Paul's been passionate about music and popular culture for over forty years.UK born, he now lives in Florida.
Kanye West is one of the most famous and successful musical artists and cultural figures in the world.
His fans love his musical output, unpredictable behavior, outspoken pronouncements, as well as his unique and larger-than-life personality.
His detractors point to flaws in his attitudes and behavior, often highlighting the numerous controversies that have dogged West's career.
This article focuses on five aspects of Kanye West's character and background that his critics highlight when explaining their dislike of him.
Note: While I certainly wouldn't describe myself as "hating" Kanye West, it's fair to say that I'm not a fan of him. However, I will try to be as reasonable and objective as possible. Also, although I'm aware that he legally changed his name to "Ye," I will refer to him in this article as "Kanye West," which is his birth name, stage name, and the name that he's commonly known by.
Why Do People Say They Dislike Kanye West?
Here are five reasons that people give for hating Kanye West:
- Monster ego
- Crass commerciality and dumbed-down culture
- The messy divorce and aftermath
- Controversial incidents involving race
I explore each point in more detail below.
1. Monster Ego
For his fans, Kanye West's huge amount of self-confidence is part of his charm and he's often perceived as an inspirational figure. However, there are others who find his egotism excessive and obnoxious.
There are multiple examples of incidents where West's exaggerated sense of self-importance has led him to behave badly.
One example occurred at a concert in 2014 in Sydney, Australia, when West refused to continue his performance unless the entire audience stood up. When one fan appeared unwilling to comply and stayed in his seat, West commanded him to stand and the crowd began to boo and chant: "Stand up! Stand up!"
The problem was that the person West was picking on was disabled and in a wheelchair.
While West didn't know that the sitter was a wheelchair-user, he did create an ugly situation by singling out a member of the crowd. Insisting that 100% of the audience would have to stand before he continued the performance was an appalling way to behave.
The Taylor Swift award show incident
West has a history of controversial outbursts and behavior at award shows. A few of these include storming out of the American Music Awards of 2004 because he didn't win Best New Artis, and complaining that he'd been overlooked for the opening of the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, alleging racial bias in favor of Britney Spears.
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He also walked on and off stage when Beck was receiving an award for Album of the Year at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards; West's opinion being that: "Beck needs to respect artistry; he should have given his award to Beyoncé."
Perhaps the most notorious incident, though, occurred at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when West snatched the microphone from Taylor Swift as she was giving her acceptance speech for Best Female Video for “You Belong with Me.”
With Swift looking on in dismay, West proclaimed that Beyoncé should have received the award for her video “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
2. Crass Commerciality and Dumbed-Down Culture
For many people, Kanye West, along with his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian, are archetypal proponents of the growing influencer-style culture. This is where an (often exaggerated) glamorous lifestyle is projected, mainly through social media, along with the rampant promotion of an array of associated products for admirers to buy, such as clothing. In essence, the attitude is to grab people's attention, then sell them a product.
Defenders of West would argue that contemporary musical artists often have multimedia strategies, as it's much harder to make money in a world of streaming and YouTube, They also point out that, while many of West's pronouncements regarding cultural issues might appear self-serving and gauged to garner attention, his views and actions are genuine and heart-felt.
Leonard Cohen's poem
Canadian songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen perhaps summed up the feelings of many detractors regarding the West/Kardashian dumbed-down commercial approach to culture in his poem: "Kanye West Is Not Picasso," which describes the rapper as:
"The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another"
Kanye West was open about his support for Donald Trump in the past, making him unpopular in some quarters. West called Trump his "brother" in 2018 and met with him later that year at the White House.
After receiving criticism for his political stance, West responded sardonically that: "I’m a black guy with a red (MAGA) hat, can you imagine?"
In a July 2020 Forbes interview, West signaled the end of his support for Trump and announced that: “I am taking the red hat off.” The main reason for the decision, according to West, were the reports of Trump hiding inside a bunker during Black Lives Matter protests in Washington D.C. Trump denied the media reports, insisting that he was merely inspecting the bunker.
Running for president
Having expressed his disillusionment with Trump's leadership and politics in his 2020 Forbes interview, Kanye West proceeded to announce that he himself would be running for president in 2020 under the banner of the Birthday Party.
West also stated in the Forbes interview that:
- He's has never voted.
- He associates the coronavirus vaccines with the “the mark of the beast.”
- He believes that “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.”
- If he won the presidency, he planned to model the White House organizationally around the secret country of Wakanda in the Black Panther movie.
4. Messy Divorce and Aftermath
After seven years of marriage, Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kanye West in February 2021. Friends of Kardashian said that she had wearied of West's often erratic behavior.
Speaking on her show about the relationship with West, Kardashian expressed exasperation, saying that: "I just honestly can’t do this anymore. Why am I still in this place where I’m stuck for years? Like, he goes and moves to a different state every year."
There were numerous delays in the divorce proceedings, which Kim Kardashian blamed on West being unable to accept that the relationship was over. This meant that Kardashian wasn't granted permission by a judge to change her legal marital status to single until March 2, 2022.
West's public reaction to the breakup began with him making pleas to Kardashian to take him back. Some people saw his behavior at the time as sweet, but behind the scenes, Kardashian was expressing concerns about West's obsessive and controlling behavior.
Over time, Kanye's accusations and attacks on social media would become more sinister and aggressive in tone. A major escalation in his language occurred when Kim Kardashian hosted Saturday Night Live.
During Kardashian's opening monologue, she quipped about her breakup from West. Despite being aware of the jokes in advance, West responded angrily.
The SNL appearance also sparked Kardashian's post-split relationship with Pete Davidson after they kissed in a comedy skit.
The Beef with Pete Davidson
The new relationship triggered the start of a series of insinuations and insults directed by West at Davidson, who West dubbed "Skete," which are still ongoing at the time of writing.
West has used social media posts, interviews, as well as song lyrics to disparage Davidson.
For instance, West's song “My Life Was Never Eazy,” contains the line, “God saved me from the crash just so I can beat Pete Davidson’s ass.”
West also seemed to reference SNL cast member Davidson in his song "City of Gods" when he rapped: "This afternoon, a hundred goons pullin' up to SNL, when I pull up, it's dead on arrival."
5. Controversial Incidents Involving Race
Over the years, Kanye West has made numerous controversial remarks about slavery, race and religion.
He has consistently expressed the view that slavery is given too much attention and that this is unhelpful for African-Americans. For instance, in an interview with TMZ, he appeared to suggest that slavery "sounds like a choice," stating that: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years and it's all of you all? You know, it's like we're mentally in prison.”
The North Carolina State University associate professor Blair LM Kelley described the "slavery is a choice" argument as one that's made by "uninformed people."
West has also been accused of fueling Jewish stereotypes. In an appearance on New York City's 105.1 FM in November 2013, he offered his opinion on Barack Obama's "failure" as a president:
“Man, let me tell you about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections. Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.”
West's remarks regarding Jewish people were condemned by the Anti-Defamation League.
Hate speech against Trevor Noah
Kanye West was banned from Instagram for 24 hours in 2022 for using racial slurs in a post aimed at comedian Trevor Noah.
This followed Noah dedicating a section of his “Daily Show” to concerns about West’s “belligerent” behavior towards Kim Kardashian, including the aggression expressed towards her post-divorce relationship with Pete Davidson (see #4).
West responded by using a racial slur to mock and attack Noah and was consequently temporarily suspended from the social media site for the use of hate speech.
Is Kanye West Crazy?
Over the years, there has been a great deal of speculation regarding Kanye West’s mental health. This has involved interpretations of West’s song lyrics, analysis of his interview utterances, as well as discussions about his relationship with opioids and the events surrounding his hospitalization in November 2016.
West has himself contributed to the speculation at times, for example, describing himself in a Drink Champs podcast interview as “crazy”. He elaborated that: “We all are on the spectrum somewhere, just only some of us went to the hospital or have been diagnosed [with a disorder, or prescribed] medication”.
The first public signs of Kanye West’s mental health challenges could be found in his music. During West's recording sessions for The Life of Pablo back in 2016, he made references in his lyrics to experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and taking the antidepressant medication Lexapro.
In 2016, after suffering hallucinations and paranoia, he was persuaded to voluntarily commit himself into the UCLA Medical Center for treatment. Although some of his symptoms persisted, he remained undiagnosed during his stay. A variety of causes and contributory factors for the psychotic breakdown were suggested, including sleep deprivation, dehydration, as well as the stress and worry caused by his wife getting robbed in France.
In a 2018 interview, Kanye West said that he had developed an addiction after being prescribed opiates following liposuction. Some people believe that West’s opiate problem may have contributed to his 2016 psychotic breakdown.
On his 2018 album Ye, Kanye expressed that he saw his bipolar diagnosis as his “superpower”. Subsequently, in an interview with David Letterman for his 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction’ series, West told Letterman that: “I feel a heightened connection with the universe when I’m ramping up.”
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Paul Goodman