How Kanye West Became A Controversial Figure In Hollywood

After winning the Best Melodic Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the Grammys in April 2022, Kanye "Ye" West became one of the most awarded rappers in the show's history, per E! News. A musical talent, trendsetter, and businessman who sure knows his onions, West has achieved success time and time again. To him, however, his success is not tied to his vast net worth. "For me, money is not my definition of success. Inspiring people is a definition of success," he said in a 2016 interview with W Magazine. "You know what's my definition of success? Being able to be 39 years old, a black male, and articulate myself in this way and back it up."

But perhaps even more attention-grabbing than his success is this rapper's thirst for drama. Since coming into the spotlight in the early 2000s, West has made quite a reputation for himself as one of the most polarizing pop culture figures of his time. Between award show outbursts and problematic political and social commentaries, here's a dive into Kanye West's controversial run in the entertainment scene.

Kanye West stormed out of the AMAs in 2004

In 2004, producer-turned-rapper Kanye "Ye" West set out to prove himself as a solo artist with the release of his debut album, "College Dropout." It worked. That year, West landed ten Grammy nominations, taking home three including Best Rap Album. A success thorough and thorough, 'College Dropout" was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in November 2020. An impressive entry into the music scene no doubt, yet at the time, West believed he deserved better.

After losing the Best New Artist category to country singer Gretchen Wilson, West up and walked out of the American Music Awards. According to The Week, he told reporters, "I felt like I was definitely robbed, and I refuse to give any politically correct bulls*** a** comment. I was the Best New Artist this year."

A semblance of penitence, West later apologized to Wilson, blaming his antics on rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard's tragic death on November 13, only a day before the American Music Awards. "Ol' Dirty Bastard had just passed, and in memory of ODB's performance at the Grammys [in 1998], I just wanted to run out on stage and say, 'Kanye is for the kids!'" he said, per Entertainment Weekly. But of course, this was only the beginning.

He called President George Bush racist in 2005

During  A Concert for Hurricane Relief, a 2005 televised broadcast targeted at raising funds for those affected by Hurricane Katrina, Kanye "Ye" West had a few things to get off his chest. Speaking alongside actor Mike Myers, West went off script about the government and disaster relief efforts, stating, "America is set up to help the poor, the Black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible." At the end of his speech, the musician declared, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." A visibly stunned Myers tried to carry on with the scripted material before the camera cut away. West later insisted to Ellen DeGeneres that calling the president out was the least he could do. "I wanted to bullet point these things that disturb me so much," he said (via People).

Expectedly, West's candidness was not well received by George W. Bush. "It's one thing to say, 'I don't appreciate the way he's handled his business. It's another thing to say, 'this man's a racist," the former president said on "Matt Lauer Reports" in 2010. "I resent it; it's not true. And it was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency."

On a 2010 episode of "Today," a seemingly remorseful West apologized for the remark. "I would tell George Bush, in my moment of frustration, I didn't have the grounds to call him a racist," he said. 

He called out the Grammys later in 2005

Only a year after "College Dropout," Kanye "Ye" West released his sophomore album, "Late Registration," in August 2005. A commercial success, the record sold over 860,000 copies in its first week, making it one of the biggest first week-album sales in music history, according to Complex. Confident in his craft, West decided "Late Registration" deserved one of the top accolades at that year's Grammys. "If I don't win Album of the Year, I'm gonna really have a problem with that," West told MTV News. "I don't care what I do; I don't care how much I stunt — you can never take away from the amount of work I put into it."

A few days after the interview, the academy released its 48th annual Grammy nominations list. West topped the list, receiving a total of eight nominations — which, as Billboard pointed out, was the same as John Legend and Mariah Carey.  The "Jesus Walks" rapper would later admit how good it felt to be recognized for his hard work but added that his nominations were not exactly a surprise. "I was thinking about eight," he told Rolling Stone. "That's what me and my friends calculated. We had this feeling about eight. It's fine." West would go on to win three of his eight nominations.

Kanye West put on a show at the 2006 MTV Europe Awards

At the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, Kanye "Ye" West beat top artists P. Diddy and Missy Elliot to win the Best Hip Hop artist award category. Impressive, but not quite enough for West. He wanted more. Nominated in two other categories — Best Male Artist and Best Music Video, per NME — the rapper apparently anticipated at least one more win, and when it became clear things were not going his way, he made his feelings known.

