Kanye West is one of the top rappers in the game, whether the subject is album sales or influence. Ye has a penchant for keeping himself in the media in between albums. The entire world seems to be infatuated with Ye’s life and what he is doing. Ye got into a tete-a-tete with Pete Davidson who was rumored to be dating Ye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian.
The jeen-yuhs documentary on Netflix was one of the most-watched broadcasts on Netflix this year. The documentary followed Kanye’s travails from Chicago beat maker, to New York beat maker to top-selling rapper. I understand the producers of the documentary got around $30 million. It was worth every penny. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the journey. I was not aware of Kanye’s story, but I felt the range of emotions as he had to fight through the image of simply being a beat maker to financing his own project to being taken seriously as a rapper.
The billionaire rapper is now in the news for something not so glamorous – ripping off other designers:
Now, even the types of young creatives who might’ve once seen Kanye as a hero are beginning to speak out. Emerging designers who say that after they met with Kanye and his team, their work was lifted without their knowledge.
In the weeks before conservative pundit Candace Owens posed for photos alongside West in his “White Lives Matter” t-shirt — the two appearing like athletes sporting a cursed team mascot — Kanye was busy teasing the launch of YZY SHDZ. Originally planned as part of his Yeezy Gap collection, the sleek frameless sunglasses were already becoming iconic thanks Ye’s bevy of famous spokespeople. Everyone from Steve Lacy to Lil Uzi Vert and Anna Wintour have been photographed wearing the reflective, wrap-around shades. During New York Fashion Week, a handful of influencers and micro-influencers alike were reportedly invited to take selfies wearing the glasses in a Ye-designed photo booth as part of a marketing campaign.
Francisco Mateo Baca, who also goes by Franky Baca, says he believes someone from Ye’s team “borrowed” his concept for the sunglasses. Baca says he worked on his own versions of the product for around two years before he shared images of samples online late last year, not long after producer and designer Digital Nas reached out to him about working with Kanye. “He says, ‘Yo, I want to come look at all of the clothes. I’m working under Ye with music and design. He’s looking for designers, and I want to bring you in.’” Baca recalls.
Designers like Francisco Mateo Baca have described a familiar scenario – larger players offer to work with emerging designers. After the dust settles, the the larger player is making money off of smaller designers’ ideas, without attribution. Larger, more influential designers may get access to new designs from unsolicited submissions. There are a myriad of ways to steal ideas from smaller designers. The much more difficult part is for smaller designers to prove it and receive compensation for it.
These types of allegations happen throughout the art world. Ta-Nehisi Coates was recently hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit by “Shock Exchange” author Ralph W. Baker, Jr. However it remains under the radar of the corporate media. Given Kanye’s own journey to be taken seriously in the art world, he should be the first person to stand up for artist and ensuring artists get paid compensated for their labor.