When Ye first threatened to “beat Pete Davidson’s a–” in song, one could be forgiven for laughing it off as yet another antic from the famously provocative artist. After all, Ye — formerly known as Kanye West — has courted public controversy his entire life, from his long-running feud with Taylor Swift to his on-and-off support for former president Donald Trump.
As we now know, the diss on January’s “Eazy” release was in fact the beginning of the rapper’s aggressive social media campaign against his ex-wife Kim Kardashian — one that has prompted outcry over harassment and themes of violence.
On March 18, Ye was barred from performing at the Grammy Awards in April days after firing off racial slurs against “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah on Instagram. Noah drew Ye’s ire by using his late-night talk show to shine a spotlight on the rapper’s treatment of Kardashian and her boyfriend, the “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson.
In recent weeks, Ye has issued expletive-laden social media tirades against Davidson, branding him “Skete” Davidson and blaming him for coming between him and his family. Ye shares four children with Kardashian, who filed for divorce in early 2021. He has professed a desire to reunite with Kardashian despite her ongoing relationship.
One all-caps caption urged followers to “hold your spouse close … because there’s a Skete lurking in every dirty a– alley waiting to help destroy your family.” Other now-deleted posts accused Kardashian of alienating Ye from his children, Davidson of being a drug addict and the media of “gaslighting” in their coverage of the situation. In all, the rapper published upwards of sixty posts on Instagram before the service suspended his account for directing racial epithets toward Noah.
Noah’s “Daily Show” segment sought to dispel popular views of the feud as typical tabloid fodder, instead casting it as a high-profile example of harassment women face from their ex-partners.
“You may not feel sorry for Kim because she’s rich and famous … because she tells women they’re lazy,” Noah said. “But what she’s going through is terrifying to watch, and it shines a spotlight on what so many women go through when they choose to leave.”
True enough, Kardashian has expressed “emotional distress” over Ye’s attacks in a recent court filing that asked the judge to expedite the divorce process. In one alleged text exchange leaked by Ye, Kardashian warned her ex-husband against "creating a dangerous and scary environment" that could incite violence against Davidson.
Some of Ye’s online content has indeed employed violent imagery. Earlier in March, the “Donda” rapper dropped a claymation music video for the song “Eazy” that appeared to portray him kidnapping, burying and beheading a figure of Davidson.
A follow-up video shows a skinned monkey pummeling an animated figure labeled “SKETE,” just as Ye proclaims, “God saved me from that crash / Just so I can beat Pete Davidson's a—.” The visuals sparked heavy criticism across the board, with even some fans deeming them “too much.”
Ye’s devoted fanbase has wrestled with how to view his behavior. Many in the “WestSubEver” Reddit community embrace the “Skete” moniker and reveled in their idol’s repost of a “Captain America: Civil War” meme that pit Ye against Davidson, Kardashian, Swift and other supposed nemeses.
Sycophantic comments under Ye’s Instagram posts routinely garner thousands of likes. The artist has also been open about his struggle with bipolar disorder, which demands a degree of nuance in the discussion.
Other fans, realizing the potential to reach him online after the viral meme, have penned open letters imploring Ye to respect his baby mother’s boundaries and focus on being a responsible co-parent.
Ye has previously apologized to Kardashian and acknowledged that his public attacks against her and Davidson “come off as harassment” before renewing them shortly after.
Throughout the controversy, Ye has maintained that his social media presence is a tool to bypass a biased media and prevent his ex-wife from exerting “one-sided control” over their children. He also argues that the dispute touches on a broader culture of fathers, particularly Black fathers, being forced to fight just to be a part of their children’s lives.
While Ye may earnestly feel that media, friends and family are all conspiring against him, the inarguable cultural problem coloring the situation is women’s frequent struggle to safely manage their relationships. Experts on women’s issues have noted that Ye’s efforts to browbeat Kardashian risk desensitizing people to said unhealthy behavior. Among them is Taylor Nichols, a staff member at the University’s Women’s Center who coordinates the organization’s Gender Violence and Social Change program.
“I feel like people viewing what they saw from Kim and Kanye didn't really take it as seriously,” Nichols said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “Even though Kim has access to a lot of resources and security, she's still being publicly harassed and if you're a survivor or victim of domestic violence, you might not have access to that.”
Nichols expressed fear that unsympathetic attitudes toward Kardashian on social media — often accusing her of enjoying the attention — could weaken ordinary women’s confidence in coming forward about experiencing abuse.
“If someone doesn't have access to those resources, you probably will not come forward,” Nichols said. “Like if people aren't showing support for Kim, why would they show support for me — who's not famous?”
Advocacy groups underscore that verbal abuse through technological or other means can inflict deep emotional wounds, isolating victims from their loved ones and causing them to feel blame for their situation.
Ye has deleted all of his Instagram posts following a brief suspension from the app for violating its policies on “hate speech, bullying and harassment.” In what is surely a relief for the Kardashian family, Ye has refrained from further use of social media.
In his monologue, Noah takes care not to paint the artist as irredeemably bad or physically violent. But as he points out, one of the world’s richest women being unable to elude an ex’s harassment doesn’t bode well for women in less powerful positions.
“If Kim can’t escape this, then what chance do normal women have?” the talk show host concluded.