Several people who were once close to the artist formerly known as Kanye West told CNN that he has long been fascinated by Adolf Hitler — and once wanted to name an album after the Nazi leader.
A business executive who worked for West, who now goes by Ye, told CNN that the artist created a hostile work environment, in part through his “obsession” with Hitler.
“He would praise Hitler by saying how incredible it was that he was able to accumulate so much power and would talk about all the great things he and the Nazi Party achieved for the German people,” the individual told CNN.
The executive left his position and reached a settlement with West and some of his companies over workplace complaints, including harassment, which CNN has reviewed. The former executive asked not to be named due to a confidentiality agreement and fear of retribution by West. According to the agreement, West denied the executive’s allegations.
The executive told CNN that West spoke openly about reading “Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s 1925 autobiographical manifesto and expressed his “admiration” for the Nazis and Hitler for their use of propaganda.
This individual stated that people in West’s inner circle were “fully aware” of his interest in Hitler. Four sources told CNN that West had originally suggested the title “Hitler” for his 2018 album that eventually released as “Ye.” They did not want to be named, citing concern for professional retribution.
CNN has reached out to West for comment.
A spokesperson for Universal Music Group, which owns West’s former music label Def Jam, declined to comment.
The sources CNN spoke with did not have information about why the album was ultimately called “Ye.”
Van Lathan Jr., a former TMZ employee, who confronted West during his 2018 interview at their offices in which West said slavery “sounds like a choice,” recently claimed on a podcast that West also made antisemitic comments during their conversation that the outlet did not release publicly. That’s why Lathan said his current comments didn’t surprise him.
“I already heard him say that stuff before at TMZ,” Lathan said during an episode of the “Higher Learning” podcast earlier this month. “I mean, I was taken aback because that type of antisemitic talk is disgusting. It’s like, I’m taken aback any time anyone does that, right? But as far as [West], I knew that that was in him because when he came to TMZ, he said that stuff and they took it out of the interview. … He said something like, ‘I love Hitler, I love Nazis.’ Something to that effect when he was there. And they took it out of the interview for whatever reason. It wasn’t my decision.”
One of the sources who spoke to CNN and was at the TMZ interview said West had favorably referenced Hitler.
CNN has reached out to TMZ for comment.
The revelation of West’s alleged history of admiring Hitler comes amid a wave of inflammatory actions by West that began earlier this month. He wore a “White Lives Matter” shirt during his Yeezy fashion show in Paris on Oct. 3 and dressed several Black models in clothing with the phrase, deemed a hate slogan by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). He then posted a private text conversation on Instagram between himself and Sean “Diddy” Combs in which he claimed Combs was “controlled by Jewish people.” He followed that with a tweet in which he said he would go “death con 3 on Jewish people,” resulting in Twitter locking his account.
West’s offensive rhetoric in the last few weeks has resulted in a professional fallout for the rapper and designer. Tuesday, Adidas ended its seven-year partnership with West, calling his recent actions “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous.”
In a statement, the sportswear maker said it “does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech” and said that West’s recent comments violated the company’s “values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”
Balenciaga also cut ties with West, as has talent agency CAA. Production company MRC stated they were shelving a documentary on West, and GAP announced the company would remove Yeezy Gap merchandise from its stores and shut down the YeezyGap.com website.
In an Instagram post on Thursday captioned “LOVE SPEECH,” West appeared to reference the severed business relationships, writing, in part, “I LOST 2 BILLION DOLLARS IN ONE DAY AND I’M STILL ALIVE.”
West was referenced in banners raised by antisemitic demonstrators in Los Angeles last weekend. His comments have been condemned by the American Jewish Committee and the ADL, as well as numerous political leaders and celebrities, including his former wife, Kim Kardashian.
CNN’s Megan Thomas contributed to this story.