Following the release of an enlightening two-hour-long interview with Charlamagne Tha God, conducted at West’s California home last month, the Chicago rapper stopped by TMZ, taking over an episode of TMZ Live with Harvey Levin alongside conservative commentator Candace Owens. West touched on some of the controversial statements he’s made over the past week, including his thoughts on Donald Trump, but it was his particularly polarizing thought that American slavery was a “choice” which truly shocked fans and TMZ employees.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years – for 400 years?” West said. “That sounds like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally in prison.
West also explained his thought process behind wearing his signed “Make America Great Again” hat so publicly. Last week, West posted photos of himself wearing the hat, and was photographed outside in Los Angeles while wearing it.
“It was really just my subconscious. It was a feeling I had, you know. Like, people—we’re taught how to think. We’re taught how to feel. We don’t know how to think for ourselves. We don’t know how to feel for ourselves. People say “feel free,” but they don’t really want us to feel free. I felt a freedom.”
Of course, not everyone in the TMZ newsroom was thrilled with West’s appearance. TMZ reporter Van Lathan shot back at West, expressing his disappointment in his recent comments, sparking a debate with him across the office.
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything,” Lathan interjected. “I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought. And the reason why I feel like that is because, Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion. You’re entitled to believe whatever you want. But there is fact, and real-world, real-life consequence behind everything that you just said. And while you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said, for our people, was a choice. Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled and, brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real.”
While the debate continued in the TMZ Newsroom, it eventually trickled down to social media with users expressing their thoughts and opinions on Kanye’s controversial appearance.
Man, this Kanye West shit makes me sad as a former history teacher. Nothing is worse for the world than dumb people who think they are smart cause other dumb people agree with them. Especially when it comes to ignoring or revising the most horrific parts of humanity's past.— Jesse Cox: at Monster Prom (@JesseCox) May 2, 2018
Kanye West is under fire for saying “400 years of Slavery sounded like a choice” Well there was something called the Slave Trade, Africans made the choice to sell their own people. But Harriet Tubman& Nat Turner made the choice not to be a slave anymore.#IfSlaveryWasAChoice pic.twitter.com/xtWAnL6LYX— Terrence K. Williams (@w_terrence) May 2, 2018
Kanye’s rhetoric continues to fuel the racist right-wing folks who believe that black people are responsible for their oppression.— deray (@deray) May 1, 2018
There has NEVER been a moment in history when Black people didn't resist slavery. Some did it by jumping off ships. Some killed masters. Some ran away. Some did it through everyday forms of resistance. Slave masters didn't retire. Our resistance led to our freedom.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 2, 2018
I’ve had it with @KanyeWest + @RKelly using the imagery of lynching as rebuttals re: their dastardly behavior. Evoking racial terrorism and murder for personal gain/blame is stratospheric in is audacity and ignorance. This is what lynching looked like. How dare they? pic.twitter.com/wfobcdjiKL— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 2, 2018
Kanye West later took to twtter to address his controversial statements on TMZ Live.
we need to have open discussions and ideas on unsettled pain— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
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— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
Kanye vs the media is modern day Willie Linch theory.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
they can no longer stop our voice.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
the Nat Turner movie never made it anywhere because it showed slaves revolting. I understand why my god brother Puff calls his network revolt.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
if this was 148 years ago I would have been more like Harriet or Nat— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
we are programmed to always talk and fight race issues. We need to update our conversation.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
the reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought It was just an idea— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. - Harriet Tubman— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 2, 2018
Do you agree with Kanye West? Let us know what you think by tweeting us @MOBOAwards.