You thought Kanye West’s takes – on slavery, abortion, Jewish people; take your pick – couldn’t get any worse, but then he went and straight-up said “I like Hitler” on Alex Jones’s Infowars show. “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table,” he told the at-times visibly uncomfortable right-wing conspiracy theorist, “especially Hitler.”
Ye’s spiralling behaviour, including publicly harassing his ex-wife Kim Kardashian and fraternising with Trump, has led many fans to give up on the once critically-acclaimed rapper and producer. Still, his music inspired millions of young people, and it’s not uncommon to have a Kanye tattoo – though people understandably now feel significantly different about inking the rapper’s face on their body. London-based tattoo removal business NAAMA Studios even went viral after they offered to remove Ye tats for free, or, in their words, “Yeezy come, Yeezy go”.
VICE spoke to some of Kanye’s biggest tattooed fans and biggest ex-fans to see how they feel now about having the rapper permanently etched on their skin.
I got my tattoo around a year ago, I was a Life of Pablo fan and the higher tattoo is art from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I used to watch all his interviews. I just liked that for a long time he wasn’t taking no for an answer, but now he’s definitely taken that way too far.
He was really a visionary to me, starting a church and a school even though a lot of people told him he couldn’t. But when I heard the comments he made on the Alex Jones show, I was just like, damn. There aren’t a lot of different perspectives to mass genocide. There’s really only one right side. Personally, I wouldn’t get it covered up because the album is deeper than the person. If I had a tattoo of Kanye’s face [though], I’d be tempted to get rid of it.
I got my tattoo almost six years ago in 2017. I was freshly 18 and it was my first tattoo. I was obviously a big Kanye fan but three months after I got, it he said slavery was a choice and my fucking jaw dropped. That’s when this all started.
I’ve spent the last three years looking for ways to cover it up but the only option seemed to be a black rectangle. I got it because I thought it was funny but it’s getting quite serious now – it’s not funny [anymore], I don’t enjoy it.
I don’t wear vest tops much, I wear baggy shirts. If it’s visible, I get lots of questions about it. Since 2017, it’s just been constant [from Ye], his words aren’t a one-off. There’s no fucking way I’m getting a person tattoo again – only inanimate objects. I’ve started getting it removed this week. It will take a number of sessions but it already feels like massive relief. I took advantage of these free sessions being offered by NAAMA Studios, otherwise I couldn’t afford it – I wouldn’t be able to fork out four grand to get it removed.
The first one I got was Kanye’s name tattooed on me in 2012. I have another on my leg and then a Donda piece most recently, two months ago. I don’t think anything that he’s said is going to ruin my opinion on him and his legacy, but I can understand other people’s frustrations. I think some people jump on the bandwagon without reading the full details. He normally clarifies what he really meant after a while. Things are a little bit more extreme at the minute – like, we can appreciate Hitler and Putin? In what sense? But I don’t believe that that’s what he really thinks.
I’ve been listening to Kanye all of today. I think taking his music off streaming services is ridiculous when there are a lot of people who have committed actual crimes that are still on there. I get a lot of people questioning my tattoos, but I take it with a pinch of salt. I’ve had plenty of discussions and almost arguments over it.
I have a ballerina tattoo from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – I got it in 2020 because he’s a genius, I love how he puts jazz and soul music in rap songs.
For me, it’s particularly hard to see his current behavior as a Black person. It’s hard to see that he’s friends with Marilyn Manson. He has health issues but it’s not an excuse – since the pandemic, his mental issues have kind of deteriorated. I don’t agree with his politics.
Since that Alex Jones video, I stopped listening to him. It’s the only thing I can do, unfortunately. Right now I don’t think I’ll listen to the song I have tattooed on me. In ten years I don’t know, but not right now. I like the cartoon of the art – if someone asks me, I’ll just say it was a random ballerina from Google.
I got this tattoo on [Kanye’s] 40th birthday, it was an impulsive decision and I got social media comments like “Well, that’s a waste of a perfectly good arm”. I didn’t care, all I cared about was the world knowing that this is what music I like. I thought it was no different from your Metallica wrist logo, your John Lennon “Imagine” shoulder sketch.
I’m not sure what to think now – has he taken it too far? Absolutely, his remarks lately are those of someone who hasn’t fully experienced the consequences of what it’s truly like to be completely abandoned by your previous forms of support and revenue. We as a society have always just written the whole thing off as “oh, it’s just Kanye being Kanye” and he’s definitely self-aware enough to know that he still held a couple of those cards in his hand.
I got the Graduation tattoo about a year ago. I can separate art and artist but when the artist [is spreading] this degree of hatred, it’s very difficult. The album is from 2007 – it wasn’t the same Kanye in 2007. It’s a nice visual thing, but I don’t support him as a person. I don’t follow a celebrity too much so I didn’t have much of an opinion for years, but more recently what he’s said has affected me more. I probably wouldn’t get that tattoo again or wouldn’t have it so obviously on my forearm. I’m more detached from his music now – it has an icky feeling to it now.
I was 18 years old, just graduated. I won’t deny that he was a musical genius for the 20 years that he was producing. I liked that he was outspoken about the bigotry in the design industry and music industry. Within recent years and months, it’s got a lot harder to defend him.
I don’t want to defend him. There’s no reason for him to be perpetuating the hate that he is. I wouldn’t say it’s absolute regret [for the tat] because I know what it means to me personally, but I do feel like it might leave a bad first impression on someone. If I could go back and not get it I probably would or if I could remove it completely, I probably would. Usually if people ask I say I enjoy the music and it was a while ago – but a lot of the time people think it’s a teddy bear or a care bear, so I just let them think that.