Listen to the music, not the man

How would you feel if one of your favorite artists said, “When I wake up, I’m going Death Con 3 on Jewish people.” Or this: “The Jewish people have their hand on every single business that controls the world?” Now how would you feel if they had a net worth of $1.8 billion and made even more of a profit off of these hateful statements?

These were tweets posted by famous rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, on Oct. 8. With over 31.7 million Twitter followers, the artist’s series of antisemitic comments and threats led to his account being restricted by the company. That same day, West made an Instagram post in a shirt bearing the phrase “White Lives Matter” at Paris Fashion Week. West then continued to post on the app, suggesting that Sean Combs, the rapper known as Diddy, was being “controlled by the Jewish people,” leading to his restriction there as well.

While this stream of hate was offensive and outlandish, it was not unexpected. From his storming of Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 VMAs to his 2020 presidential election campaign, West has a history of making spontaneous decisions and insulting remarks. Although the rapper has spoken out about his struggles with bipolar disorder, it is still no excuse for the hate he transmits to others. By making comments such as “I can say antisemitic sh*t and Adidas can’t drop me,” West has given a green light to his viewers that antisemitism and unjustified hate can be easily excused, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

This has been detrimental to the rapper’s career and profit, taking him off of the Forbes billionaire list after his shoe line “Yeezy” was dropped by Adidas. Releasing music since 2004, West has an estimated 51 million monthly listeners on platforms such as Spotify, bringing disappointment to his millions of loyal fans. Commonly seen in today’s “cancel culture,” many have called upon West’s fans to stop listening to his music and supporting him as an artist. So while West has rightfully received consequences and backlash for his actions, must his fans also be held accountable? This answer is not so simple.

There is a difference between saying, “I love this Kanye song,” and “I love Kanye West.” A song is not a person. An album does not make hateful and antisemitic remarks. A shoe does not support white supremacy. However, the creator does. So where do we draw the line? It is possible to separate the art from the artist, as long as the listener understands and condemns the creator’s actions. Just because you enjoy listening to a song does not mean you do or should support the singer as a person. After all, we don’t actually know celebrities on a personal level. 

What we can do is appreciate the artist’s previous work without supporting their actions or future releases. Of course, there will always be a profit made when streaming an artist’s music, which can be hard to get around, but other releases like merchandise and product lines can be avoided more easily. It’s one thing to listen to an artist’s old music in the comfort of your home or car, but exclusively wearing Yeezy shoes and Kanye sweatshirts to school while reposting his recent tweets on social media is another. You don’t need to constantly remind people that you’re a diehard Kanye fan in order to appreciate some of his music. Any extra attention given to the artist could further fuel his hatred and platform. If you had previously bought one of his albums, you don’t necessarily have to throw them out, but do not continue to support him financially.

Sadly, we can assume that most celebrities have had a past. Whether it be a newly found tweet from their teenage years, an offensive photo or even criminal allegations, we truly do not know how our favorite artists are as actual people. So does this mean you shouldn’t support or love any music or media? Absolutely not. We can’t always control what lyrics or rhythms speak to us, but we can control which artists we support as people. So next time you’re scrolling through your Spotify or Apple Music playlist, don’t feel guilty for listening to “Graduation” or “The Life of Pablo,” just understand that while West has created beautiful music, his actions are unjustified and unacceptable.