LOS ANGELES — Ye, the artist previously known as Kanye West, paid a settlement to a former employee who alleged that the rapper and designer had used antisemitic language in the workplace, according to documents reviewed by NBC News.
Additionally, six people who have worked with Ye or witnessed him in professional settings over the past five years told NBC News that they had heard him mention conspiracy theories about Jewish people or praise Hitler. Three of those people were former employees or collaborators and said they recalled multiple instances of Ye using antisemitic language. The other three people said they recalled a 2018 incident in which Ye went on an antisemitic tirade during an interview at TMZ’s offices.
Their accounts, as well as the settlement, suggest that Ye has used such language for years in more instances than previously known to the public, well before his recent antisemitic comments in interviews and online came to light, resulting in him losing a wave of business deals.
Ryder Ripps, a conceptual artist who worked with Ye on and off from 2014 to 2018, said he recalled multiple times when Ye spoke positively about Hitler and the Nazis or mentioned anti-Jewish conspiracies during meetings in the summer and fall of 2018. Ripps, who is Jewish, said he pushed back on Ye’s comments at the time but thought they “didn’t seem that dangerous.” After Ye’s most recent wave of statements, though, Ripps said he sees things differently. “This is dangerous, and disgusting, and actually violent,” he said.
“With this pattern that’s happening and with the doubling and tripling down of all this, it’s pretty obvious that this is some kind of disgusting, hate-filled, strange Nazi obsession,” Ripps said.
In the settlement reviewed by NBC News, Ye paid a former employee who alleged witnessing more than one incident in which Ye praised Hitler or Nazis in business meetings. Ye denied the claims made by the former employee in the agreement.
The former employee spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed a nondisclosure agreement. NBC News is withholding certain details about the settlement to protect the person’s anonymity but reviewed the settlement along with other correspondence and proof of the payment the former employee said they had received.
Representatives for Ye did not respond to requests for comment.
Last Thursday, CNN reported that a business executive who worked for Ye had accused him of creating a hostile work environment through an “obsession” with Hitler and had received a settlement. NBC News has not confirmed that settlement, which appears to be separate from the case of the former employee who shared settlement documents with NBC News.
Ye has recently made a string of remarks referring to antisemitic conspiracy theories and targeting Jewish people, including on social media and in interviews with Chris Cuomo, Fox News and the Drink Champs podcast. These comments have included repeated attacks on “Jewish media” — invoking the antisemitic claim that Jewish people disproportionately control the media — and Jewish people in general. In an interview with Piers Morgan, Ye apologized “for the pain that I’ve caused and the confusion that I cause.” Days later, however, Ye doubled down on his previous antisemitic remarks in an interview with MIT research scientist Lex Fridman. On Friday, Ye continued to echo antisemitic conspiracy theories in a conversation with paparazzi, pulling up a spreadsheet that he said highlighted Jewish media executives in red.
In the past, the media and other onlookers have struggled with what to make of some of Ye’s statements, such as when he repeatedly made public attacks against his estranged wife Kim Kardashian and her then-boyfriend Pete Davidson in February. Ye has spoken openly about having bipolar disorder in the past, following a 2016 hospitalization.
At points, though, Ye has disavowed the diagnosis. In his 2018 White House meeting with then-President Donald Trump, Ye called his bipolar diagnosis a “misdiagnosis,” saying another doctor had said his mental health issues stemmed from sleep deprivation. In his recent interview with Fridman, Ye said that the doctor who diagnosed him was Jewish and suggested that the diagnosis was “a control mechanism.”
Ye’s recent remarks have caused a cascade of consequences for the artist.
On Oct. 20, Balenciaga severed ties with Ye, who had opened the fashion house’s runway show in September. On Oct. 25, Adidas ended its partnership with Ye and his brand Yeezy, joining Gap, Foot Locker and other brands that have cut off business relationships with him.
Three of the six former colleagues of Ye’s who spoke to NBC News said they recalled him using language glorifying Hitler or targeting Jews multiple times as early as seven years before his most recent wave of public antisemitism.
