ye’s case, his decision to accept a lucrative $3 million fee to perform at the wedding reception of then-Khazak president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson came under intense scrutiny.

Much of this was owed to the contentious human rights record that Nazarbayev had, which included the suppression and detainment of political dissidents.

6. Bill Cosby Comments in 2016

Comedian and actor Bill Cosby built a reputation for himself as one of the most beloved figures in American television, owing to his role as Cliff Huxtable in the classic sitcom, The Cosby Show. To the shock of fans, that spick-and-span image that he curated as a family man was immediately dispelled when sexual assault allegations were filed against him by his co-stars, leading to a highly publicised trial that landed him a stint in prison before his conviction was overturned.

Ye courted the ire of public opinion during this debacle himself when he famously spoke against Cosby’s accusers by Tweeting that “BILL COSBY IS INNOCENT!!!!!!”. However, some claimed that the move was a simply contrarian one to drum up interest in his upcoming album The Life of Pablo.

5. Saturday Night Live Rant in 2016

Ye’s oftentimes inflammatory remarks and opinions were not simply relegated to the very public platform of globally eminent award shows, as his stint on Saturday Night Live would go on to prove. In the same year he caused uproar over his support for Bill Cosby, the 46-year-old rapper was lambasted for suddenly breaking into an unprompted political rant on live television, profusing his support for former American president Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again conservative movement.

4. ‘Sounds like a choice’ TMZ Interview in 2018

It has been well-documented and established by historical records that the origins of African Americans in the country can be traced back to their indentured servitude as slaves during the slave trade. While the exploitation of African Americans as slaves has been abolished, the systematic oppression and discrimination faced by their communities continues to remain a hotbed point of contention.

However, Ye argued during an interview with TMZ in 2018 that “When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years and there’s all of y’all?”. While he later explained that he was referring to the mindset of victimhood and ‘mental enslavement’ that some continue to adopt in modernity, his remarks earned him a firestorm of criticism all the same.

3. Antisemitic Comments in 2022

It comes as little surprise that Kanye West’s comments have often landed him in hot soup, leading to restrictions or outright bans from several popular social media platforms throughout his career. One particularly notable instance occurred in 2022 when he threatened to go ‘death con 3’ on the Jewish community, alluding to the heightened alert status used by the United States.

This came after Instagram restricted his account owing to a tiff with fellow industry peer, Puff Daddy, when Ye was seen wearing a ‘White Lives Matter’ t-shirt. Flames were further stoked when he made more antisemetic remarks during interviews with Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones, the latter of which caused his public image to plummet when he claimed to admire Hitler. He would later apologise to the Jewish community with a post written in Hebrew.

2. YEEZY vs Adidas Fallout in 2022

Unfortunately the apology came too little, too late as several major brands that have been collaborating with Ye moved quickly to drop the artist from their roster in the wake of his antisemitic remarks. One of the most prominent companies to do so was German sports conglomerate Adidas, who had previously established a working partnership with the rapper to manufacture, distribute, and sell his highly popular YEEZY line of apparel and accessories.

Despite how it was arguably one of the most successful celebrity-founded fashion labels in history, Adidas terminated its partnership with YEEZY, explaining in a statement that it “has no tolerance for hate speech and offensive behavior”. Ironically, this happened not long after Ye claimed that he could get away with his antisemitic remarks without fear of being dropped by the sportswear label.

1. Taylor Swift Tirade at MTV VMA 2009

With all that said and done, the one controversy that continues to define Kanye West’s volatile nature has to be the now landmark moment that occurred during the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009. Just as global pop sensation Taylor Swift took to the stage to collect her award for Best Video by a Female Artist and deliver her thank you speech, the allegedly inebriated rapper ambled up the stage in quick succession to snatch the microphone from her hand.

Instead of congratulatory praise, Ye went on the offense and said “But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”, sparking immediate outrage among audiences present and those watching from home. The moment would spark a decade-long feud between both artists that later involved Ye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, into the fray when she leaked an alleged conversation between him and Swift after criticism arose over the release of his single, Famous.

Feature and hero image credits: NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 12: Kanye West attends the “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold” Premiere Screening on October 12, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for DailyWire+), LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 13: Kanye West and Bianca Censori are seen on May 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)





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