LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Kanye West once rapped “I miss the old Kanye” to acknowledge a frequent complaint from fans about his behavior.
“I miss the old Kanye, straight from the Go Kanye/ Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye,” West raps in the interlude to “I Love Kanye” from his 2016 album “The Life of Pablo.” “I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye/ The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye.”
At this point, some folks would be happy with the Kanye from just a few weeks ago.
The rapper has found himself embroiled in controversy these past few days, even more so than usual. And fans, critics and fellow celebrities have reacted quickly and forcefully, often taking him to task for what some say are remarks that fly in the face of historical facts.
Last week, West went on a Twitter tear, tweeting about his admiration of President Donald Trump, calling him “my brother” and saying they both have “dragon energy.”
The artist raised a great deal of ire when he tweeted a photo of himself wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
He then doubled down on his comments — and his determination to be a “free thinker” — by releasing the song “Ye vs. The People” in which he spars with rapper T.I., who has been a vocal critic of Trump.
But West surpassed even his own ability to stir up the masses when on Tuesday he suggested that the enslavement of African Americans in the US was a “choice.”
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said during a TMZ interview that took place AT its headquarters. “For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”
His comments immediately evoked a passionate response from TMZ staffer Van Lathan, who was in the newsroom during West’s rant, and a Twitter take-down in the form of the hashtag, #IfSlaveryWasAChoice.
Some on Twitter used humor to grapple with West’s controversial comments.
“FaceTiming the plantation next door to see ‘who all over there,'” one person tweeted.
“Me moving to Massa Johnson’s plantation cuz he got a better slave benefits package,” another joked.
The Roots’ Questlove retweeted the TMZ interview and asked “What in the Andy Kaufman is going on here?” Pranks and stunts were major elements of the late entertainer’s career.
But it was far from a laughing matter for many who expressed disappointment in West’s remarks.
Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am went on “Good Morning Britain” Wednesday and said West’s remarks broke his heart.
The musician tweeted about the parallel between slavery and prisons, writing, “its not & never was by choice.”
“There were lots on slaves that revolted & they were lynched or shot & raped, physically, psychologically with spiritual warfare that is still present today,” Will.I.Am tweeted on Wednesday morning. “To say that was their choice is to blame it all on our ancestors & it Disrespects their suffering…”
Author Roxane Gay did not mince words when she tweeted her reaction to the TMZ interview.
“I don’t have the energy for nonsense but Kanye saying slavery was a choice reiterates my previous statements about how dangerous his trite, shallow ramblings are,” Gay said. “He is not a free thinker. He is a free moron who doesn’t read.” Gay’s tweet was liked more than 50,000 times.
Actor and director Wendell Pierce tweeted, “It is clear that @kanyewest is being sensational for the sake of publicity.”
“I could care less about that,” Pierce wrote. “But for you to use the murder and holocaust of slavery for your own self aggrandizement is at the core of your vile appeasement of white supremacists.”
West attempted to clarify his comments with a tweet on Tuesday, hours after the TMZ interview went public, saying he brought up the subject of slavery “because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years” and he complained that he was again “being attacked for presenting new ideas.”
He also tweeted, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”, a quote often attributed to Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who led others to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
Several people pointed out on Twitter that there is actually no proof that Tubman ever said those words.
Kanye also raised eyebrows when he suggested Tubman should not appear on US currency. He said people are “always trying to remind us about slavery.” He suggested Michael Jordan appear on the $20 bill instead.
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