After his visuals for "Touch the Sky" lost the Best Music Video award to Justice vs. Simian's "We Are Your Friends," West crashed the stage, bursting into a tirade that left many speechless. "This video cost a million dollars, fam," West bragged. "I had Pam Anderson; I was jumping across canyons and sh*t! If I don't win, the awards show loses credibility. Nothing against you (J&S), but hell, man."

In an interview with MTV News later that year, the "College Dropout" rapper said he didn't mean to create so much drama when he walked up the stage. "It was just out of raw emotion. I had a couple of drinks, but I was more drunk with adrenaline," he told the outlet. "When I walked up, I thought I was just going to be expressive and clown a little bit."

The 2007 VMAs drama

Another year, another award show drama. Even though he performed at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye "Ye" West was not pleased with where he performed. According to ABC News, the rapper and many others were made to have their performances in guest suites at the Palms Casino Resort. However, a few other artists, including Justin Timberlake, were invited to perform on the show's main stage. This did not go down well with West who thought it disrespectful. "So why do you have me do 'Stronger' in a suite, but you end the show with Justin?" he said, per the Los Angeles Times. But this was not the only thing West was upset about.

What's more, the rapper was not particularly pleased about MTV's decision to have Britney Spears open up the show. "I can't believe she would perform," he told the audience, per Today. "She hasn't had a hit record in years." According to People, West went on Z100 the next day and claimed the network not only took advantage of Spears, but wronged him.

West also reportedly said he was through with the network entirely. However, as he insisted on Z100, he was mad at MTV because of his placement in the show, not because he didn't win anything that night. 

He interrupted Taylor Swift mid-speech at the 2009 VMAs

On September 13, 2009, the world witnessed one of the most cringeworthy moments in pop culture. Taylor Swift, only 19 at the time, got Kanye'd, setting off what would become a lifelong feud between the two artists. While Swift was accepting "Best Female Video" for her "You Belong with Me," Kanye "Ye" West appeared uninvited on the stage to share his thoughts on who deserved the win (and no, it was not him). "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!" he said as the singer awkwardly looked on.

Per People, Swift told reporters that it took her a second to realize that West was there to rain on her moment — and when that realization set in, it stung. Taking to his blog shortly after, West penned a heartfelt apology to Swift. "I'm sooooo sorry to Taylor Swift and her fans and her mom," he wrote, according to MTV News. "She is very talented! I like the lyrics about being a cheerleader, and she's in the bleachers! I'm in the wrong for going on stage and taking away from her moment!"

Though Swift and West would eventually make up and become friends, the rapper struck up a fresh feud after name-dropping her in his 2016 track "Famous" — something the "Bad Blood" singer has since denied giving her stamp of approval.

Kanye West called out Beck in 2015

While American singer Beck accepted his Album of the Year award At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2015, Kanye "Ye" West hit the stage without warning — yes, again. Only this time, he did not say a word, leading many to believe he had only been fooling around. Later that night, West revealed that his little antic was, in fact, not a joke. "All I know is if the Grammys want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain't gonna play with them no more," he told E! News. "And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should've given his award to Beyoncé."

Unfazed by West's antics, Beck would later gush about his admiration for the rapper, telling Us Weekly of his love for his music. What's more, the "Where It's At" singer agreed with West's comment about Beyoncé, telling the outlet he'd assumed her self-titled record would take home the honor that night over "Morning Phase."

Still, West thought it only appropriate to publicly extend an olive branch to Beck. "I'm fine to apologise for inaccuracies. You know, I send flowers for inaccuracies," he said in a 2015 interview, per Billboard. "I talked to Beck's wife, and I think I had a point about Beyoncé's album, but I think I was inaccurate with the concept of a gentleman who plays 14 instruments not respecting artistry."

Kanye West's presidential aspirations

What is an award show without Kanye "Ye" West, you might ask? You don't have to wonder. If there is one thing West will do, it is show up and put on a show. At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift presented West with the Video Vanguard Award, an accolade given to artists who have shaped music significantly. And as USA Today noted, the acceptance speech has since gone down in history as one of the most outrageous VMA moments ever. 

"First of all, thank you, Taylor, for being so gracious and giving me this award this evening. Thank you. And I often think back to the first day I met you also," he started, referencing their infamous moment at the 2009 VMAs. The rapper would then go on to reveal he was high at the time. "Y'all might be thinking right now, 'I wonder: Did he smoke something before he came out here?' The answer is yes, I rolled up a little something. I knocked the edge off," he admitted.

