Some artists shy away from controversy while others outright court it. Kanye West falls into the latter category, as recently evidenced by his choice to use a Confederate flag on his Yeezus tour merchandise.
The controversial image—which some argue is a symbol of Southern pride, while others see as a tacit endorsement of slavery—pops up on two t-shirts available at the Yeezus tour merch table. One shows a grim reaper draped in the Confederate flag, while the other shows the flag, a human skull and the words "I ain't comin' down." Similarly eye-brow raising is another t-shirt, which shows a skeleton wearing a Native American headdress.
While Kanye obviously isn't endorsing slavery—and he probably isn't a fan of "Southern Pride" as an excuse for wearing the Confederate flag—the Chicago rapper is clearly aware of how potentially offensive these shirts will be to some. Most likely, he's playing with the visceral emotional response this flag stirs in most Americans as a means of commentary.
But while Kanye wearing a Confederate flag/skull t-shirt certainly sends a pointed historical message, does the same hold true for fans that buy the shirt and wear it every week?
Sure, this makes sense through a critical and artistic lens, but these are commercially-produced t-shirts that will be worn in the real world without context. Will random people be able to tell them apart from your run-of-the-mill racist Confederate tee? Is that Kanye's point? We may have to wait until his next Twitter tirade to find out.
Either way, we know that LL Cool J is down with the Confederate flag as long as you don't judge his du-rag.