In A Matter Of Weeks, Kanye West Managed To Topple His Billion-Dollar Empire. Here’s How It All Went Down

The reckoning of Kanye West may feel long overdue, especially if you’ve been on the receiving end of his dangerous rhetoric and actions for years. As Karen Attiah recently wrote in the Washington Post: “Ye’s open flirtation with anti-Blackness in the past decade had no meaningful consequences.”

In recent years, the rapper turned designer, whose legal name is now Ye, has suggested that 400 years of chattel slavery was “a choice” and sported the confederate flag as a fashion statement. He defended the likes of Bill Cosby and R. Kelly; aligned himself with controversial figures like DaBaby, Marilyn Manson, and former president Donald Trump; and spoke out in support of the MAGA movement during the height of tensions in the country.

None of these acts seemed to threaten his blossoming sneaker and apparel empire, which turned Ye into a billionaire, at least on paper. The 45-year-old, who has spoken regularly about his relationship with his late mom, his bipolar disorder, and society’s treatment of Black Americans, has never shied away from saying whatever he wants. And he also does as he pleases, whether that’s a failed 2020 presidential run or using Yeezy apparel to broadcast white supremacist messages.

But this fall, even the corporate collaborators who had long benefited from Ye’s cultural capital found themselves backed into a corner, as their cash cow plummeted them into a moral crisis. The first of his business dealings came to an end in September, when the announcement came that the Yeezy Gap 10-year-deal, said to be worth billions, was ending after only two years.

In an interview with Bloomberg last month, Ye declared that he was ready to “go it alone” and outlined his vision for Yeezy stores and Donda campuses across the country, independent of his current collaborators. According to Insider, his deals with Gap and Adidas were originally set to end in 2030 and 2026.

The cult of Ye has attempted to rationalize the fallout as all part of a master plan for the artist to emancipate himself from his corporate partners. “Did Kanye just finesse his way out of all of his contracts LMFAO,” tweeted Canadian rapper 88Camino.

But the reality is that in a matter of weeks, the Yeezy empire has unraveled, Ye’s fashion affiliations have evaporated, and minority communities have been made targets of hate speech and dangerous rhetoric, at the same time that Ye has appeared in multiple interviews on mainstream platforms decrying so-called cancel culture and supposed attempts to silence him.

Ye dared collaborators to divest their business interests in the past few weeks by bragging that his biggest collaborator, Adidas, wouldn’t be able to drop him for antisemitic comments. And they said bet.

His behavior has come at the cost of his family, friends, and business associates, but whether Ye is well and truly canceled is still to be seen. What is clearer is the fact that he is no longer a billionaire by Forbes’ standards. Here’s how Ye took a sledgehammer to his brand.

During a surprise YZY SZN 9 runway presentation at Paris Fashion Week, Ye dressed models in white T-shirts featuring a photo of Pope John Paul II on the front and the phrase “White Lives Matter” printed boldly across the back.

That phrase is broadly considered a white supremacist attempt to subvert and counter the Black Lives Matter movement. Conservative commentator Candace Owens was with Ye at the show, also wearing the T-shirt.

“Everyone here knows that I am the leader … you can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation,” Ye told those in attendance.

The stunt prompted a strong backlash from the likes of Jaden Smith, who walked out of the show and voiced his upset on Twitter. In a since-deleted tweet, he wrote: “I can’t stand behind what Kanye’s saying, he does not have the full support of the youth.”

After the offensive shirts were criticized by Vogue fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Ye proceeded to bully her by mocking her style to his millions of followers.

Karefa-Johnson, one of the most powerful Black women in fashion, posted an Instagram story of a text conversation between her and another friend about the Yeezy T-shirts, in which she described the shirts as “pure violence.”

“There is no excuse, there is no art here,” she wrote on Instagram. “I do think if you asked Kanye, he’d say there was art, and revolution, and all of the things in that T-shirt. There isn’t.”

