Grammy-winning rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West dropped in for a surprise 35-minute appearance before a crowd of about 500 at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival and told the audience that his understanding of “power” for black Americans doesn’t mean voting for Democrats.
“Don’t just be a demographic. Own your power,” Kanye West said, urging black Americans to reject the notion that conceding votes to one political party begets power. “Your power is not just to vote Democrat for the rest of our lives. That’s not the power, just voting on who they told us to vote on. That’s not what the power is.”
West, joined on stage by Steven Smith, lead designer of West’s shoe brand Yeezy, was echoing a message about how Democrats have failed black voters that he’s taken from the stage of Saturday Night Live to radio interviews in recent weeks during the release of his latest album, Jesus Is King.
Earlier in his remarks on Thursday, West painted a picture of the high-level fashion boardroom meetings he’s attended in where he says the discussion and thinking often revolved around shoving black consumers into a simplest “black demographic.”
“This is who you supposed to vote on. This is what you’re supposed to buy. This is your popeyes chicken sandwich you’re supposed to eat on a bit,” West said of the discussions that occur in the high level meetings. “I have seen the boardroom and it’s completely a concept of a demographic.”
West also told the audience about his plans to make his manufacturing entirely eco-friendly, moving it all to South and North America in the next two years. The Chicago crooner’s fashion company, according to Forbes, is expected to top $1.5 billion in sales in 2019.
West’s latest comments come on the heels of the release of his 9th studio album, Jesus Is King, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.