Over the past couple of months, Kanye West has caused some of the greatest pop culture controversies of the outspoken rapper's whole career. After returning to Twitter in mid April, West used the platform to share philosophical musings in real-time and eventually, voice his support for Donald Trump. That got the rapper in hot water, which led him to appear on TMZ to defend himself. While appearing on TMZ in early May, Kanye ended up saying "When you hear about slavery for 400 years... For 400 years? That sounds like a choice." Now, in a New York Times interview, Kanye said he is "not backing down" from his slavery comments, but he did acknowledge that he let his fans down.
Times reporter Jon Caramanica met with West in Wyoming, where West recorded his latest album, Ye, which came out on June 1. During the interview, Kanye opened up about his controversial TMZ appearance, saying, "I said the idea of sitting in something for 400 years sounds — sounds — like a choice to me, I never said it’s a choice. I never said slavery itself — like being shackled in chains — was a choice." The rapper explained, "If you look at the clip you see the way my mind works.” As ardently as Kanye claims that he didn't actually call slavery a "choice," he still refused to completely deny his original statement. The rapper said,
"What I would say is actually it’s literally like I feel like I’m in court having to justify a robbery that I didn’t actually commit, where I’m having to somehow reframe something that I never said. I feel stupid to have to say out loud that I know that being put on the boat was — but also I’m not backing down, bro."
While Kanye claims to have been misunderstood, he still acknowledged the impact of his outrageous statement. "I’ll take responsibility for the fact that I allowed my voice to be used back to back in ways that were not protective of it when my voice means too much," West said. He then clarified that by "back to back" he meant making the statement to TMZ right after wearing his Trump campaign hat.
Even though West's statement about slavery caused an uproar from fans, the rapper revealed to the Times that he isn't worried that people of color will stop listening to his music. When Caramanica asked Kanye if he worries about being abandoned by black fans, the YEEZY designer said, "It’s not going to happen."
Even though West sounds confident that he'll never get "canceled" by his fans, he did admit to being worried about his marriage to Kim Kardashian. The raper opened up to the Times about worrying that his marriage would end following the TMZ interview. "There was a moment where I felt like after TMZ, maybe a week after that, I felt like the energy levels were low, and I called different family members and was asking, you know, ‘Was Kim thinking about leaving me after TMZ?’” Kanye said. “So that was a real conversation," He added.
On Ye, Kanye seemed to allude to a conversation he had with Kardashian following the TMZ interview (something she talked about in an interview with Entertainment Tonight). On the song "Wouldn't Leave," Kanye raps about worrying that his wife might want to leave him. The lyrics go, "Now I'm on 50 blogs gettin' 50 calls/My wife callin', screamin', say, 'we 'bout to lose it all!'/Had to calm her down 'cause she couldn't breathe/Told her she could leave me now/But she wouldn't leave."
Even though some fans might be disappointed that West didn't completely disavow his previous statements about slavery, at least the Times interview offers some clarification into the rapper's thought process. It's true that Yeezy didn't outright say that "slavery was a choice," but what he meant to say is still pretty unclear, and his refusal to back down from his original statement could still cause him to lose some fans. But West isn't worried. "It's not going to happen," he told the Times. And he might be right. Ye was West's eighth number one album on the Billboard 200 albums chart. West's controversial comments might have lost him some fans, but he's still got plenty more.