“I guess I get what he tried to do — he thought it was duchampian. It wasn’t. It didn’t land and it was deeply offensive, violent, and dangerous,” she added.

Ye responded by posting a street-style photo of Karefa-Johnson to his Instagram in an attempt to insult her, with the caption “This is not a fashion person,” and joked that Vogue legend Anna Wintour would hate Karefa-Johnson’s shoes.

In response, fashion models, designers, and editors jumped to her defense, including Hailey Bieber, Gigi Hadid, and fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi. “You wish u had a percentage of her intellect,” Hadid wrote on one of Ye’s Instagram posts. Vogue issued a statement of support for Karefa-Johnson.

Karefa-Johnson and Ye allegedly had a two-hour sit-down conversation the following day, filmed by Elvis director Baz Luhrmann — at the request of Anna Wintour.

“Paris, it’s been, quite literally, too real!” wrote Karefa-Johnson after the Ye harassment. “I’ve fielded some serious volatility over the last couple days but nothing has been quite as bad as what people have said about my body and the way I look. The fat phobia JUMPED out. Yes, I am fat. No, I am not humiliated to show up as my authentic self in the world.”

Ye appeared on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson Tonight for a two-part interview during which he made anti-fat remarks about Lizzo, attempted to explain his White Lives Matter shirts, and spoke out against abortion in the Black community

During the sit-down with the right-wing media pundit, Ye wore a photo of a baby ultrasound around his neck to emphasize his anti-abortion stance.

“Fifty percent of Black death in America is abortion. I don’t care about people’s responses, I perform for an audience of one and that is God,” the rapper said.

He accused social media companies of promoting being “clinically unhealthy,” calling it “demonic,” and turned his anger on another Black woman, singer Lizzo.

“When Lizzo loses 10 pounds and announces it, the bots on Instagram, they attack her losing weight because the media wants to put out a perception that being overweight is the new goal when it’s actually unhealthy,” Ye told Carlson.

The designer explained the “White Lives Matter” shirts as a “gut reaction.” He said he considered them “funny” because the message they stated was “the obvious thing.”

He said his mother, the late Donda West, was a “liberal actress” who separated him from his father, Ray West, an ex-Black Panther, who he said approved of the controversial T-shirts.

Adidas, the home of Ye’s multibillion-dollar Yeezy shoe empire, reacted to Paris Fashion Week and social media posts from Ye taunting the brand’s leadership team.

After “repeated efforts” to privately resolve issues between Ye and the German brand, Adidas issued a statement announcing that the partnership was “under review.

“The Adidas Yeezy partnership is one of the most successful collaborations in our industry’s history. We are proud of our team that has worked tirelessly throughout our collaboration with Ye and the iconic products that were born from it,” the statement began.

“We also recognize that all successful partnerships are rooted in mutual respect and shared values. After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review,” Adidas said.

In addition to accusing the company of stealing his designs and making decisions regarding the Yeezy brand without his approval, Ye took targeted shots at individuals and implied that he was at war with the brand when he posted an edit for Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War poster.

In the now-deleted Instagram post, Ye superimposed a photo of Adidas senior vice president and general manager, Daniel Cherry III, as Iron Man and Ye, in opposition to him, as Captain America.

“Daniel Cherry Pop I knew by the Jean jacket you was wearing when we first met that we could never truly be friends,” Ye wrote in the caption.

After making antisemitic comments on Instagram and Twitter, Ye had his social media accounts restricted and moderated.

Social media company Meta confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it had removed a post from Ye’s Instagram account in which he shared a screenshot of a text conversation with music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. In that exchange, Ye invoked an antisemitic trope by suggesting that Diddy was controlled by Jewish people after the music mogul challenged him on the “White Lives Matter” T-shirts.

“This ain’t a game,” Ye texed. “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. I told you this was war. Now gone get you some business.”

Meta blocked Ye’s Instagram account for 24 hours.

