In a surprise appearance on Chicago’s WGCI 107.5 Wednesday morning, Kanye West walked back the heel turn he embarked on this summer when he aligned himself with President Trump and posited that slavery was a choice. The rapper spoke unguardedly and issued a long-awaited apology for his infamous slavery comments on TMZ in May, describing the outburst as both a result of his bipolar diagnosis and largely preventable. In the wide-ranging, occasionally tearful interview, he also elaborated on his support for Trump (“I’ve never voted in my life,” he said. “I have the right as an American to have my stance.”), competing with Drake (he denies leaking any information about Drake’s son to Pusha-T) and finding a support system.
West began by attempting to answer a question that led to a long block of silence during his recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live: Why he believes Trump cares about black people. “I feel that he cares about the way black people feel about him, and he would like for black people to like him like they did when he was cool in the rap songs,” he said. “He’s got an ego like all the rest of us, and he wants to be the greatest president, and he knows that he can’t be the greatest president without the acceptance of the black community.”
His larger mea culpa on slavery began defensively, focusing on the diction of his statement rather than its content. “It sounds like a choice to me, to Kanye West,” he said. “I’m not a historian, I’m Kanye West.”
West compared himself to Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner, and said that “Even if it was worded incorrectly, in the white man’s tongue — maybe I could have danced or I could have spoken Swahili — because even the fact that we’re having to have this conversation in English is a form of slavery. It’s not even our language, bro.”
However, urged on by a tearful interjection from WGCI host Kendra G, West began to more earnestly address the situation. “I have never really approached or addressed the slavery comment fully,” he said. “It’s not something for me to overly intellectualize, ‘cause this ain’t nothing to be smart about. This is about the fact that it hurt people’s feelings, and the way I presented that information.”
“I’m sorry for the one-two of the MAGA hat into the slavery comment. And I’m sorry for people who felt let down by that moment.”
West addressed, in a scattershot but measured manner, many of the factors that he associates with his outburst on the TMZ broadcast, including his diagnosis with bipolar disorder following an involuntary hospitalization at the UCLA Medical Center. “I’m not blaming mental health, I’m just explaining mental health,” he said.
“If you deal with someone that’s bipolar, that’s ramped up” — a term West used frequently over the course of the interview — “They might say something that’s their truth, that’s how they feel, in a way that’s not going to make you feel comfortable.”
West suggested that seeing himself on TMZ provided a window into what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder. “I could go on Charlamagne and be at the top of the 300 acres and describe my experience of being put in handcuffs and being brought to UCLA,” he said. “But it’s not ‘til people got to see an actual moment of me being ramped up and see the way that it affected us as a community, as family members.”
West later went on to describe a combination of intense competitiveness and a feeling of growing irrelevance contributed to the outburst. “In a relationship, maybe someone would do something, just to see if you still love them,” he said. “People can come in and tell you that, ‘This was only streamed this much,’ or ‘This didn’t sell,’ and it makes you feel like your voice is not meaningful. I come home to Chicago and I hear three Drake records, and I don’t hear a Ye record.”
“I’m pitted in competitions directly with Drake, pitted in competitions with [Longtime Kanye collaborator and current director of menswear at Louis Vuitton] Virgil [Abloh] — at the same damn time. I’ve literally got to have the shoes popping to the Off-White, Louis Vuitton level, while I’ve got a record that needs to be at the Kiki’ level.”
Finally, West promised that he was turning over a new leaf. “It’s going to be a new Kanye West, and it’s going to be better,” he said. “It’s going to be better because of this mental health situation, it’s going to be better because of this TMZ situation.”
To do so, West asserted that he needed to change the people around him, and looking to the Kardashians for an example of how to do so. “One thing we can learn from my wife, and the reason she doesn’t end up at UCLA, is she has her family with her at all times,” he said. “It’s all of them against Hollywood, and you’ve got to have that support system.”
“The people who were around and are starting to make money, they just didn’t care about me as much,” he said. “Because Kanye West was an entity, a money-making machine, and you get into that situation and you don’t have people that are continuously looking out for your best interests at all costs. Because I even had people that was with me at TMZ that could have stopped it. That could have said, ‘Yo, this is going too far.’”
West later broke down talking about his longtime collaborator Don C — a clothing designer and Chicagoan who was part of West’s core entourage for the entirety of his early career. “I believe that the downfall of Kanye West is directly related to Don C not being around,” he said. “Don is actually… He’s actually in town right now because I just told him I need him. To be there for me, so shit like this doesn’t happen to me.”