John Legend and Kanye West go way back, when they met decades earlier in New York City while both starting out in the music business.
In recent years, however, their long friendship has become strained, and Legend opens up about what really took place between the two during an extensive interview with The New Yorker.
While Legend has confirmed that West’s support of Donald Trump came between them (he’s a lifelong Democrat who performed at Joe Biden’s inauguration), he explained that it’s more complicated than that.
“Yeah, what it got described as was, we stopped being friends because he supported Trump, which was a mischaracterization of what I said,” Legend said.
“That was kind of the Rupert Murdoch version of the story — it was all over the New York Post and Fox News. What I was saying was that he was very upset with me that I didn’t support him running for president, and that was the real impetus for us having a strain in our friendship. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but he was very upset with me that I didn’t support him and I supported Joe Biden. It’s up to him whether he can get past that,” Legend continued.
“I don’t feel like politics should be everything in your relationships, and your relationships with people shouldn’t only be determined by who they voted for. But I do believe that certain things you believe in are indicators of your character, and obviously that will affect your friendships,” he explained.
“I mean, what are friendships? If they’re not your blood relatives, in many ways they’re defined by your impression of that person’s values and whether or not there’s some level of compatibility with the way you see the world,” Legend noted. “We’re so online these days, and the fights we’ve had over the past six years on Twitter, particularly around Trump, kind of made politics everything for a lot of people. I don’t want to live a life that’s so consumed by politics that it’s the sole determinant of who can be my friend and who can’t. But values matter and character matters and moral compass matters.”
Legend also admitted he felt burned when he reached out to West privately about his support of Trump, only to see West plaster his texts on social media.
“Everyone saw how I talked to him about it. I talked to him with love and with empathy, and tried to help him see another way of looking at things. And obviously he went the way he went with it,” Legend said.
“The most frustrating thing about his run for the presidency for me was how much it was an operation run by the Trump campaign. I don’t know how aware he was of the fact that there was so much Trump personnel throughout his campaign, raising money for him, getting petitions signed for him, getting him on the ballot,” he pointed out. “I saw their work on his behalf as a clear scam and an operation to try to siphon Black votes away from Biden, so there was no way I was going to support it. Kanye was upset with that, and we haven’t been friends since, really.”