The action seemed to spur Ye into action to end his two-year hiatus from Twitter, where he declared he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” In the tweet — which the platform said violated its hate speech restrictions — Ye also argued he couldn’t be antisemitic because Black people were the “real Jews.”

Twitter removed the tweet and temporarily locked Ye’s account.

Ye uploaded a documentary to YouTube titled Last Week, which led to accusations of him harassing Adidas employees, due to a scene in which he attempts to force executives to watch pornography.

In the 30-minute video, Ye is shown making Adidas executives look at his phone during a meeting; it’s not immediately clear to them what they’re being asked to view.

The Yeezy designer suggests that the male actor in the video has a voice that sounds like one of the Adidas execs, prompting them to ask in confusion, “Is this a porn movie?”

When Ye responds “yes,” the executive sits back, noticeably shocked, and exclaims: “Jesus Christ.”

Despite the executive’s discomfort, Ye moves the phone closer to his face before the executive pushes his hand away.

The Yeezy creator used the clip to make a broader point about his feelings toward the company and how he believes he has been treated unfairly.

“What you’re feeling right now is extreme discomfort, and that is exactly the point,” he tells the Adidas execs. “Because when someone steals this man’s ideas, his creations — it’s like you’re stealing a child. These are all children of his mind, and you’ve kidnapped them.”

Leaked segments of Ye’s interview with Tucker Carlson that did not make the final edit were obtained and published by Motherboard. They include further antisemitic comments from Ye, including invoking racist tropes regarding Jewish people and money.

The unaired footage also includes Ye making a bizarre claim that “fake children” had been put in his house to “sexualize” and manipulate his children.

The father of four also said that he would rather his children learn about Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday, rather than Kwanzaa, a traditional African-American holiday, since “at least it would come with some financial engineering.”

Ye went on to suggest that Latino businesspeople were more trustworthy than “certain other businessmen” — a vague descriptor he said he deliberately used “to be safe.”

Ye appeared on the red carpet alongside Candace Owens for the premiere screening of her documentary, The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of BLM.

Since Kanye tweeted “I love the way Candace Owens thinks” back in 2018, the pair appear to have found common ground on their conservative views, and Ye came out to support her film, in which she critiques BLM and attacks George Floyd’s character.

The 33-year-old is one of the few people who defend Ye, insisting that “no honest person” would find his words antisemitic.

An episode of The Shop featuring Ye was pulled after the CEO revealed that the rapper engaged in “more hate speech” during his appearance.

Maverick Carter, the CEO of the SpringHill Company, creators of The Shop, issued an apology to guests and crew.

“Unfortunately, he used The Shop to reiterate more hate speech and extremely dangerous stereotypes,” Carter said. “We have made the decision not to air this episode or any of Kanye’s remarks.”

Carter also shared his regret about booking the rapper for the talk show, which is typically hosted by LeBron James, and said that he mistakenly believed the father of four was “capable of a respectful discussion.”

Plenty of other outlets were happy to keep airing Ye interviews though.

The Yeezus rapper made his third appearance on an alcohol-fueled episode of Drink Champs, hosted by rapper N.O.R.E. During the conversation, Ye pushed the false claim that George Floyd was not killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin, but instead had died from a fentanyl overdose.

“I watched the George Floyd documentary that Candace Owens put out,” Ye said, referring to the premiere he’d attended days prior.

“They hit him with fentanyl. If you look, the guy’s knee wasn’t even on his neck like that,” Ye said. It was a reference to the video seen all over the world in which former officer Chauvin had left his knee on Floyd’s neck — bearing down with most of his weight — for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, while Floyd was handcuffed behind his back and lying face-down.

The three-hour-long interview featured comments about “Jewish Zionists,” with Ye pushing further racist claims that Jewish media had blocked him out, causing him to lose opportunities, and that Jewish people “own the Black voice.”

