Kanye West‘s business portfolio has suffered another blow as the company behind the Stem Player used to release Donda 2 has terminated their relationship.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Kano, the tech company behind the Stem Player has already released new versions of the device, which are now open for any artist to upload their music.
“I asked Kanye not to take the path he’s on,” said the company’s co-founder and CEO Alex Klein. “We’ve told him that we’re unable to work together while he’s putting out racial conspiracy theories. There’s no deal in place.”
Ye made waves when he announced that, rather than distributing his 11th studio album through traditional models, Donda 2 would only be made available through the Stem Player, which he promoted as his “own platform.”
The idea was to allow fans to be able to customize tracks with the ability to control drums, vocals, bass, samples and more. But fans likely didn’t expect Donda 2 to only be available through that format — and apparently neither did Apple, which cancelled Ye’s sponsorship deal in response to the February release announcement.
Kano went on to sell 100,000 units of the Donda 2 pre-loaded Stem Player, which sold for $200. To date, Klein reports the device has been used to remix over a billion plays of songs, 90% of which has nothing to do with Ye.
While Ye’s recent anti-Semitic comments were the ultimate factor that led Kano to part ways with the rapper, Klein said that there had been issues since the very start of their relationship.
“Unfortunately, Kanye didn’t want to allow other musical artists onto the platform,” he explained. “This was a disagreement that we had trouble resolving.”
Kanye West responded to Klein’s hesitation about keeping other artists from accessing the platform by offering to buy Kano, which specializes in highly customizable tech products.
Prior to sharing his company’s decision with the LA Times, Alex Klein opened up about his ongoing conversations with Kanye West on various online platforms.
He first revealed on Reddit that Ye, “tried to call me racist when I gently told him that attacking a whole race of people wasn’t good for him or Stem.” Earlier this month, Klein went into more detail during a Discord chat.
“Good engineering is about having correct information and acting upon it,” he wrote. “At the end of the day, as long as what’s flowing through Ye is hatred towards a particular ethnic group … it’s gonna be very hard for us to collaborate creatively.”
Unfortunately, Alex Klein and his company will remain linked to Kanye West in at least one area: Ye and Kano have been named as co-defendants in two copyright infringement lawsuits tied to samples featured on Donda 2.
One claim, filed on behalf of artist Marshall Jefferson, alleges that Ye’s “Flowers” includes an unauthorized sample of the 1986 house music hit “Move Your Body.” The other lawsuit was filed by Phase One Network — which oversees the Boogie Down Productions catalog — over the unlicensed use of “South Bronx” by KRS-One and DJ Scott La Rock.
The song more prominently samples The Dramatics’ 1975 song “I Was the Life of the Party,” as well as snippets of Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” Herb & the Spices’ “Cannibal Cutie” and a viral video of DMX comforting his daughter while on an amusement park ride.
Ye’s loss of the deal with Kano is just the latest in corporate blowback from comments made via social media and in interviews on platforms including Piers Morgan Uncensored and Drink Champs. The latter was deemed so inflammatory that REVOLT chose to pull the interview from all platforms within less than 24 hours of its premiere.
With Forbes estimating $1.5 billion of Ye’s net worth coming from the adidas deal alone, the loss of these recent deals cost the Chicago rapper his status as a billionaire. He is now worth an estimated $400 million.