After years of friendship, John Legend no longer speaks with Kanye West but is worried about the rapper’s recent downward spiral. “The Voice” coach and EGOT-winning musician shared in a new interview how the superstars started out together in the music industry and how much his old friend has changed.
John Legend Says He ‘Didn’t See Hints’ of Hateful Rhetoric During Friendship With Kanye West
The musically gifted pair worked together on West’s 2004 groundbreaking debut album, “College Dropout.”
“I did a lot on there,” Legend told Swisher. “I sang on there, I played on there, I wrote on there. We had kind of a collective of artists that were collaborating together, and he helped me produce my debut album.”
Legend’s first album, “Get Lifted,” was released months later and he signed with West’s production company. Though the two no longer talk, he credits West with helping get his music career off the ground.
“So my career would be a lot different and I don’t know what it would be without his early influence and involvement in the beginning of it,” he said.
Back then, he said, he never would have pegged West as someone who’d wind up in trouble over racist and anti-Semitic stunts and statements, including a since-deleted social media post that said he wanted to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” In recent days, West’s social media accounts were restricted and he’s lost major corporate partnerships, including with Adidas.
“I do find him different than he was back then,” Legend told Swisher about his old friend. “I didn’t see hints of this kind of harmful behavior back then but, you know, I think life happens to people, and I think the death of his mother probably had something to do with this. I don’t want to play armchair psychologist, but he’s definitely changed, and a lot of us who have known him over the years are really concerned about it.”
When Swisher asked whether he personally had tried to intervene, Legend said he hadn’t because the two are no longer in touch, but that he knows people who are trying to get through to West.
“We have not been friends for a while now, and so I’m not personally doing anything, but I do know people who are, and a lot of people are concerned about him,” he said.
Some friends and fans wonder if West’s behavior is the result of a bipolar manic episode. According to CNN, back in 2019, when West appeared on David Letterman’s Netflix show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” he opened up about his experience with the condition.
“When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything, everyone,” West explained. “This is my experience, other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you’re being recorded. You feel all these things.”
John Legend Claps Back at Kanye West Over Anti-Semitic Remarks
Regardless of the reasons for West’s actions, Legend has not shyed away from denouncing them. After New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote a scathing opinion piece on what he called the “cult of Kanye,” Legend echoed his words with a tweet.
Without specifically naming West, he tweeted on October 9, “Weird how all these ‘free, independent thinkers’ always land at the same old anti blackness and anti semitism.”
When Swisher asked on her podcast why Legend chose to speak up about West’s recent stunts, which have ranged from his much-publicized “White Lives Matter” sweatshirt to making and supporting hateful comments against Jews, Legend said he simply couldn’t stay silent.
“I think we need to be clear about how insidious and nasty anti Semitism is and has been for centuries, how it’s caused millions and millions of deaths,” he said, saying that oppression and racism are not new ideas, despite West’s claims that his remarks are evidence he’s an innovator and “free thinker.”
“It’s not some new discovery,” Legend said. “It’s not some innovation in hate. And so when people who claim to be free thinkers or innovators or creative people just end up landing back at this centuries-old meme of using the same stereotypes and tropes to malign Jews and instigate harm against Jews, this is an old but very dangerous tactic that has resulted in a lot of harm and a lot of death for people.”