Ripps said that Ye repeatedly echoed conspiracy theories and glorified Hitler and Nazis.
“He had told me a bunch of s— about like, how, ‘Nazis are good at propaganda,'” Ripps said, remembering multiple instances in which he said Ye claimed “‘Jews have codes.'” Ripps recalled a 2018 interaction in which he said Ye asked, “‘You’re not offended that like I’m interested in Nazis or something,'” in reference to an aggrieved Jewish employee. “He said stuff like ‘Jews have the codes’ a lot.”
Ripps said he pushed back on Ye’s statements in the moment, telling him, “You’re wrong,” but Ye didn’t respond.
“There is a line and I think like he’s crossed,” Ripps said. “I genuinely think that he’s crossed it with his current actions and beyond just like this is offensive, like these words are offensive. Because I’ve seen an uptick of people like personally attacking me … like calling me a Jew on Instagram and Twitter.”
Ripps said he believes antisemitic people have become emboldened following Ye’s public statements about Jewish people. In recent weeks, messages expressing support for Ye’s antisemitic statements have appeared over a Los Angeles freeway and at a college football game.
One of Ye’s former employees, who worked with him for three years, told NBC News that they also witnessed Ye praise Hitler and Nazis during casual discussion, saying they remembered him bringing up Hitler multiple times.
“I feel like he was just kind of like looking around, like seeing like, how are people reacting?” the ex-employee said. “He would say ‘I even love Hitler’ and then he would like pause for reactions.”
The former employee spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed multiple nondisclosure agreements while working with Ye. The former employee said they lost count of how many nondisclosure agreements they personally signed during their tenure at the company. Three other employees also noted that Ye asked them to sign more than one NDA.
The former employee said that Ye praised Hitler in 2018 during a meeting about an apparel project. Ye said that Hitler “had some good qualities” and that “he wasn’t all bad,” the employee said.
“He would kind of present things as like questions to ask people their opinion on something but then he would go really hard and aggressive on, like, what he thought about it and on really just topics that would upset people, like there were people always visibly upset,” the former employee said.
Another one of the six people who spoke to NBC News recalled multiple instances dating back to 2019 of Ye referring to anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, blaming Jews for certain events and comparing himself to Hitler.
In a 2021 episode of the Drink Champs podcast, Ye also appeared to position himself as akin to Hitler, describing a longstanding feud with Drake and saying, “When people went to go get Hitler, they didn’t go straight for Hitler, they set up fake tanks.” Ye appeared to be comparing Drake to the “Ghost Army” of the Allied Forces in World War II, which used inflatable tanks to fool Hitler.
On Oct. 11, Van Lathan, a former TMZ podcast host and producer, recounted another instance of antisemitic language from Ye.
On an episode of the Higher Learning podcast, Lathan said that during a 2018 TMZ Live interview, Ye said that he loved Hitler and Nazis. Lathan pointed out that those comments were not published online. According to Lathan, the statement provoked a confrontation between a TMZ producer and Ye, which was eventually cut from the published segment.
Representatives for TMZ did not respond to a request for comment.
Three former TMZ employees said they remembered Ye’s statements about Nazis and Hitler and the confrontation that followed. The former employees asked to remain anonymous, citing nondisclosure agreements, unrelated to this specific incident, they say they signed with TMZ.
Two of the former TMZ employees said that a Jewish producer stood up to confront Ye about his remarks about Nazis and Hitler.
One of those former employees said that the only response from Ye they remembered was that he smiled.
After the interview, “Harvey got on the loudspeaker and was like ‘nobody do anything, everybody just sit there, nobody do anything with any work,'” one of the three former employees who worked as a production assistant said, referring to TMZ founder Harvey Levin. Later, the former employee said, he was instructed “don’t post the Jewish stuff” by a co-worker who cited a directive from Levin.
Another one of the three former employees said, “Harvey came back into the edit bay and said, cut out anything related to Jews, to that type of antisemitism.”
“I wish I kept the footage.”