Music standom is a fierce beast and Kanye’s group of stans are among the most ferocious. Over the years, they’ve stood behind him and responded to Ye’s antics by labeling him a troubled and misunderstood genius. Even thinkpieces published in major publications have focused on his mental issues. Complex has largely focused its coverage on the positive, too. Meanwhile, many of his biggest longtime supporters, collaborators, and corporations have opted for silence—until very recently.
Now, day one fans are no longer willing to drink Kanye’s Kool-Aid and people are vocalizing their frustrations, especially on fan forums and social media. On KTT2, a public fan forum that discusses all things Ye, one fan pointed out, “This is the first time in the 15 years [I’ve] been listening to him that I’ve seen his fanbase turn on him.” On KTT2, under the thread “Do You Love Ye?” stans shared their disapproval of Kanye’s current era. “Sorry, I will hate him. I will not just ignore anti-Semite and racist comments,” one person wrote. Another wrote, “Ignoring him is not holding him accountable.” On another KTT2 forum for Ye, a fan wrote, “It looks like the bridge is officially burned and there’s no returning.”
“Ignoring him is not holding him accountable.”
Chris Lambert, who has been running the “Watching the Throne” podcast along with his co-host Travis Bean since 2015, agrees. “I do think it’s the most tumultuous that it’s ever been, and the most that people are starting to lean away,” Lambert tells Complex.
The platform was initially conceived as a place to discuss Ye’s discography, but the content has evolved to touch on a variety of topics about the artist including his fashion and lifestyle. Over the past seven years, the platform has reached tens of thousands of Kanye fans, becoming one of the top trending music podcasts on iTunes. Its YouTube channel provides in-depth analysis of Ye’s work to more than 45,000 subscribers, while its Twitter account reaches more than 100,000 with updates about Ye’s life, interview soundbites, flashbacks, and more. Lambert has observed many different Kanye eras, but tells Complex the tipping point that affected fans’ opinions of Ye and their engagement came in 2018.
“Ye himself stepped away from just fashion and music and started getting into politics, philosophy, social commentary,” Lambert tells Complex. “He had always been philosophizing on those things, but I think from the perspective of the artist commentating, not from the perspective of a politician commentating or somebody that’s trying to have more of an effect on things and take a leadership role.”
2018 is better known as Kanye’s MAGA era. During that time, he visited the White House and publicly supported the Trump administration amidst a tumultuous political climate, but also used his platform to speak against the idea of group-thinking and embracing individualism. That same year, Kanye agitated fans after he appeared in a TMZ interview stating, “Slavery was a choice.”
While Lambert acknowledges that fans started to question Ye’s actions, he says it was easier to understand his philosophy. “A lot of the stuff revolving around Trump and even his TMZ comments was about the ways in which people think and that if you’re part of a group, you can’t think differently than the group or else you’re ostracized from the group,” Lambert explains. “Rallying around that as a concept and applying it specifically to his life and his political views—that, to me, was something that even if I didn’t agree with the political views, there was a layer of understanding. It felt pertinent and relevant.”
The difference between 2018 and present day, however, is that Kanye has transitioned from sharing ideas and opinions to spreading hate speech. And instead of apologizing for his harmful comments after initially receiving backlash, he has doubled down on them many times over in various interviews.
“That’s really the line for me,” Lambert states. “I can step back and see the philosophy behind this, even if a lot of people are focusing on the messaging of the hat and what the hat means. But everything with the hate speech has been a lot more intense.”
“It doesn’t seem like it’s something that is dissipating.”
A couple of years after the White House visit, Kanye embarked on his own presidential campaign, where he incited women’s groups by spreading anti-abortion rhetoric during his rallies. After a period of silence, Ye re-emerged at the top of 2022, making death threats and other disparaging comments toward Pete Davidson, Kim Kardashian’s boyfriend at the time.
Most recently, Kanye has been on an even longer tirade. It started at Paris Fashion Week on October 4, where Kanye wore a “White Lives Matter” shirt during his YZY Season 9 show. He received further scrutiny after mocking Vogue editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who criticized his fashion choice in an editorial piece. Ye later sat down with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to discuss his Yeezy line, and made a series of offensive claims about the Jewish community. He later amplified his anti-Semitic theories on Revolt’s Drink Champs, although the episode was eventually taken down.
