Baron Jay as Ye, with a member of his 'entourage'.
Kanye Jest. Can’tye. Mr East if you’re nasty. Put your hands together for Hollywood’s latest chaos gremlin: The Ye clone, a Kanye West doppelganger who’s been running round the East Coast, gatecrashing parties and fooling crowds. Over recent months, sightings of a mysterious person who walks, talks and parties like Ye have been tweeted, TikToked, and published on Reels. The question on everyone’s lips is “hold on, is that Kanye West?”, closely followed by “nah it isn – is it?”, leading to the most pressing question of all: “Who the hell is the guy running round Hollywood in Yeezys and a cape?”
Wonder no more, folks, because we’re about to answer with an ultralight beam of precision (sorry). The man behind the costume is Baron Jay, a Detroit-born actor residing in California. Jay has put up with endless physical comparisons to Ye “ever since [he] dropped his album Through The Wire”, although he also tells VICE that he “doesn’t listen to Kanye West albums”. Jay isn’t a stranger to sharing likeness to rappers, reminiscing on a time when he was regularly queried by strangers asking if he was P-Diddy. “I can do Diddy, but moustache got to be a certain way,” he laughs. But as Ye grew in popularity, the Diddy questions ground to a halt – people were stopping Jay in the street to ask if he was the guy behind The College Dropout instead. It was then that the aspiring actor decided to capitalise on his likeness, taking jobs at “birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, luncheons, galas, dressed as Kanye for people to take pictures”. Soon after, Jay began booking his own jobs and developing his career as an actor, free to play parts other than Kanye West. It wasn’t until the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike in the US, with actors in the guild prohibited from taking work with struck companies, that Jay had a lightbulb moment – it was time to dust off of his alter ego and take Ye to the next level. “Recently I've seen a lot of clones out there, like the Lil Baby clone. I was like, man, this looks fun… This is like being a kid. This is cops and robbers.”
Initially, his motivation was simply “to have fun and create content”, playing dress-up as the rapper, but it wasn’t long until he realised that the scope of opportunities was much wider than he first thought. “One of my friends said, go to this club, Delilah in West Hollywood,” he remembers. That night, it was playing host to a birthday party for a Laker basketballer’s birthday party – about as exclusive as an LA event can be, complete with big hitters like Akon and Kevin Durant. “I’m like, I'm not on the list! He said ‘just go’. I got out of the car and walked right in. The security guard didn't say nothing. They started flashing cameras. Even Chris Brown was confused – he thought I was Kanye West.”With that, the future of the Ye clone turned limitless. His manager began building a wardrobe for him – perhaps the most important component of his likeness, seeing as Ye wouldn’t look much like Ye without the oversized sunnies and all-black robes. Once he’s in costume, according to Jay, getting into character is light work. He doesn’t get method with it – no deranged rants or impromptu freestyle sessions. He prefers not to say very much at all, letting his entourage take care of any liaising, in true A-list fashion. Jay decided to make his adventures as Kanye a regular thing, heading to cities like Miami, LA, NY or Philadelphia to “shut down the city, shut down the mall, and shoot content”. He’s been upgraded to first class flights, crowded in by fans and their phone cameras, and received many a sexual advance from hopeful, horny women.
He now plans to work with a social psychologist to make a documentary about his encounters with artificial fame, and the preferential treatment that comes with it: “I can walk into a place and people start giving me first class service, because they think I'm Kanye West. They treat me in a different way because of the persona.”Case in point: Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. A member of Jay’s crew alerted security that Ye had arrived, and after a quick glance over his Yeezys, suited-up security and entourage, Caesar’s Palace’s staff escorted him around the luxury casino’s stores and restaurants. “Hundreds of people were following us around, and the security guard’s cussing the hell out of people: ‘Shut the fuck up, move out of the way!’” “Everyone treated us with pristine respect,” Jay says. “We were offered champagne, food… In my mind, I’m like ‘man, I feel bad about this’. I’m up close and personal with these people and they still think I’m Kanye West. It goes to show how real it looks when you have the right equipment.”It wasn’t until Jay tried to get into the Paris stop of Beyonce’s Renaissance tour that he started questioning how far his act could go. “The guards escorted us to the cops, who let us pass the barrier into the back of the stadium. We almost go through [to backstage], but this other security guard like, ‘I don’t think that’s Kanye West.’ I was feeling uncomfortable – I don't know if we can get in trouble for doing this. So I left. We made it that close to getting to the Beyonce concert for free!”As for the OG Ye himself? He’s not reached out just yet, but Jay has a sneaky suspicion that he’s aware of his escapades. “A lot of his fan pages have reached out,” Jay says. “I think Kanye West knows what's going on – it's all over the blogs. How can you not know? He's probably getting a kick out of it!”