On the latest episode of People’s Party With Talib Kweli, TMZ’s Van Lathan breaks down his infamous Kanye West breaking point, explaining just why Kanye’s “slavery” comments were a bridge too far for the self-described, onetime Kanye West “disciple.” Kweli and Lathan also discuss TMZ’s place within pop culture, the subject of gun activism, and Lathan’s podcast, Red Pill.
Kweli admits that the first time he ever heard of Van Lathan (and Candace Owens) was in 2017, when he and Kanye West were working on the music that would eventually become the GOOD Music Wyoming experiment. After Kanye made the comment that slavery “sounds like a choice” and Lathan ripped into him, Kweli felt like he spoke for “the culture.” “It was very hard for me… [I was] not just a fan… The artist that I looked at as most reflecting me was Kanye,” says Lathan. “I wasn’t a fan of Kanye West, I was almost like a disciple.” He describes defending Kanye at TMZ for eight years in the wake of his “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” comment because it resonated with him as a Louisiana resident.
Lathan describes his feelings upon learning of Kanye’s support for Donald Trump as “disenchanting” and says that when he found out Kanye was coming to the TMZ offices, he says he was “sad” that it didn’t get to be a bigger deal for him. He says that Kanye did invite him to come out to Calabasas and discuss the situation further, but that he didn’t think it was appropriate. Kweli explains that Kanye has always done “wild sh*t” on tour, but that he always apologized in a genuine way calling the contrite version of Kanye “the real Kanye.”
While Kanye’s apologies to Kweli and Lathan personally do show that he’s willing to think on and consider the implications of his actions and words on a case by case basis, the damage he has done outside of just his personal relationships is incalculable and will take a lot more than a gospel-inflected apology tour to set right. Lathan’s comments and Kweli’s response highlight the ways in which Kanye’s support of Donald Trump don’t only reflect Kanye’s personal relationship with a “controversial” figure, but also add insult to injury when dealing with the harmful policies and rhetoric Trump employs to stir up his base.
Aside from inciting bigots in “digital Blackface,” as Kweli calls it, to attack prominent public figures in social justice movements, it also undermines the work those movements do to help course correct history’s arc toward equality and justice. As Lathan says later in the interview, the proponents of the status quo don’t “break code,” but love to stir of dissent and division within their opposition — those who want to see conditions improve for everyone, not just the chosen few.
People’s Party is a weekly interview show hosted by hip-hop legend Talib Kweli. The show features big-name guests exploring hip-hop, culture, and politics. You can listen and subscribe on Apple Music, Spotify, and Uproxx Video on Youtube.