Op-Ed: At what point do we split the art from the artist?


(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News) 2018

Ye West (changed from Kanye) meets with former president, Donald Trump

Warning: This article contains hate speech and mentions of sexual abuse.

Grammy-winning artist, fashion designer, record producer, and father. Ye West (changed from Kanye), the man with over 49 million monthly listeners on Spotify and over 32 million followers on Instagram, is an A-List celebrity decorated with countless accolades for his art. However, despite his success, Ye has racked up a long history of controversy since his rise starting in the early 2000s. From humiliating young 19-year-old singer, Taylor Swift, at the 2009 VMAs to wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt to Paris Fashion Week in October 2022, Ye has been the subject of countless scandals that new ones didn’t even surprise us anymore. 

Ye West (changed from Kanye) racks up nearly 50 million listeners per month on the popular music streaming service, Spotify. (My-Tran Vo)

Until he revealed that he was a fan of Hitler.

On December 12, during an interview with Alex Jones, a far-right wing radio host who is also under fire for multiple inflammatory claims, including claiming that tragic Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, Ye stated, “I like Hitler…I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”

Not only are Ye’s words offensive and bigoted, but they are a threat to the Jewish community, and they are flourishing in the cesspool of antisemitism. The United States Department of Homeland Security has even made several warning announcements for Jewish people to be careful due to American extremists that might harm them. Ye’s comments have the power to influence all his fans with his platform to follow his lead which can be detrimental to the Jewish community. 

Kanye West’s situation should be considered a wake-up call to stop ignoring problematic stances that celebrities take. Despite all the evidence that his actions have constantly brought harm to other people, many of the issues he’s been involved with have been swept under the rug since Ye has always “pulled these types of stunts.” Although some may argue his behavior is due to Ye being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he should still be held accountable for all his actions. Right-wing influencers such as Alex Jones have been taking advantage of and giving a bigger platform to Ye. Even if his actions are caused by poor mental health, he still needs to be held accountable and seek help, rather than be given a platform that keeps heightening. Ye has been on a crusade of hate speech for a while, but people only reconsidered their opinion of him when Ye stated he loved Hitler. Is that what it took for people to realize that his actions were unacceptable? This blatant ignorance and lack of appropriate disdain for his past mistakes fosters a culture where we allow artists to act inappropriately without repercussions. 

Ye West (changed from Kanye) at the WSJ. Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards

But now what should we do about the situation? Some say that we should split the art from the artist. In past instances, singer R.Kelly’s music became widely unaccepted when the news broke out of Kelly being a sex offender, running a sex trafficking ring, and many more offenses.  West has made Grammy-winning pieces and still owns clothing companies that people buy from and wear every day. Fans should be able to listen to his music with no strings attached. On the other hand, many argue that streams of his music are supporting the artist and that it is immoral to support a person who loves Hitler. Spotify pays artists $4 for every 1,000 streams so with 50 million fans listening and weighing in on the conversation, it really starts to add up in revenue.

Technicalities aside, it’s not fair to punish fans for an artist’s fault by forcing them to stop listening to music they enjoy. However, an artist cannot simply get away with spreading hate speech about a group, and then leave the mess for the Jewish community to clean up. This doesn’t just apply to Ye; other artists whose actions hurt others should receive appropriate disapproval from the public. This does not mean that an artist is condemned forever, but an apology from them must be due and the problem must be addressed. 

We believe that fans shouldn’t have to completely stop listening to his music as long as they are aware of his actions and are advocates against the hate speech that West advocates for. Fans of his music have the responsibility to know what the artist has done and be aware of that and create a clear distinction between praise for the art and praise for the artist. That in itself can significantly make the artist’s success plummet as reputation is fundamental for success.