Last month, Kanye West sparked fierce backlash when he uploaded a 30-minute documentary to YouTube that showed him seemingly forcing Adidas executives to watch pornography on his phone during a business meeting.
In the clip, Kanye — who legally changed his name to Ye last year — tells one of the execs that the male actor in the video has a similar-sounding voice to him, prompting them to ask: “Is this a porn movie?”
Ye matter-of-factly replies “yes,” and the executive sits back in notable shock and mutters: “Jesus Christ.” Despite his colleague’s obvious discomfort, Ye moves the phone closer to his face.
The exec then pushes Ye’s arm away, and the rapper and his apparent representative later tell the Adidas staff that Ye had shown them the porn because of the way he feels he has been treated by the brand, with Ye previously accusing Adidas of stealing his ideas.
“What you’re feeling right now is extreme discomfort, and that is exactly the point,” the rep tells the executives. “Because when someone steals this man’s ideas, his creations — it’s like you’re stealing a child. These are all children of his mind, and you’ve kidnapped them.”
Adidas had collaborated with Ye on his Yeezy brand since 2013, but shortly after the documentary aired, the company cut ties with him following his series of antisemitic rants.
And a new report from Rolling Stone has now revealed that the moment depicted in the film is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Ye’s highly sexualized and problematic behavior throughout his nine-year partnership with the company.
More than two dozen former Yeezy and Adidas staffers spoke to the publication about the “abusive office culture” in the new exposé, and it has been claimed that Ye would even share intimate photos and videos of his then-wife Kim Kardashian with employees.
According to the staff, playing pornographic videos during meetings was a regular occurrence when working with Ye, and he would also make them watch his own homemade tapes that showed him engaging in sexual activities with women.
One former collaborator recalled being shown “hardcore pornography” during a business meeting with Ye and told Rolling Stone: “At the time I found it odd but in line with his persona as an edgy artist.”
“Now, seeing it within a larger pattern, I feel it was a tactic to break a person down and establish their unwavering allegiance to him, testing and destroying people’s boundaries,” they added.
“He would be in a meeting and he’d be talking to you, and he’d rattle off in his laptop [to play a porn video],” another senior employee claimed. “And he’s like, ‘I know it’s uncomfortable, but I kind of need this in the background to keep me focused.’ And you’d be like, ‘Uhhhhh, oh-kay.’”
And a young creative who met with Ye for a job interview in 2018 told Rolling Stone that upon entering the room he found Ye dancing around to his own music. When the interview began, Ye allegedly pulled out his phone and showed the candidate an intimate photo of Kim and said: “My wife just sent me this.”
“It was very revealing and personal,” they said of the photo. “I didn’t really react.”
At least one other time in 2018, Ye is accused of showing an “explicit video” of Kim to members of the Yeezy creative team.
When asked about the incidents involving Kim, another former staffer told Rolling Stone: “He’s not afraid to show explicit images or talk about situations that should be kept private.”
The following year, in 2019, an ex Yeezy employee recalled being shown a text from Ye that read: “We really need this show to be done because all I think about is Kim’s ass and this shoe” after one of the new models of Yeezy footwear hadn’t been made.
BuzzFeed News has contacted Kim’s representative for comment on these claims.
In October 2019, Ye admitted to having a “full-on pornography addiction” that started after he saw a copy of Playboy at the age of 5.
“Some people drown themselves in drugs, and I drown myself in my addiction — sex,” he said during an interview with Zane Lowe.
At the time, Ye said that he wanted to “kick the habit” because “it’s not OK,” and he became a born-again Christian, launching his Sunday Service choir shortly afterward.
But while Ye apparently considered himself to have been “saved” from his porn addiction during this period, Adidas employees still recalled things being “really uncomfortable” while working with him.
They revealed that he convinced Adidas to move the Yeezy Calabasas showroom to his Wyoming ranch, which forced around 90 employees to either commute from Los Angeles or uproot their lives entirely.
Ye is also reported to have regularly chastised one of his Wyoming employees over her appearance.
A staffer told Rolling Stone: “He’s just obsessed with power, and he has all the power and money to make somebody cut their hair, to make somebody lose their weight. To the same person, he can go say things like, ‘You fat slut,’ and then this person will still have to be forced to stay because that’s how they make money. They have a lease to pay.”
Adidas was previously criticized for not dropping Ye sooner amid a string of concerning behavior this year, which included him attacking company executives on social media and featuring “White Lives Matter” T-shirts in his YZY SZN 9 runway show at Paris Fashion Week.
Many other companies — including Gap, Balenciaga, and Def Jam — cut ties with the rapper after he went on a series of antisemitic rants, and Ye even bragged in a now-removed episode of Drink Champs: “I can literally say antisemitic things and Adidas can't drop me... Now what?”
Many people, including Friends star David Schwimmer, publicly called Adidas out at the time, and #BoycottAdidas started to trend online while Adidas employees spoke out against their company.
“After a thorough review, the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies,” Adidas said in a statement on Oct. 25. “Adidas will stop the Adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.”