Kanye West is joining the growing number of celebrities weighing in on the R. Kelly controversy.
While hosting one of his new Sunday Service events, West referenced Kelly while arguing that art should be separated from the artist. He also mentioned the upcoming Michael Jackson documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” which is set to air on HBO this spring.
“They just gonna pull up full documentaries on him,” West said, according to Complex and a live-streamed video recorded by TMZ. “Then they gonna come with the Michael [Jackson] documentary. … We can all enjoy all their music all we want. I thought I wasn’t going to go there today. If we’re gonna tear down artists, let’s go ahead and take [Leonardo] da Vinci out the Lourve while we’re at it. Let’s take down all the art.”
West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, was quick to defend her husband amid growing social media backlash.
“I’m going to nip this in the bud right now,” she tweeted. “Kanye was speaking about his own experience of everyone quick to say they are cancelling him because of differences in opinion & not being perfect. The analogies were in context to his own experiences, not defending anyone else.”
She continued: “I want to make it very clear, he is not condoning anyone’s actions or unacceptable disgusting behavior. My husband’s words are being taken out of context due to timing.”
USA TODAY has reached out to West’s representative. A representative for Kardashian West referred USA TODAY to West’s camp.
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West previously collaborated with Kelly in 2012 on his compilation album “Kanye West Presents Good Music Cruel Summer.”
His statements regarding Kelly’s music spurred backlash from social media users.
“Kanye officially cancelled in my book,” on Twitter user wrote.
“Why couldn’t Kanye just have his Sunday Service and keep his support for R. Kelly to himself? Lord this man is exhausting,” another user said.
Another argued: “So we have to remove Da Vinci from the Louvre before we can address R Kelly? A man currently abusing women. Sure thing, Kanye.”
Others defended the rapper’s comments. One user said R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were “pieces of garbage (but that) doesn’t mean we can’t listen to their music.”
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Meanwhile, some musical artists have begun pulling their own collaborations with Kelly from streaming platforms; Lady Gaga removed her song “Do What U Want,” co-written by R. Kelly, from her “ARTPOP” album.
“I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously,” Gaga, 32, wrote Wednesday in a statement on Twitter. “What I am hearing about the allegations against R Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible.
“As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and the video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life,” she continued. “The song is called ‘Do What U Want (With My Body),’ I think it’s clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time.”