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On Thursday, the multi-hyphenate appeared at the 2019 Fast Company Innovation Festival, where he took the stage alongside Yeezy shoe designer Steven Smith. The two spoke about the expansion of the brand, as well as implementing sustainable practices and bringing manufacturing jobs to the states. Kanye then said his Yeezy business model would ultimately help his 2024 presidential run. The crowd was amused.
"When I run for president in 2024," West began, prompting laughter from the audience (24:30). "... What y'all laughing at? When I run for president in 2024, we would create so many jobs that I'm not going to run, I'm going to walk. What I'm saying is, when y'all read headlines—'Kanye's crazy,' this and that—one in three African Americans are in jail and all the celebrities are in jail also 'cause they can't say nothing, they got no opinion, they're so scared!"
Kanye also touched on black empowerment, and how he has been unjustly criticized for simply speaking his mind. He delved into this topic by referencing his little dispute with Forbes, which refused to list him as a billionaire in its ranking of the richest hip-hop artists.
"Martin Luther King didn’t get killed because he had a dream; he had something else he was gonna to talk about: black empowerment, economic empowerment," he said (17:40). "When I did Forbes, I showed them a $890 million receipt and they still didn’t say 'billionaire.' They don’t want us to know that we can buy land. They don’t want us to have the 100 percent ownership [that] I have at Yeezy … Last year, I was killed by the press for having a difference—no, not having a difference of opinion, for having an opinion."
He revisited the Forbes topic minutes later (22:35): "When people say it's crass to call yourself a billionaire, I say I might legally change my name to 'Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West' for a year until y'all understand exactly what it is … It will be on the license plate."
As with typical Kanye sit-downs, his statements were all over the place. The Jesus Is King artist touched on everything from his LVHM deal that reportedly fell through, to his dome housing structures being demolished, to death row inmate Rodney Reed.
"There is one in three African Americans in prison now," he inaccurately stated (23:05). "There's a gentleman in Houston, Rodney Reed, that all the evidence says that this guy didn't do it, and he's supposed to executed in 30 days. And all the [black celebrities] will tweet about it. But the question is: Will they stop playing basketball for a week to make sure this innocent man gets out? For black people, I say: don't just be a demographic. Own your power. Your power is not just to vote democrat for the rest of your lives."
You can watch the full discussion above.