Since that final incident—which served as the straw that broke the camel’s back—the fashion industry has largely severed ties with Ye. Balenciaga, the high end fashion brand has had a longstanding relationship with the rapper since 2015, cut ties with the creative artist on Oct. 21. It was also reported on Oct. 24 that Def Jam has parted ways with Kanye’s imprint G.O.O.D. Music. And on Oct. 25, after weeks of backlash, Adidas, which partnered with Ye on his billion-dollar Yeezy shoe brand, terminated his contract with the rapper.
Lambert, who is Jewish, explains that Kanye’s anti-Semitic remarks on Drink Champs and social media have already caused a ripple effect. “The first hour of Kanye making the Defcon tweets, I had somebody call me the Jewish ‘K’ slur. I don’t think I’ve been called that seriously in my entire life,” he says.
A super fan who goes by ProdByZaqq on social media—best known for writing “Ye da [G.OA.T.] no [cap]” under every Kanye post—most recently distanced himself from the rapper, too. “This is just insane. Bro wtf. I can’t stand this shit at all, this world got too much hate already,” he wrote on Twitter under a related article. The person behind Kanye Doing Things, an Instagram account that shares photos and memes of Ye, also shared a negative post on Oct. 24, calling him “an anti-Semitic piece of shit.”
For Lambert, deciding what and how to post about Ye now is a bit of a balancing act. “It’s been a bit of cognitive dissonance the last couple weeks because there’s something that’s dovetailing now,” Lambert admits. “Personally, it’s become a lot more difficult to casually repost something that’s like Ye at a basketball game because what’s going to follow this? Even if he apologized on Piers Morgan, what’s he going to say in the next interview? It doesn’t seem like it’s something that is dissipating. So, it’s just like, how do I pick and choose what parts I’m promoting or not promoting when all of it kind of feels part of the whole?”
“This world got too much hate already.”
Based on social media and chatter in public forums, there are still some fans holding out hope and support for Ye. In a fan forum titled “Is this the end for Kanye,” one hopeful fan predicted that the rapper would bounce back from his current position. “People will forget about these [in a] few days and move on,” another person wrote. “He’ll have a period of being quiet where people say they miss him and he’ll come back.” And on Twitter, some people are still referring to Ye as a “genius.” “Kanye is a genius and y’all are gonna be SICK when they take him out for speaking the truth that everyone is blind to,” one fan wrote on the 18th.
Kanye has also gained new supporters since he started spewing his hate speech. Of the nearly 20,000 accounts “Watching the Throne’s” Twitter follows, Lambert notes many of them are actually embracing and amplifying many of Ye’s anti-Semitic sentiments.
Lambert breaks Kanye fans down into three levels: level zero doesn’t generally like the person or his music; level one only likes the music; level two likes the music and is interested in the person; level three, “you’re all in.” Fans from level zero to level one have probably disconnected a while ago, but he says “those level two and three fans, the 75 to 90 percent range, will find a way through this.”
As time has shown, there is always a chance for folks to bounce back after cancellation, especially in this digital era. Even if Kanye takes a hiatus or publicly apologizes, will his legacy forever be changed? According to data site Luminate, Kanye’s album sales are down by 23 percent and his radio airplay has decreased by 17.5 percent.
Until now, many people speculated that to be canceled was nothing more than a myth. In fact, plenty of celebrities have come back after being canceled. Kevin Hart’s net worth rose to $450 million after he was “canceled” for his resurfaced homophobic tweets that lost him the hosting gig at the 2019 Oscars, and Travis Scott is gearing up for his next album following the 2021 Astroworld tragedy.
In fact, Lambert declares Ye’s legacy is “always dependent on the next era.”
He adds, “I do think, overall, his intentions are not as problematic as his messaging often is… It’s just a question of what energy he brings to things. And if he’s able to do so with the care that he seems to bring to his music and his lyricism, then I think people are going to stick around. But if it continues to be off-the-cuff anger, people are going to get exhausted.”
Whatever the next chapter holds, this current downward spiral serves as a cautionary tale for other celebrities, that the tables eventually turn—even for the biggest of idols.