For many recording artists, controversy is a razor’s edge. Provocative lyrics and stage shows can capture headlines and dominate news cycles, which is almost always great for album sales. Then there’s the other side of the edge… the kind of controversy that creates headlines that can doom album sales. Kanye West is no stranger to either kind of controversy. From interrupting Taylor Swift during an award show to wowing critics and music fans with his production skills and wit, West lives on razor’s edge publicity.
Recently, though, West made some comments that upset pretty much everyone, and the furor was so severe, the outspoken rapper went back to the drawing board before releasing his much-anticipated album, Ye.Speaking to music media personality, Big Boy, West admitted having to “completely redo” the album after the firestorm his recent comments about slavery created.
Back in May, West was being interviewed by TMZ, when he launched into an impromptu, and many said misguided, “history lesson,” which included the following comments: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years… For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” These comments enraged fans, music media, and other celebrities. West began a week of almost constant negative responses across multiple media forums. Very soon, the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice was trending, and West was taking an absolute pounding on social media.
As a result, West made some substantial changes to his album, hoping a renewed focus on the music would help him get through the controversy stirred up by his comments. But that’s not the only controversy dogging the rapper. He’s taking heat from fans for his vocal support of President Trump and from critics and others about the content of some of his music on Ye. This level of controversy is part and parcel of West’s public persona. He tends to buck convention and dive headlong into sensitive issues, and not care who doesn’t like it… at least that’s his image. And, in keeping with that image, much of the new album centers on both his mental health and frequent headlines. Right out of the gate, West grabs attention with the track “I Thought About Killing You” and he doesn’t let up from there.
All in all, West is hoping there’s plenty on the album to get people talking about that… and to get them to stop talking about his ill-advised social history lesson.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations.