Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. The rapper, who just released the well-received collaborative album Watch the Throne with Jay-Z, made headlines again this week for comparing himself to Hitler during a concert in England. It's not the first time his comments have overshadowed his music. From "George Bush doesn't like black people" to "I'mma let you finish," here's a look back at Kanye's 12 most controversial statements:
November 14, 2004
Nominated for Best New Artist at the American Music Awards for his debut album, The College Dropout, West is outraged when he loses to country star Gretchen Wilson. He tells reporters backstage, "I felt like I was definitely robbed, and I refuse to give any politically correct bulls--- ass comment. I was the Best New Artist this year." Later, he apologizes to Wilson: "I was raised better than that. It was very ignorant."
July 2, 2005
During the Live 8 benefit concert, West shocks the crowd when he says that AIDS is a "man-made disease" that was "placed in Africa just like crack was placed in the black community to break up the Black Panthers."
September 2, 2005
During a televised benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief, West speaks alongside Mike Myers, stunning the actor by going off script. "George Bush doesn't care about black people," West ad-libs, a statement that the former president later calls the worst moment of his presidency.
December 6, 2005
Leading up to the Grammy Awards, West begins complaining that because of his comment about President Bush, he will likely be out of contention for Album of the Year. "If I don't win Album of the Year, I'm gonna have a problem with that," he says. He then begins comparing himself to Tom Cruise, questions the legitimacy of music magazines The Source and Vibe (because they didn't give his album five stars), and says he's not going to apologize for producing what he calls a "classic" record.
November 3, 2006
When West loses the Best Hip-Hop artist trophy for his music video "Touch the Sky" at the MTV Europe Music Awards, he storms the stage and commands the microphone: "My video cost a million dollars. Pamela Anderson was in it. I was jumping across canyons and shit." Because of the loss, he says, "the awards show loses credibility." Later, when asked to explain his rant, he tells MTV that he "had a little sippy sippy during the show" and was slightly intoxicated.
September 9, 2007
Annoyed that Britney Spears was chosen to open the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards instead of him, West expresses his frustration: "I can't believe she would perform. She hasn't had a hit record in years." After his performance is relegated to a Las Vegas suite instead of the VMA main stage, he's filmed backstage complaining. "Give a black man a chance. They don't want a fuckin' black man in that position." He vows he will "never return to MTV."
May 2, 2008
In a review for his 2008 Glow in the Dark concert tour, Entertainment Weekly gives West a B+ grade. Outraged, West embarks on an expletive-ridden tirade on his blog, culminating with, "Never come 2 one of my shows ever again. You're not invited and if you see me…BOW!!!"
April 8, 2009
In a South Park episode titled "Fish Sticks," a character writes a joke that sweeps the nation — and a fictional Kanye West is the only person who doesn't get it. Skewering the rapper's reputation for having an inflated ego, the show portrays West as violently frustrated when everyone laughs at a joke that he doesn't understand. After the episode airs, West takes to his blog, writing, "South Park murdered me last night and it's pretty damn funny. It hurst my feelings but what can you expect from South Park!"
September 13, 2009
At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, West storms the stage during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video, an award he claims should have gone to Beyonce's "Single Ladies." Swift is visibly shaken up when West takes the microphone from her, saying "I'mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time." The outrage surrounding the move — even President Obama called West a "jackass" — causes West to embark on a mea culpa tour.
November 11, 2010
The rapper appears on Today to talk with Matt Lauer about, among other things, his reaction to President Bush calling his Katrina comment the worst moment of his presidency, as well the VMA incident with Taylor Swift. West becomes agitated with Lauer when a clip from the VMAs begins playing while he's speaking, tweeting after the taping, "Yo I really wonder if Matt Lauer thought that shit was cool to play the MTV clip when I was speaking about Bush?" He cancels his musical performance on the show after the fallout from the interview.
February 23, 2011
West finds himself under fire after he publishes a crass late-night tweet about women who have abortions. "An abortion can cost a ballin' n***a up to 50gs maybe a 100. Gold diggin' bitches be getting pregnant on purpose. #STRAPUP my n***as!"
August 7, 2011
During a performance at England's Big Chill Festival, West likens himself to Hitler. "I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street, and people look at me like I'm... insane, like I'm Hitler," he says. "One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did." The rant, says James C. McKinley, Jr. at The New York Times, was "narrowly focused" on West's favorite subject: "His own greatness and his view that no one understands him."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- Russia's giant spy ship was a high-tech disaster waiting to happen
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- 10 things you need to know today: September 2, 2014
Subscribe to the Week