WARNING: This story contains graphic language.
West began by defending his support of Donald Trump and his posting of a photo of himself on social media wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
West then transitioned to the discussion of race, stating, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years and there’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.”
He continued: “I like the word ‘imprisoned’ because slavery goes too directly to the idea of blacks … so prison is something that unites us as one race. Blacks and whites being one race. That we’re the human race.”
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This caused Van Lathan, a TMZ employee, to speak up and voice his disapproval for West’s “absence of thought.”
“Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re entitled to believe whatever you want but there is fact and real world, real life consequence behind everything that you just said. While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives,” Lathan said to West.
Lathan continued: “We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice. Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled, and brother.”
“I’m unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something to me is not real,” Lathan concluded.
West responded by approaching Lathan and saying, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Many people were shocked by West’s remarks on TMZ Live.
Director Spike Lee took to Instagram to call out West, writing, “OUR Ancestors Did Not Choose To Be Stolen From Mother Africa. OUR Ancestors Did Not Choose To Be Ripped Of Our Religion, Language, Culture. OUR Ancestors Did Not Choose To Be Murdered, Lynched, Castrated, Raped, Burnt At The Stake, Families Sold Apart.”
Lee’s post continued: “OUR Ancestors Built This Country (On Land Stolen From The Native Americans) From The Ground Up Under The Institution Of SLAVERY. Where Is This Brother In The Picture Next To Me??? I Would Not Be Surprised If OUR Ancestors Are Not Pleased With Your Uneducated Comments. P.S. Your Retraction Does Not Undue The Harm You Cause To Our Beloved ANCESTORS. WAKE UP.”
Will.i.am took to Twitter to write, “@KanyeWest #slavery vs #prisons Reality: its not & never was by choice. This wickedness was done by force & strategic conditioning. & education deprivation is at the root. The fact that the USA builds prisons & not schools, is not our choice.”
Tatyana Ali, who played Ashley Banks on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, wrote “Remember when we got a list of books to read over the summer? Could we all please send @KanyeWest a list? One suggestion: Slavery and Social Death by Orlando Patterson. Reading is fundamental. #KanyeInterview #SlaveryWasAChoice.”
Musician Talib Kweli, wrote: “I will always have love for @kanyewest but bro out here putting targets on our backs. Slavery was not a choice.”
Musician John Legend, who got into an exchange with West over his support for Trump last week, retweeted many people criticizing the rapper.
One of the tweets Legend included was from civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, who wrote, “Kanye’s rhetoric continues to fuel the racist right-wing folks who believe that black people are responsible for their oppression.”
After receiving a great deal of backlash, West then turned to Twitter to clarify his comments about slavery.
“To make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” he wrote.
West sent a follow-up tweet, saying, “My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.”
“They cut out out tongues so we couldn’t communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut,” West wrote.
West also explained that he mentioned “400 years” of slavery, since slavery lasted 246 years.
“The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought. It was just an idea.”
West hinted at the interview on Twitter earlier in the day, which teased that conservative commentator Candace Owens would be joining himself and Levin.
During his time at TMZ, West also revealed that his 2016 hospitalization —which was widely attributed to mental heath issues induced by exhaustion — was also due to struggling with an opioid addiction.
West went on to say that he was prescribed two pills a day and continued taking them through the Saint Pablo Tour. He said he decided to quit the drugs after one of his team members expressed concern.
Watch Kanye West on TMZ Live in the video above.