Kanye West: The Self-Sabotaging, Marketing 'Genius'
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Kanye West’s recent inflammatory remarks implying that enslaved Africans remained in bondage by “choice” could end up costing his brand—big time. The so-called “free thinker” ignited a firestorm of outrage during a TMZ appearance on Tuesday when he said that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice,” denying the history of slave revolts and resistance.

TMZ producer Van Lathan fired back while scores of angry social media users mocked West’s claim in a series of snarky posts using the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice. West, however, doubled down on his remarks, tweeting that he was being “attacked for presenting new ideas” before later deleting the post.

Kanye West

(Twitter)

Radio personalities Shay Shay and BiGG of “The Morning Bounce” on 105.1 in Detroit took their anger a step further, announcing on Thursday a boycott of West’s music on their show. In addition, over 15,000 people are calling on Adidas to terminate their partnership with West, which manufactures his wildly popular Yeezy sneaker line.

“While Kanye can live safely in his multimillion-dollar castle, the rest of black America is continually marginalized and subject to unjust laws and treatment. Some even die because this behavior is so ingrained in our society,” reads a Care2 petition.

 

“Kanye West has a right to free speech, and he has the right to spout lies and misinformation and misplaced opinions—but we as consumers have the right to fight back against this type of dangerous propaganda.”

 

It adds: “Tell the world [Adidas does] not want anything to do with anyone who believes that millions of Africans chose to toil the fields in bondage.”

Yeezy Doesn’t Make or Break Adidas

Despite the petition and backlash, Adidas is standing behind the controversial rapper, who moved his pricey Yeezy brand under the umbrella of the sportswear giant in 2013. The success of the Adidas Yeezy Boost collaboration helped the athletic company steal market share from its biggest competitor, Nike Inc. Adidas also knocked Nike’s Jordan brand from the No. 2 spot in U.S. sports footwear in 2017. However, contrary to West’s claims that his sneaker line is the best thing to ever hit the market, Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted made it clear that the Yeezys are just “a small part” of the $25 billion company.

Rorsted also stressed Adidas’ recent growth and support for Ye during an interview with Bloomberg TV  Thursday.

“Kanye and the Yeezy is a very important part for our brand, from a revenue standpoint less though, but it’s a very important part of how we promote our products particularly in the U.S. and other parts of the world.”

 

He added that Adidas’ first-quarter sales rose 10% at constant exchange rates. “At the same time, the brand Adidas grew last quarter in the U.S. 23%…So while Kanye is a very important part of the Adidas brand, Adidas is a large global company with a very, very strong presence around the world and will continue to perform well.”

Is Kanye West Ruining His Brand or Building a New One?

Although it’s easy to argue that West is sabotaging his own brand by alienating a large chunk of the population, at the same time, he’s also—consciously or subconsciously—expanding into a new market of consumers. For the past two weeks, West’s professed love for President Donald Trump and conservative commentator Candace Owens has been a rallying cry for the right. West has also received newfound praise on Fox News. Plus, recognizing the value and power of Ye’s brand, the GOP used a photo of West bragging about his “Make America Great Again” hat signed by Trump to sell more MAGA hats. But will that translate into sales for Ye’s music and fashion lines or alienate Kanye loyalists who’ve supported the artist in the past?

On the other hand, things didn’t go well for other black musicians who’ve publicly supported Trump. For instance, Chrisette Michele suffered a major career setback after she aligned herself with 45 last year and ignored fans warning her not to perform at his inauguration. But, unlike dozens of other black singers who rejected Trump’s offer, Michele chose to sing at one of his inauguration events for $250,000. The soul singer later admitted that this decision severely hurt her image and led to her being dropped from her label.

Meanwhile, Tina Campbell, who’s known for being one half of the gospel duo Mary Mary, was forced to postpone her solo tour due to low ticket sales not long after she admitted that she voted for Trump in the 2016 election during an appearance on The Real.

West, who has considerably more clout than Michele and Campbell, could be up next. Kanye’s brand will be put to the test this weekend when he launches his new Yeezy x 2XU collection on Saturday. West has partnered with sportswear company 2XU, a high-tech fabric fashion line, to release the Yeezy’s Season 6 and Season 7 collections. The Yeezy x 2XU collection includes $400 shorts and $450 tights. Representatives of 2XU said West would not make any personal appearances for the launch.

Like West rapped in 2004, And when it all falls down, who you gon’ call now?

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Selena Hill

Selena Hill is the Digital Editor at Black Enterprise and an award-winning multi-media journalist.


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