Jake Rast, Associate Editor
Kanye (“Ye”) West, described by some as a musical genius and undoubtedly one of the most influential forces in hip hop in recent decades, has struggled with his public image significantly due to his antisemitic remarks during late 2022 and early 2023. Controversy emerged surrounding his comments made during various news interviews, including claims such as “I see good things about Hitler” and “I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”. His behavior purportedly resulted in large financial losses. Although his net worth supposedly sits at around $400 million, its drop from the formerly-reported 1.8 billion shows how damaging his recent public engagements are to both his brand and his bank account. These events have also resulted in various legal issues, spurred by outside backlash to his comments as well as his seeming distrust of the legal profession (for example, Ye is notorious for being combative and disagreeable during depositions).
Although Ye is not a stranger to lawsuits, the increased severity of both his public antics and his desire to lash out at the “system” have created a very serious risk for the artist. Before he began disrespecting Jewish people, he was already under fire for copyright infringement due to the chaotic rollout of his most recent album, Donda 2. For this album he chose to eschew going through a record label, choosing to do it essentially independently. This has resulted in multiple lawsuits against him due to his alleged use of music samples without permission. These cases are notable because of Ye’s apparent desire to separate himself from the bloated corporate systems that dominate the music industry. However, without the safeguards put in place by said systems, the independent artist faces greater risk of legal troubles.
Despite these mounting legal pressures, Ye made his antisemitic comments, which resulted in the resignation of his legal counsel responsible for defending him against the copyright infringement claims. Additionally, the artist was dropped from his agency. As of January 11, 2023, Business Insider reported that Ye had not yet replaced those lawyers, and there had been a complete “breakdown in communications” between Ye and his legal team. Lawyers representing another one of his cases found it difficult to locate the star at all.
Recently Ye made a social media post apologizing for his actions, citing Jonah Hill’s performance in 21 Jump Street as helpful in him realizing “no one should take anger against one or two individuals and transform that into hatred towards millions of innocent people.” It is a possibility that the worst of the artist’s conspiratorial streak is over, he will hire competent lawyers, and he will engage with the legal system in good faith. However, the damage inflicted by his actions is staggering. Whether it’s the apparent plummet of his net worth, his engagement with conspiratorial/antisemitic rhetoric, or his refusal of legal and financial help from others, Ye’s recent behavior has taken its toll.