For the second time in a year, billionaire mogul Ye, aka Kanye West, sat down for an extended interview on Revolt’s popular Drink Champs show. Joined by hosts and hip-hop legends N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, Ye used the near three-and-a-half-hour conversation Oct. 16 to double down on his antisemitic views on why he, a billionaire, is being held down, as well as share factually incorrect conspiracy theories about George Floyd’s murder, the media, and the movement against police brutality.
But it’s not just Ye who’s drawing ire after the podcast; Drink Champs itself is under fire as longtime fans and new critics call them out for giving the rapper such a large platform during his disturbing downward spiral. (Ye has had his Instagram and Twitter accounts locked in recent weeks for antisemitic comments. He has responded by buying Parler, a social media platform largely used by the far-right.)
For the uninitiated, Drink Champs is a long-form interview show on Revolt, the television and YouTube giant owned by Sean “Diddy” Combs. The show is hosted by N.O.R.E., the pioneer who was the first to blur the lines between mainstream hip-hop and reggaeton in the 90s and 2000s, and DJ EFN, one of the hip-hop industry’s most innovative disc jockeys and multimedia gurus. The conceit of the show is simple: inviting the biggest names in Black entertainment, old and new, to talk over drinks and whatever other vices its guests may be into.
The program is incredibly successful, pulling in millions of viewers a month, and earning numerous accolades and awards since its creation in 2016. And there’s a good reason for it. Few other shows have consistently given hip-hop and Black culture iconic moments that fans have collectively reacted to, shared, and discussed endlessly on social media.
Where else can you hear hip-hop greats like Redman and Pharrell reflecting on their careers for hours at a time? Or writer/producer Issa Rae talking about her ascent through the predominately white industry of television production, or Murder Inc. founder Irv Gotti having the space to talk about how he’s definitely not still in love with R&B singer Ashanti.
Drink Champs’ signature laid-back, conversational format works mostly well as a forum for Black creatives to discuss their craft and the general state of the culture. Unfortunately, as many outraged Black folk expressed on social media, the show’s most recent episode shows it isn’t ready to tackle the very real responsibility of interviewing someone as affluent and unhinged as Ye in a way that aligns with public interest.
Drink Champs didn't say why it was a good idea to give the guy who’s spent the last month hocking White Lives Matter shirts, hanging out with fringe-right personality Candace Owens, tweeting threats against Jews, and pushing conspiracy theories on Tucker Carlson, a chance to tell his side of the story. But doing so and providing so little pushback or accountability appears especially reckless considering the show pulls in millions of viewers a month.
Throughout the now-unlisted interview, Ye brings up talking points that warrant a proper follow-up: He talks about revealing “Jewish business secrets,” and echoes the talking points of antisemitic conspiracies about “Zionist Jews” controlling the media. He compares Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. Ye even pushes the idea that George Floyd wasn’t killed by police, a callous, nonsensical, and incorrect attempt to discredit one of the most notorious instances of brutality against Black folks in America.
The shocking nature of Ye’s rants are only matched by N.O.R.E. and EFN’s reluctance to push back against his outlandish claims. While there are moments where the two hosts offer minor corrections and factual rebuttals to Ye’s diatribe, more often than not the duo allowed Ye to skirt accountability for his words, offering little scrutiny over his incendiary comments.
Even moments that could be interpreted as pushback fall short. For example, when NORE tries to explain the backlash to his White Lives Matter shirt, Ye’s trite justification, that “white lives matter doesn’t mean that Black lives don’t matter,” is met with a celebratory round of applause. It’s one thing to clap for Ye’s petty digs at his rivals in music and successes in the fashion world; it’s another to give him praise for half-baked explanations for his most controversial antics.
For years, the huge audience that a Kanye appearance or affiliation can provide to an outlet or business has been worth the potential scrutiny. After all, he’s managed to broker deals with GAP and Adidas years after calling slavery a choice. And as expected, the latest Ye interview did incredibly well for Drink Champs. The interview had pulled in nearly 2 million views before it was eventually made private. (It shouldn’t be much of a surprise as his November 2021 Drink Champs interview pulled in 11 million views.) Even the clip that Drink Champs posted of N.O.R.E.’s attempt to push back on Ye’s comments has done moderately well at over 331,000 views.
But when hosting a Kanye interview also means platforming of antisemitism and conspiracy theories and allowing Ye to present false information about George Floyd, the Clintons, and the Jewish community to millions of viewers as fact, many are asking that the show and Revolt practice discretion more in line with a journalistic outlet.
The Black community has wasted no time in pressing Drink Champs to do so. The interview has drawn the ire of prominent Black leaders like DeRay McKesson, attorney Lee Merritt, who says Floyd’s family have already reached out about pursuing legal action against Ye over his comments. While it's not clear whether the Floyd family will also seek legal action against Drink Champs or Revolt, the possibility is being floated.
While Revolt did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment, NORE has already expressed regret over his interview with Ye.
“I disagreed with Kanye, I felt like I should have said something a lot earlier, and I didn’t because I didn’t want him to walk out,” NORE told national pop-culture radio show The Breakfast Club, who chided the Drink Champs host for failing to hold Ye’s feet to the fire Monday. “I don’t support none of it. I don’t support the George Floyd comments, I don’t support the antisemitic comments. All I have is Jewish friends. All I have is Black friends.”
“This is not think Champs, this is Drink Champs,” NORE said later in the interview in defense of his show. “It’s not Politics Champs, this is Drink Champs. We purposely don’t bring up politics, we purposely don't bring up religion.”
That statement appears to be in conflict with the decision to bring in Ye for an interview, who has almost exclusively been in the news lately for his very fringe and politically divisive opinions. While the hosts of Drink Champs may be uncomfortable with the size and influence of their program, after six years of support from its predominantly Black audience, the show has been put on notice that its fans expect more thought into what they present on it.