Kanye West says slavery is a choice

Kanye West.
Kanye West.

LOS ANGELES • In the latest of a series of startling interviews, rapper Kanye West on Tuesday described slavery as a choice, attributed his 2016 mental breakdown to opioid addiction and revealed he had undergone liposuction years ago because he did not want to be called fat.

He emerged from a year's silence on Twitter last month to share news of forthcoming albums (and clothes), philosophical musings and polarising political views.

In his first extended interview since, conducted by radio host Charlamagne Tha God at West's California home on April 18, the musician appeared calm as he addressed a wide array of controversies, aspirations and regrets.

But soon after the video was published, West made a taped appearance at TMZ headquarters, touching on many of the same points at a higher emotional frequency.

At one point, the 40-year-old said: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice."

Amid a social media outcry, he later said on Twitter: "Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved."

Civil-rights group National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in a Twitter response: "There is a lot of misinformation out there and we are happy to provide insight. Black people have fought against slavery since we first landed on this continent."

The singer also spoke at length of the tumultuous period in late 2016 that culminated in his hospitalisation. He cited stress, both personal and professional, including from when his wife, reality television star Kim Kardashian, was robbed at gunpoint in Paris that October and the lack of radio play for his album, The Life Of Pablo.

"I was drugged out," he said. "I was on opioids. Two days after I got off of opioids, I'm errrrrr - I'm in the hospital."

He said he had been prescribed the pills after undergoing a liposuction procedure. "I had plastic surgery because I was trying to look good for y'all," he told the staff of TMZ. "And they gave me opioids."

He said he was no longer on as much medication.

He also discussed his support for United States President Donald Trump, despite West's past comments such as "George Bush doesn't care about black people".

Friends, he said, asked him: "What makes George Bush any more racist than Trump?"

"My response is: 'Well, racism isn't the deal breaker for me.' If that was the case, I wouldn't live in America," West said, arguing that even as a rich black man, he continues to face discrimination.

He had been hurt by celebrity couple Jay-Z and Beyonce's failure to attend his 2014 wedding to Kardashian. "I understand they were going through some things, but if it's family, you're not going to miss a wedding."

He spoke to Charlamagne about his relationship with former US president Barack Obama, which was damaged after a video leaked in 2009 in which Mr Obama, reacting to West's infamous outburst at the MTV Video Music Awards that year, referred to the rapper as a "jacka**".

West traced their relationship back to their shared home of Chicago, where he says Mr Obama, while still a senator, visited him and his mother to ask for support.

West expressed resentment that Mr Obama never called him to apologise after the video went public, but he also made an attempt at magnanimity. "I just think that we were in a period where he had so much stuff to do that he couldn't deal with a wild card like me."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline 'Kanye West says slavery is a choice'. Print Edition | Subscribe