Life & Culture

The Trouble With Kanye review: A thorough timeline of a rapper's descent

A new BBC documentary tackles the fall of a once-great rapper


I need to figure out how to delete Kanye from my playlists. Half my time on the school run is pressing forward as one by one his seminal tracks start playing. And spare a thought for my poor son who got a beloved pair of Yeezy trainers for his Bar Mitzvah last year, only months before Kanye/Ye started tweeting vile antisemitism.

With examples including that he was going to go “Death Con 3 on Jewish people”, they haven’t been worn since.

It’s fair to say then that the Howie household is more than familiar with the tragic turn this brilliant musician and entrepreneur has taken into disseminating hatred. Yet there are still many out there who see Kanye’s fall from grace as proof of the very conspiracies he spouts. Which makes this BBC Two documentary The Trouble with Kanye an important necessary exploration of these events, and the issues raised.

I wasn’t previously familiar with Mobeen Azhar’s work, but having a non-Jew front this documentary certainly helps in maintaining an air of impartiality and avoiding accusations of bias. It is somewhat strange though that for such a presenter-led investigation we’re never formally introduced to Azhar. He just pops up, his face and jacket dominating much of the screen time thereafter, forcing us to try and get to grips with him, whilst he tries to get to grips with Kanye.

Fortunately, Azhar is intelligent, disarming, and likeable, which serves him in good stead as he makes his way across America interviewing people from Kanye’s life, in the hope of understanding how he became radicalised. From Cody, Wyoming, where Kanye’s transformation began in 2020, to present-day LA, a picture emerges of a toxic cauldron of the evangelical Christians, white supremacists, and black supremacists that he’s immersed himself into.

Combined with what most people argue is a return to his previously diagnosed bipolar state, is how you get a man with immense wealth and reach spreading unfiltered antisemitism to such a large audience. To the programme’s credit, mental health issues aren’t used in any way as an excuse though, for as poet Bassey Ikpi eloquently states, “You’re still you, but magnified.”

Contributing factors or not, the documentary recognises that ultimately what’s most important, is the impact of Kanye’s pronouncements. And it makes for distressing viewing.

With just his social media followers being double the total of 15 million Jews in the world, it’s not surprising to see the same Black Hebrew Israelites ideology that led to three deaths in a kosher supermarket in upstate New York, leading to different men being punched as their assailants quote Kanye’s name.

As Azhar points out, if you can add Kanye’s name to ugly shoes and sell them, why not the same for ugly ideas? Is that what Kanye’s now selling? A final interview with former tech collaborator Alan Klein, tells us how all this serves as part of Kanye’s plan for his political future. The song may be ended but the melody lingers on.

The Trouble With Kanye, BBC Two, ★★★★☆

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