No doubt the highlight of the night, West finished up his speech with a surprise announcement that left everyone talking. "And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president," the "Jesus Walks" rapper shared. According to Deadline, he earned around 60,000 votes in the 2020 election. 

In 2018, Kanye West said slavery was a choice

In 2018, Kanye "Ye" West yet again found himself in the middle of a controversy after sharing his thoughts on African American slavery. "When you hear about slavery for 400 years...for 400 years? That sounds like a choice," West said during a live appearance at TMZ's newsroom. "You were there for 400 years, and it's all of y'all. It's like we're mentally imprisoned." West would later clarify his statement, noting that he was aware slaves were taken against their will. "My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved," he added in a since-deleted tweet, per Billboard.

Unsurprisingly, West's comments had ruffled several feathers. "You think people chose to be brutalized and claimed as property of others," one person tweeted, while another called the rapper "ignorant" and "arrogant." A list of celebrities, including Snoop Dogg, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Hart, also criticized West, according to Us Weekly.

Later that year, West offered a heartfelt public apology during an appearance on 107.5 WGCI radio back in his hometown Chicago. "I don't know if I properly apologized for how that slave comment made people feel ... And I'm sorry for people who felt let down by that moment," he said at the time. 

His very public feud with Pete Davidson

In October 2021, Kim Kardashian not only made an impressive debut on "Saturday Night Live," but forged a connection with Pete Davidson. Kanye "Ye" West was, however, not too pleased to see his ex-wife move on.

In January 2022, West released two diss songs, "Eazy" and "City of Gods," in which, as noted in the Daily Mail, he threatened to get violent with Davidson. This marked the beginning of the rapper's feud with Davidson. The following month, West launched an online attack against Davidson, asking fans to attack the SNL comic if they came across him. The one-sided feud soon extended to rapper Kid Cudi whom he accused of not having his back. And then, when talk show host Trevor Noah weighed in on the drama and accused the rapper of taking it way too far with both Davidson and Kardashian, West took it to the next step. "What we're seeing is one of the most powerful, one of the richest women in the world, unable to get her ex to stop texting her, to stop chasing after her, to stop harassing her," Noah said during an episode of "The Daily Show."

Responding to his comments, the rapper hurled a racial slur at Noah, and in solidarity, West was temporarily suspended from Instagram, as reported by the BBC. In August 2022, a source confirmed to Page Six that Davidson was undergoing trauma therapy to help him deal with West's attacks.

The 'White Live Matter' debacle

What was supposed to be a surprise fashion show at the Paris fashion week on October 3, 2022, soon set off a whole new controversy for Kanye "Ye" West. While showcasing his Yeezy clothing line at the event, West donned a long-sleeved t-shirt with the phrase "White Lives Matter" printed across the back. According to The Guardian, West also had some of his models wear the t-shirts on the runway. 

Categorized as hate speech by The Anti-Defamation League, "White Lives Matter" is widely considered a resistance against the Black Lives Matter movement. And so when news got out that West, a Black man himself, released shirts that ridiculed this movement, the backlash was swift. "The t-shirts this man conceived, produced, and shared with the world are pure violence," Vogue editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson shared on Instagram (via Insider). "There is no excuse. There is no art here."

Despite the uproar, however, West remained unapologetic, telling Fox News's Tucker Carlson he initially meant it to be a joke. "Well, as an artist, you don't have to give an explanation, but as a leader, you do," he added. "So the answer to why I wrote 'White Lives Matter' on a shirt is because they do. That's the obvious thing."

His antisemitic comments

Following his "White Lives Matter" controversy, Kanye "Ye" West soon found himself in hot water yet again. During his appearance on Fox News, West went on an antisemitic rant against his old friend Jared Kushner. Shortly after that, West shared screenshots of a conversation he had with Diddy, containing what many tagged antisemitic language, as per The Hollywood Reporter. Subsequently, West's Instagram account was suspended, prompting him to move to Twitter, where he spewed even more hate speech. "I'm a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I'm going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE," he wrote in a now-deleted tweet, per The Guardian. "The funny thing is I actually can't be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda."

But while West might have gotten away with being insensitive in the past, this time, the rapper is facing direct consequences. After his antisemitic comments, Forbes reported that the rapper had lost his billionaire status after Adidas terminated his $1.5 billion deal. According to the Los Angeles Times, other brands, including Balenciaga, Gap, and CAA, have also cut ties with the rapper.