[Editors Note: This post was updated on October 30.]
Here we go again: former Chicagoan and rapper Kanye West (now known as Ye, but for the purposes of this item we’ll call him by his birth name) has made controversial decisions and alienated his fanbase in the process – particularly African-Americans and once again, we’re waiting to see what fallout there is going to be among Black radio programmers – that is, if there’s any.
In the last two weeks, West paraded down the catwalk in Paris wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt with Black conservative activist Candance Owens, a response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which he said was a scam. Then he appeared on numerous media outlets making anti-Semitic statements which were so vile, the producers of one show (The Shop) decided to shelve the episode. Then on Sunday, West appeared on another podcast (The Drink Champs) and said George Floyd died of fentanyl and not by police officer Derek’s Chauvin’s knee to his neck.
And on Monday, he announced he was buying Parler, the conservative social media platform after he was barred from Twitter and Instagram for making anti-Sematic remarks and made more of them later that evening on Chris Cuomo’s show on NewsNation, Nexstar’s network supposedly touting itself as “News For All America”, or whatever BS line they’re trying to sell to what little audience they have.
As you can imagine, there was tons of uproar. Black users on social media platforms were harsh, calling him a “sellout”, a “coon”, and “Uncle Tom”. But in his hometown of Chicago – at least those who aren’t on social media, Black residents’ reaction were actually more ho-hum.
Five years ago, West created a similar uproar by declaring “slavery a choice” on TMZ Live, angering his fanbase. As a result, Greater Media’s WMGC-FM – a Detroit classic Hip-Hop station known as 105.1 Bounce, pulled his music from the airwaves. However, the station admitted it was a publicity stunt and returned his music to the airwaves. Several years ago, R. Kelly’s music was pulled from a few stations when the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly debuted on Lifetime.
This time however, West’s comments are far more controversial than what he said in the past.
As of this writing, there has been no decision made by major radio chains on whether or not to pull Kanye West’s music. However, West is still being played on iHeartMedia’s Hip-Hop stations, including the once-influential WGCI here in Chicago and WWPR-FM (Power 105.1) in New York, mostly his earlier work. A check of other Hip-Hop stations (104.3 Jams and Power 92) through onlineradiobox.com in the Chicago area did not show any Kanye West songs at least since Sunday, when he said those controversial comments. The lack of outrage from Black listeners perhaps explains why iHeartMedia has yet to pull West’s music.
As this space pointed out in a similar article in 2018 involving West, large radio chains own most urban-oriented radio stations do not allow radio personalities or music directors to pick songs as playlist decisions are made by higher ups. Unfortunately, that’s radio life in the consolidation era where Big Media has abandoned any sense of local community involvement and run stations like they’re in a broom closest, stored with Clorox and Mr. Clean bottles.
So what’s next? Given he’s from Chicago, West might weigh in on the gubernatorial race between J.B. Pritzker and Darren Bailey and go “defcon” on the city he was raised in, trashing it like so many other conservatives have done in the last fifteen years, including former President Donald Trump. Will he call it a “hellhole” like Bailey did to earn more street cred? Will he show up in a Bailey campaign commercial produced by Dan Proft? Will he start a feud with Mayor Lightfoot? Maybe he could given how both he and Proft love to employ “shock jock” antics. The possibilities are endless.
West does not have any currents serviced to radio on any format, but if he had any new music to sell, would he be saying any of this nonsense? Certainly, if West decides to launch any new music or to tour again, he would face protests, and he would likely be shunned at radio. Then again, there are those – including a few African-Americans believe it or not, who would actually agree with his idiotic positions and as we always say, never underestimate the taste of the American public.
[Clarification: Kanye West was born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago.]