Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency, Kanye West, the successful and controversial hip-hop artist and fashion mogul, tried to start a conversation about political pluralism. On stage during a show in San Jose, California, he admitted something he knew would alarm a lot of his audience: While he hadn't actually voted, if he had, it would have been for Trump.
"That don't mean that I don't think that black lives matter," he clarified. "That don't mean I don't think that I'm a believer in women's rights. That don't mean I don't believe in gay marriage." Still, West told his San Jose crowd, it was time to "stop focusing on racism.…We are in a racist country, period…and not one or the other candidate was gonna instantly be able to change that because of their views."
Most of his friends and family were for Clinton, he conceded. And he knew none of his political ruminations were apt to please his fans. "I guess we're just not gonna sell out the rest of the tour now," he said, presciently. New York magazine chided him afterward for turning himself into "basically the uncle you really wish you could avoid at Thanksgiving dinner," and R&B singer John Legend told a French magazine that "for Kanye to support [Trump's] message is very disappointing."
A week after the San Jose show, West canceled 21 remaining tour dates, was hospitalized for "stress and exhaustion," and disappeared from public life and productivity for a year. He later attributed his troubles that week to trying to wean himself from an opioid dependency; he has since publicly identified himself as diagnosed bipolar, and he often talks about when he is or isn't on his meds.
He became active again in 2018, releasing a string of albums that he either performed on or produced in early summer. This time, it looked like his politics might not hinder his creative ventures. His solo record Ye quickly hit No. 1. A week later, a collaboration with Kid Cudi called Kids See Ghosts debuted at No. 2, while Ye held on to No. 5.