The rapper attempted to clarify on his “death con 3” tweet and clarified that he wanted to write DEFCON 3 — military terminology understood to mean “force readiness increased above normal levels,” according to Veteran — but “spelled it wrong.”

Ye bragged that Adidas would not be able to drop him for his antisemitic comments.

“I can literally say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” Ye said.

The clip was widely circulated alongside the hashtag #BoycottAdidas, as consumers and critics begin to call on the brand to take immediate action.

After having his social media accounts restricted for antisemitism, Ye appeared adamant about saying what he wanted to say unchecked, and what better way to do that than to own your platform?

Ye announced he would buy Parler, the “uncancelable free speech platform” favored by conservatives and extremists, just days after he’d been restricted by Meta and Twitter. Parler was identified as one of the apps used by white supremacists and far-right extremists to coordinate the Capitol insurrection and spread content that glorified the violence that took place.

He was hailed as a “compatriot” for free speech and a pioneer by Parlement Technologies CEO George Farmer, who, conveniently, is married to Ye’s friend Candace Owens.

“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial, we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Ye said in the announcement.

Farmer declared that Ye would “never have to fear being removed from social media again.” The deal is set to be done before the end of the year.

Just days after it was uploaded, the three-hour-long episode of Drink Champs was removed from YouTube.

Host N.O.R.E. attempted to do damage control by apologizing in an interview with Hot 97 for the content and failing to properly challenge Ye on his incendiary comments.

“As a Black man, I feel like I failed,” he said. “As a human, I feel like I failed. But as a journalist, I succeeded. Because as a journalist, you’re not really supposed to have an opinion. You’re supposed to let people talk, and my biggest critique on Drink Champs is ‘N.O.R.E. always cutting people off!’ And the one time I didn’t cut the people!”

Meanwhile, the family of George Floyd responded to Ye’s false remarks about his death by saying they will file a $250 million lawsuit against the rapper for “harassment, misappropriation, defamation” and “infliction of emotional distress.”

In the release announcing legal action, representatives for Roxie Washington — the mother of Floyd’s daughter, Gianna Floyd, who is the sole beneficiary of her father’s estate — claimed that Gianna was “being retraumatized by Kanye West’s comments and he’s creating an unsafe and unhealthy environment for her.”

Ye appeared on Piers Morgan Uncensored for a two-hour interview in which he likened himself to a “straight white male” and delivered a half-assed apology for his antisemitic tweets, but not for his other offensive remarks.

Ye told Piers Morgan that he is headed for a “top power position” and could “empathize” with straight white men, who he believes have the least room to speak in public life nowadays.

“A straight white male can’t say, ‘My wife hurt me today.’ Because people will say you’re hurting women,” Ye said. “A straight white male can’t say, ‘A Black employee didn’t come in to work on time.’ Because people will say you’re racist. A straight white male can’t speak on a homosexual person because people will say you’re homophobic.”

When challenged on his antisemitism, Ye at first declared that he was “absolutely not” sorry for his racist tweets, and then seemed to have a lukewarm change of heart. “I will say, I’m sorry for the people that I hurt with the ‘death con,’ the confusion that I caused,” Ye said.

Ari Emanuel, the CEO of Endeavor, one of the world’s biggest talent agencies, penned an op-ed in the Financial Times calling on Ye’s business partners to drop him.

Titled “Business silence on Kanye West’s anti-Semitism is not an option,” the article went viral, as part of the online call from Jewish leaders for accountability for Ye’s antisemitic comments.

“West is not just any person — he is a pop culture icon with millions of fans around the world,” Emanuel wrote. “And among them are young people whose views are still being formed. This is why it is necessary for all of us to speak out. Hatred and anti-Semitism should have no place in our society, no matter how much money is at stake.”

French fashion brand Balenciaga, the clothing and imagery that have been intrinsically linked to Ye and his ex-wife Kim Kardashian for years, announced it had cut ties with Ye. The news came less than a month after he debuted on the runway at its summer 2023 show at Paris Fashion Week.

