Four things we learned from Kanye West’s first US election campaign rally

Rapper propose $1m bonus ‘for everyone that has a baby’ and weeps over his father’s bid to abort him

Kanye West
Rapper propose $1m bonus ‘for everyone that has a baby’ and weeps over his father’s bid to abort him
(Image credit: Guillaume Baptiste/AFP/Getty)

Kanye West has launched his US presidential campaign with a chaotic rally in South Carolina, less than two weeks after announcing his 2020 bid.

Addressing supporters in Charleston, the rapper delivered a rambling speech in which he appeared to make policy decisions on the spot - including giving women $1m when they have a baby - and also wept at one point.

Wearing a bulletproof vest and with “2020” shaved into his head, West also bombarded the crowd of a few hundred people with his views of subjects ranging from racism and theology to pornography and corporate power. So just what did we learn?

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Almost aborted

Addressing the rally without a mic, West “broke down in tears as he recalled how he wanted wife Kim Kardashian to abort their first child and that his father never wanted him to be born”, the Daily Mirror reports.

The 43-year-old billionaire said that his views had changed after he received a “message from God” and that “financial incentives to help struggling mothers could be a way to discourage the practice”, according to the newspaper.

“My stance is not to make abortion illegal at all. It should always be legal. But there should be an option of maximum increase available… Maximum increase would be, everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars,” Kanye told the crowd. He did not say where this money would come from.

“The only thing that can free us is by obeying the rules that were given to us for a promised land,” he continued. “Abortion should be legal because guess what? The law is not by God anyway, so what is legality?”

His latest comments on abortion come weeks after West told Forbes magazine that he was “pro-life because I’m following the word of the Bible”.

Breaking down at the campaign launch as he talked about his own parents, the musician said: “My mom saved my life. My dad wanted to abort me. My mom saved my life. There would have been no Kanye West because my dad was too busy.”

The rapper revealed that he had almost repeated this parental pattern after finding out that his own wife was pregnant with their daughter North.

“I was having the rapper’s lifestyle,” he said. “I was sitting up in Paris, and I had my leather pants on … and I had my laptop up and I got all of my creative ideas … And the screen went black and white and God said, ‘If you fuck with my vision, I’m going to fuck with yours.’

“And I called my wife and she said, ‘We’re gonna have this baby.’ I said, ‘We’re gonna have this child’… So even if my wife were to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into the world when I didn’t want to. She stood up and she protected that child.”

Still confused about slavery

Arguably the most controversial element of West’s speech was an impromptu monologue about an abolitionist who is “one of the most respected figures of 19th century America”, The Guardian reports.

“Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people,” the rapper said.

See more

As the BBC explains, Tubman was a slave who escaped from a Maryland plantation in 1849, at the age of 27, but then “returned to the South to rescue other slaves on the network of routes and safe houses known as ‘underground railroad���, risking her own life to lead people to freedom”.

West’s comments about Tubman are the latest in a series of inflammatory claims that he’s made about slavery, including suggesting that the enslavement of African Americans as “a choice” by the enslaved.

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said during a 2018 interview with entertainment news site TMZ. “Like, you was there for 400 years, all of y’all?”

“We’re mentally imprisoned,” West claimed, adding that “right now we’re choosing to be enslaved”.

Opposed to porn

Another memorable moment from West’s rally came when he “ranted” against porn, says The Telegraph.

“Freedom does not come from an election. The freedom comes from you not loading up the pornography,” he told the audience.

Last October, the star spoke publicly about his decades-long battle against porn addiction, as hip-hop news site XXL reported at the time.

“Like for me, Playboy was my gateway into full-on pornography addiction,” he told Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio. “My dad had a Playboy left out at age five and it’s affected almost every choice I made for the rest of my life. From age five till now, having to kick the habit.”

Thinks he’s the sane one

West’s history of eccentric behaviour has prompted widespread speculation about his mental state, as he acknowledged during his rally speech. “They’re going to run this, they’re going to tell you that I’m crazy,” he said. ”The world’s crazy!”

Despite the star’s protestations, Professor Jason Nichols, a lecturer in African American studies at the University of Maryland, told the BBC that he feared West’s rambling performance pointed to a “manic episode”.

“He has admitted in the past he has been battling mental illness and that sometimes he does not take medication,” said Nichols.

“He was a little more coherent than he has been in other times… when he has gone on these rants, but I really believe he is in a bad place right now. He said some really bizarre things.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.