This article originally appeared on levelman.com
Kanye West has a new pronouncement: He is done with corporate America.
“It’s time for me to go it alone,” Ye explained in an interview with Bloomberg that was published Monday. “It’s fine. I made the companies money. The companies made me money. We created ideas that will change apparel forever. Like the round jacket, the foam runner, the slides that have changed the shoe industry. Now it’s time for Ye to make the new industry. No more companies standing in between me and the audience.”
West is referring to Adidas—with whom he has an arrangement to produce his sneakers that expires in 2026—and Gap Inc., which is under contract to produce his apparel until 2030.
“They my new baby mamas,” the rapper now legally known as Ye added. “I guess we’re just going to have to co-parent those 350s.”
In recent months, West has called Adidas out for allegedly “blatantly copying” his designs—notably with the AdiFOM Q and the Adilette 22. As for the Gap, the rap game’s David Koresh claims the clothing company was copying looks from his Yeezy Gap Engineered by Balenciaga line.
“No one should be held in that position where people can steal from them and say we’re just paying you to shut up,” West explained to the outlet. “That destroys innovation. That destroys creativity. That’s what destroyed Nikola Tesla.” I don’t think that’s quite what led to Tesla’s demise, but Yeezus also complained about being left out of business meetings. He posted screengrabs of text exchanges with various executives on Instagram.
Rich people fight all of the time about money. Why are some of us pretending this is some kind of civil rights issue worthy of a boycott?
Last week, Sean Combs, who I still prefer to call Puffy, wrote on Instagram: “Since the era of Run-DMC, @Adidas has always used Hip Hop to build its brand and make billions off of our culture. BUT WE ARE MORE THAN JUST CONSUMERS NOW, WE’RE THE OWNERS. @KanyeWest and YEEZY are the reason Adidas is relevant to culture. WE KNOW OUR VALUE!”
The post was accompanied by a screenshot of an apparent text exchange with our distressed fashion king/doll. “I’m done wearing Adidas products until they make this right!! We have to support each other!! Everybody repost this please!!” Puff added.
Separately, Swizz Beatz wrote: “I usually mind my business but this is DEAD WRONG! If we let them do this to @kanyewest it will happen to us also! This man created this groundbreaking innovation and it should be respected as a creative !”
“YE is only asking for his work to be respected and not stolen that’s not crazy to me !! We not buying these !!!!!!!!!!!!” he continued. “@adidas you’re supposed to be original do the correct thing please !!!”
Of all the issues to bring attention to, this ain’t it.
Once again, Ye is painting a picture of persecution when the reality is that he has been lobbying these corporate giants to give him billions of dollars and carte blanche to “create.”
Details of West’s contract are unknown, but Bloomberg reported that Yeezy made $191 million in royalties from the Adidas partnership in 2020.
Kanye made a choice to sign a contract with those enormous brands. It presumably allowed them to do whatever they want—including taking some of his creative direction and applying it elsewhere within the product line. They want to make money and since his affiliation alone arguably saved the brand, they’re going to target the customer as much as possible.
As I recall, after complaining about the major fashion houses ignoring him, he was happy to sign with them.
In an interview with Angie Martinez in 2014, he announced his deal with Adidas and said, “I’m going to be the 2Pac of product.” I still don’t know what that means, but he tried to do it on his own then without as much success. Then he retooled, used other people’s money and infrastructure, and now has an estimated worth of more than $1 billion.
And he seems to know that. Regardless of what he said this week, last week he suggested an interest in partnering with Authentic Brands Group, whose roster of brands includes Forever 21, Barneys New York, JCPenney, and Reebok. Ye also told Bloomberg he’s working with former Adidas executive Eric Liedtke, who now operates the plant-based clothing label Unless Collective, to help establish his empire.
Good for him, but I’m not sure starting a corporation is the best way to cut ties with corporate America.
By now, Kanye has an established pattern where in the event of a perceived transgression, he uses his Instagram page to malign people with insults and accusations—and then deletes everything. If anyone knows this, it’s his estranged wife and her now-ex-boyfriend. If he can go at the mother of his kids like that, close business partners are certainly not safe. I’m less inclined to treat major corporations as individuals, but there is something very Trumpian about his approach. He has a built in audience/cult that will fall for it, but this comes across as the frustrations of a manipulative micromanager who probably slowed down production (see his perpetually delayed and disjointed album releases).
Once again, Ye is painting a picture of persecution when the reality is that he has been lobbying these corporate giants to give him billions of dollars and carte blanche to “create.” He got what he wanted and they got what they paid for.
I don’t back Trump supporters with their boycotts—he shouldn’t have signed that contract if he wasn’t cool with the terms. If anything, all of these complaints have made me want to buy Adidas even more, just to spite him. Unless Beyoncé tells me something bad about the company, I’ll pass on the boycott.
I understand Puffy and Swizz want to support their fellow rich friend, but this feels like civil rights-themed hustle with beats. Sorry, not sorry, and thanks but no thanks.
Update: Kanye has since severed his relationship with Gap, announcing on Thursday (9/15) that he’s terminating his partnership with the Gap because of “substantial noncompliance.”
In a statement, his lawyer Nicholas Gravante said West was left with “no choice but to terminate their collaboration” because the retailer allegedly breached their partnership by not opening branded Yeezy stores and distributing his apparel as originally planned.
“Gap’s substantial noncompliance with its contractual obligations has been costly,” Gravante wrote. “Ye will now promptly move forward to make up for lost time by opening Yeezy retail stores.”
Let that be a lesson to all: Rich people will always be fine so long as they complain to their lawyers rather than IG.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé, I Don’t Want To Die Poor, and the forthcoming I Finally Bought Some Jordan’s.