Balenciaga confirmed to WWD that it “no longer [has] any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist.”

According to Rolling Stone, Ye’s look from his runway debut had been removed from the Balenciaga website, along with a section containing the brand’s collaboration with Yeezy Gap, which launched earlier this year.

A small group of antisemitic demonstrators gathered on a 405 Freeway overpass in Los Angeles over the weekend, hanging banners in support of Ye’s racist comments.

“Kanye is right about the Jews,” read one banner. An additional banner instructed drivers to “Honk if you know.”

Photos of the horrifying rally went viral online.

The act was condemned by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who commented on the incident on Twitter Sunday, saying, “We cannot tolerate the #AntiSemitism that was on full display today [Saturday] on an LA Fwy. #WhiteSupremacy is a societal cancer that must be excised. This message is dangerous & cannot be normalized. I stand with the Jewish community in condemning this disgusting behavior.”

In response to the protestors on the freeway, Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency, joined the growing list of individuals who call for a boycott of Ye, and sent a companywide email titled “Rise of Anti Semitism and Hate,” arguing that Ye’s comments “ignite the embers of bigotry, and they must not be tolerated.”

On Monday, a completed documentary about Ye was dumped by MRC, who denounced the artist in a statement explaining the decision.

“We cannot support any content that amplifies his platform,” CEO Modi Wiczyk, CEO Asif Satchu, and COO Scott Tenley wrote in a joint statement.

“Kanye is a producer and sampler of music. Last week he sampled and remixed a classic tune that has charted for over 3,000 years — the lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain,” the statement said.

The decision to cancel the documentary came on the same day talent agency CAA confirmed to Billboard that it no longer represented him. For a decade, CAA has represented Ye’s tours.

A viral Instagram post by Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, became the solidarity centerpiece for celebrities and influencers to push back against Ye’s comments and stand in support of the Jewish community.

“If you don’t know what to say, you can just say this in your feed,” Seinfeld wrote.

The simple black and blue graphic with the words “I support my friends and the Jewish people” was shared widely across the internet, including on the Instagram accounts of Ye’s former in-laws Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian, and Kris Jenner.

Ye’s ex-wife and mother to his four children, Kim Kardashian, released a statement via her Instagram story and Twitter on Monday to condemn the hate speech occurring by her former partner against the Jewish community, although she did not specify Ye directly.

“Hate speech is never OK or excusable,” she wrote to her millions of followers. “I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end.”

Ye’s biggest deal finally collapsed when German sports brand Adidas announced the end of its highly lucrative partnership, after mounting pressure from the public and staff.

“Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful, and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness,” the company said.

The announcement sent Ye’s wealth tumbling, with the deal worth $1.5 billion.

The decision to part ways with the designer took immediate effect, with Adidas announcing that it will end the production of Yeezy-branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. This is expected to cause a shortfall of $246 million in the company’s revenue for the year.

While many applauded the move by Adidas, others asked why years of anti-Black rhetoric from Kanye had not negatively impacted his creative successes, finances, or business deals. “Wish being anti-Black held this much weight,” radio host Scottie Beam tweeted.

Hours after the Adidas breakup, Gap announced that it was taking action to remove all Yeezy Gap products from its retail outlets because of his antisemitic and racist comments.

“In September, Gap announced ending its Yeezy Gap partnership,” the company said in its statement. “Our former partner’s recent remarks and behavior further underscore why.”

The website was shut down, and all Yeezy Gap products were removed from stores.

“Antisemitism, racism, and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance with our values,” the statement continued. “On behalf of our customers, employees, and shareholders, we are partnering with organizations that combat hate and discrimination.”

The RealReal, a clothing resale market, also announced Tuesday that it would no longer allow sellers to list Yeezys or any Ye items on its site.

The fallout continued as the first two athletes signed with Donda Sports ended their contracts with Ye’s marketing agency, citing the antisemitic and racist comments.

Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said in a joint statement with his wife that his family had decided to part ways with the company.

“The recent comments and displays of hate and anti-Semitism are the exact opposite of how we choose to live our lives and raise our children,” the reigning Super Bowl champion said.

Similarly, Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown performed a U-turn: After initially saying that he planned to remain a client of Donda Sports, he reversed his decision a day later.

“I have always, and will always, continue to stand strongly against anti-Semitism, hate speech, misrepresentation, and oppressive rhetoric of any kind,” he said in a statement.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Reuters that while Ye’s antisemitic comments were “awful,” the streaming platform would not remove his music unless his label, Def Jam, requested it.

Ek clarified that Ye’s catalog of music, which has earned him 24 Grammy Awards, did not violate Spotify’s anti-hate policies and therefore presented no immediate reason to be taken down.

“It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policy,” Ek said. “It’s up to his label if they want to take action or not.”

Young athletes enrolled in Donda Academy’s sports program were also burned by Ye’s behavior after its boys basketball team was dropped from two prestigious sporting tournaments.

The Spalding Hoophall Classic and the Scholastic Play-By-Play Classics announced Tuesday that Donda students would no longer be participating in upcoming games.

OCT. 26: Ye heads to Skechers

A day after being dropped by Adidas, Ye appeared to be on the lookout for a new partner and showed up “unannounced and without invitation” at the Skechers corporate offices in Los Angeles.

The company confirmed in a statement that the rapper was escorted off the premises by two executives and that it had “no intention” of working with the designer.

“We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech,” the brand said. “The Company would like to again stress that West showed up unannounced and uninvited to Skechers corporate offices.”

Speaking anonymously, a former business associate of Ye’s told CNN that the Yeezy creator had an “obsession” with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

The executive claimed that Ye’s inner circle was aware of Ye’s admiration for the far-right figure, which ran deep enough for Ye to consider naming an album in his honor and reading Hitler’s 1925 autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf.

“He would praise Hitler by saying how incredible it was that he was able to accumulate so much power and would talk about all the great things he and the Nazi Party achieved for the German people,” the unnamed individual told CNN.

Similarly, former TMZ staffer Van Lathan Jr. claimed that the rapper expressed similar sentiments during their infamous TMZ showdown back in 2018 but that those clips did not make the final edit.

“He said something like, ‘I love Hitler, I love Nazis’ — something to that effect — when he was there,” Lathan Jr. said on an episode of the Higher Learning podcast. “And they took it out of the interview for whatever reason. It wasn’t my decision.”

Parents whose children attend Ye’s $15,000-a-year Donda Academy in Southern California received an urgent email announcing that it will close for the remainder of the 2022–23 academic year “effective immediately.”

The email, seen by The Times, was sent from school principal Jason Angell, who confirmed that the decision to prematurely end the school year came from the founder, Ye.

Donda Academy, a Christian prep school, is named after Ye’s late mother, who was a professor and has made headlines for its enrollment requirements, including a mandatory nondisclosure agreement parents are expected to sign.

Viral footage shared online earlier this month showed students dressed in all-black Yeezy Gap uniforms, declaring “Good morning, Donda” before breaking out into song, leading people online to describe it as a cult.

Just hours after announcing the academic year had been canceled, parents received another email, obtained by TMZ, this time refuting the closure. “We are back and returning with a vengeance!” it read.

On Instagram, Ye appeared to be in good spirits and accepting of the fallout caused by his actions, including the financial losses. In a post captioned “LOVE SPEECH,” the rapper appeared to hold no hostile feelings toward Emanuel, who authored the opinion piece calling for businesses to drop him.


And in a now-deleted post, Ye indulged in a little self-referential fun about how far his star has fallen with companies and celebrities ending their support. He posted a fake news article that declared: “Ye cuts ties with Kanye West.”

“Had to cut ties bro,” he wrote, below three photos of himself. ●

This post will be updated as the Ye fallout continues.

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