Kanye West has launched his campaign tour for the US presidential election in chaotic fashion at an event in Charleston, South Carolina, delivering a rambling address that touched on theology, homelessness, corporate power, and involved a long debate with an audience member about abortion. West also suggested that women should be given $1m when they have a baby.
The rapper took to the stage at the event wearing a bulletproof vest, and “2020” shaved into his head. Without a mic, he proceeded to address a rowdy audience of a few hundred people, asking for complete silence before asserting that future events “will be in rooms where the acoustics will be incredible because I will be involved with the design”.
West repeatedly referenced the terms of his deal with Adidas, his faith in God and racism in the US, including an assertion that “[abolitionist] Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people”.
Tubman is one of the most respected figures of 19th century America. An African American who escaped slavery, she helped enslaved Black men and women travel north to freedom and fought for the Union during the Civil War. She later became a supporter of women’s suffrage.
But the event hit peak emotional intensity when West began to tell a story about what he believed was divine intervention into his life in a way that caused his wife, Kim Kardashian West, to refuse to terminate a pregnancy.
“I was having the rapper’s lifestyle,” he said. “I was sitting up in Paris, and I had my leather pants on … and I had my laptop up and I got all of my creative ideas … And the screen went black and white and God said, ‘if you fuck with my vision I’m going to fuck with yours’.
“And I called my wife and she said, we’re gonna have this baby. I said we’re gonna have this child … So even if my wife were to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into the world when I didn’t want to. She stood up and she protected that child.”
West then started crying when speaking about his father, who he said had wanted his mother to have an abortion when she was pregnant with him.
“My mom saved my life. My dad wanted to abort me. My mom saved my life. There would have been no Kanye West because my dad was too busy,” he said, sobbing into his hand, before shouting: “I almost killed my daughter! I almost killed my daughter!”
Referencing the media coverage of the event, he then said: “They’re going to run this, they’re going to tell you that I’m crazy. [Well] the world’s crazy!”
He then called up to the stage a pro-choice activist who had been yelling questions to him in response to his story. He claimed he understood “why someone would make the choice of getting an abortion” and eventually clarified that his position wasn’t that abortion should be banned, but rather that maximum financial assistance should be made available to women who do have children.
“My stance is not to make abortion illegal at all. It should always be legal. But there should be an option of maximum increase available … Maximum increase would be, everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars,” he said. He did not say where this money would come from.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” he said. “Society has been set up for single moms to not have a village, to not have a child.”
West’s remarks, which were mostly yelled in order to be heard by the crowd, repeatedly circled back to his Christianity.
“We are all equal in God’s eyes,” he said. “Sometimes people are controlled by demons, sometimes people are controlled by the environment that we are in but we are all God’s people, there [are] no bad people. There are lost people, but we are all God’s people.”
Struggling to be heard, West repeatedly told audience members to be quiet at the same time as assuring them that he was “not trying to quiet their voices”. The event ended after West was substantially drowned out by the shouting crowd.
West announced his intention to run for president on 5 July but he missed the deadline to qualify for the ballot in several states, and it was unclear if he was willing or able to collect enough signatures required to qualify in others.
Last week, he qualified to appear on Oklahoma’s presidential ballot, the first state where he met the requirements before the filing deadline.
West needed to collect 10,000 signatures by noon Monday to appear on the South Carolina ballot, according to state law. The entertainer tweeted out a list of locations around the Charleston area where petitions could be signed.
The Guardian UK