The tables have turned on Ye. His offensive and antisemitic statements have impacted business partnerships, and many former fans are side-eyeing Ye’s antics as well as refraining from listening to his music altogether. With Ye’s recent acts seemingly disrupting the culture, DJs have grown cold on his music, too.
“When I DJ a party I like to create a positive vibe. I feel like Kanye’s antics away from music have overpowered the emotional connection we have with his songs,” DJ Bern, Columbus native and founder of 2000s neo-nostalgia monthly party Orange Soda, tells Complex. “So when a partygoer hears a classic Kanye song, they think more about his controversial statements than actual music.” The DJ does not plan to continue to play his music, sensing a discomfort amongst his audience if Ye’s material is played or referenced.
“I feel like his music after The Life Of Pablo has generally been mid and not worth playing,” he continued. “However, as someone that throws a monthly 2000s party that would cater more to his earlier catalog, I still can’t play his records without it feeling awkward and bringing a negative vibe to the function.” Almost every other DJ we spoke to on the phone agreed.
“I feel like Kanye’s antics away from music have overpowered the emotional connection we have with his songs.”
Toronto musician and DJ Paul Chin first noticed a jolting change in Ye’s personality during the promotion of his 2013 LP Yeezus, where the artist declared “I Am A God.”
“I know that album is beloved by many, but for me, it marked a pretty clear thematic shift toward his music, which solely indulged the depths of his self-obsession,” Chin tells us.
The DJ also notes that there’s an international divide between Gen X and millennial fans who have grown with Ye during his 2000s early aughts and Gen Z listeners introduced to him post-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. It’s likely that listeners who first became familiar with the rapper during his 2004 debut The College Dropout are more unnerved with present-day Ye, as he once held a pro-Black political and philosophical stance. In 2005, Ye notoriously declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” in response to the Bush administration’s delayed response to Hurricane Katrina. Some of Ye’s earlier music also tackled Black Americans facing societal impact of skewed politics, like “All Falls Down” from The College Dropout and “Crack Music” from his sophomore album Late Registration.
“The Trump era definitely made things weird for the crowds I played at the time. In general, I found most rooms to be split on anything newer than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” said Chin. “I did notice on other nights I wasn’t playing, some crowds didn’t particularly seem to care. If I had to guess, those crowds skewed younger.” Now, those who are younger are likely used to Ye’s media antics, knowing him for controversies more than music.
When Ye said “slavery was a choice,”instead of condeming the brutality of 18th and 19th century slavery in the United States, media speculation connected the artist to being anti-Democrat, although fans later supported his gospel phase. By then, the damage was relatively done; amid new revelations about the TMZ incident, sources have claimed that Ye originally wanted to title his eponymous 2018 album Hitler, showing an affinity for German dictator and Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler. That news came during a week of other antisemitic statements from Ye, and the multi-hyphenate artist comparing his business losses to the 2020 death of George Floyd.
“I definitely think people, in general, moved on from those  comments and were just interested in the music. Today, I don’t think the audience cares if it’s an old or new Kanye song – his name just invokes a lot of negative emotion,” Bern says.
“I feel like his music after The Life Of Pablo has generally been mid and not worth playing.”
Atlanta-based DJ and producer Satele echoes DJ Bern’s sentiment, expressing that although he’s a fan of Ye’s previous albums The College Dropout, Late Registration, and 808s & Heartbreak, he no longer plays the artist’s music in event settings, and doesn’t plan to add it to his setlist anytime soon.
“It felt very strange to play the music in spaces I’ve DJed due to the crowd being made mostly of minorities in which Trump has targeted. With Kanye standing by such people, it seemed like a no-brainer to remove the music from sets,” Satele says, standing by the decision he made years ago. The DJ stopped playing Ye after the artist’s infamous TMZ visit in 2018, not wanting to disrupt the enjoyment of party attendees. Now, the DJ vehemently refuses to play any of Ye’s music from the past or present.
“When I DJ a party I like to create a positive vibe. I feel like Kanye’s antics away from music have overpowered the emotional connection we have with his songs. So when a partygoer hears a classic Kanye song, they think more about his controversial statements than actual music,” DJ Bern says.
Detroit-raised DJ, producer, and composer Dope Candi shares that, when establishing a music career in her teen years, she was directly inspired by Ye, but hasn’t played him in recent sets as audiences have gradually outgrown his music.
“As a producer and DJ, I admire Ye in many ways, so I separate his personal opinions from his music. With everything that’s going on with Ye, it hasn’t really changed much as far as my sets go considering that his sound doesn’t fit the narrative of what the masses are listening to at the moment,” Dope Candi says. If Ye’s music was digestible in the present climate, it’s arguable that his public and online tirades could be overlooked.
Chin says that he thinks about DJing from three different perspectives: creating music, playing music, and being in the audience—from all angles, she believes playing material from newer, and less troubling, artists than Ye is the move. Like Dope Candi, Chin agrees that a majority of partygoers have moved on from Ye before this moment.
“I consider the role of a DJ to be partly taking care of the people on the dance floor, and partly to be using their time on the decks to curate and platform great art,” Chin says. “Kanye’s been making his presence uncomfortable for Black people for years at this point, and he’s only been adding to the list of people to alienate since.”
Although Ye’s music might be “uncomfortable” for some members of marginalized communities, Satele shares that prior to the artist’s antisemitic statements, white fans would request his music at parties.
“His catalog is incomparable.”
“I’ve gotten requests from mostly white people to play some of his songs and I would infer that most people separate the art from the artist. There’s so much amazing art out there that I don’t have to ever press play on a Kanye song again,” Satele says.
For many, Ye might be too far gone in his public spiralings, but Dope Candi sees otherwise, mentioning that the “Life of the Party” artist can potentially redeem himself.
“Despite his shortcomings, you can’t deny his musicality, [but] comments made in recent interviews have had a piercing level of disrespect towards many people,” Dope Candi expresses. “I hope he makes it right and comes back on top. His catalog is incomparable and I’d love to keep it in rotation.”
Candi adds that although two of Ye’s gospel albums Jesus Is King and Sunday Service Jesus Is Born aren’t played at parties that she DJs, the artist has since become less popular in music with his 2021 album Donda.
Despite fashion’s recent move away from Ye, Candi acknowledges that “Kanye has become more relevant in fashion and politics. “His controversial views have had a compounded effect and divided his fans regarding his political views and race,” she says. “Even now if I throw in a throwback Kanye joint, my audience would say, they ‘miss the old Kanye.’”
Still, other DJs who have looked to Ye as a musical guide, have given up on their former hero. A report from Rolling Stone reveals that the artist plans to build a line of small communities named the “Yecosystem,” described as a “self-sustained enterprise that would have its own branded products and services.” To commemorate the release of Donda in August 2021, Ye unveiled the Stem Player, a handheld music device where listeners can remix audio of their choice, and listen to the artist’s exclusive future releases.
Despite Ye attempting to create a universe of his own, DJs are largely avoiding his plan, refusing to interact with Ye’s music in public settings until he makes a near-miraculous transformation.
“Kanye was someone who really helped me shape my love of production, as well as a lot of my early personal philosophy around Black artistry,” Chin explains. “He’s also someone who’s made me really conscious of fame and ego, as well as how easy it is for superficial politics to lead to the betrayal of a community.”
“It’s unfortunate that someone with so much impact on so many people’s lives, including mine, has made extremely harmful remarks,” Satele says. “I believe in redemption after wrongdoing, but accountability comes first.”