John opened up about the messy breakup of their friendship after Ye called him a “salesman.”
John Legend and Kanye West’s friendship dates back decades, with the pair first meeting by chance in New York City.
After completing four years at the University of Pennsylvania, John – then going by his real name, John Stephens – moved to the city, and his roommate was Kanye’s cousin, DeVon Harris.
DeVon introduced John to Ye, and the rest was history. Ye was instrumental in the early days of John’s career and even helped give him his stage name.
Meanwhile, John performed at Ye’s wedding to Kim Kardashian in 2014, and the two have been as close outside of the recording studio as they are inside.
Explaining how his nickname “John Legend” came about, John previously told Jimmy Fallon that a friend he met through Ye, J. Ivy, started calling him “The Legend” while making music together.
The name eventually became a private nickname in the circle of friends, but one day Ye released a mixtape where he called John “John Legend.”
“It just started spreading to more people listening to our music,” John said. “And then, at some point, I had to decide, Will I stay with John Stephens, which was fine with me. I wasn’t looking for a stage name. Or am I going to choose that bolder name and call myself a legend before I even have a record deal?”
Ye was equally influential when John’s record deal finally saw the light of day, with the rapper acting as producer on his debut album, Get liftedin 2004. The record ended up winning a Grammy for Best R&B Album, and John also won a Grammy for Best New Artist that year.
In addition to producing John’s albums, Ye also acted as John’s manager for a time, and the two collaborated on several tracks throughout their careers.
However, in 2018, their longtime friendship became strained when Ye began publicly supporting controversial then-President Donald Trump.
In fact, John was so concerned that he reached out to Ye privately to urge him to reconsider his support for Trump in posts Ye captured and shared on social media at the time.
“Hey it’s JL. Hope you reconsider your alignment with Trump,” John’s first text read. know, what you say really means something to your fans, they are loyal to you and respect your opinion.
“So many people who love you feel so betrayed right now because they know the harm Trump’s policies cause, especially to people of color,” he continued. “Don’t let this be part of your legacy. You are the greatest artist of our generation.”
In the screenshot, Ye replied, “I love you John and appreciate your thoughts. You bringing up my heritage is a fear-based tactic used to manipulate my free-thinking.”
After sharing the posts, Ye tweeted, “I tweeted John’s text to show that there are people around me who disagree with me and express their opinion. I respect the opinion everyone but I’m holding on.” He later added, “If you’re feeling something, don’t let peer pressure manipulate you.”
He also shared John’s response, which read, “Think freely. Think with empathy and context too. Your words and actions have consequences. Lots of love.”
“I really appreciate this dialogue with John Legend because I’m actually very empathetic,” Ye told his followers at the time. “I’m still the telethon kid. I feel like when people think of MAGA, they don’t think of empathy.”
The following year, John played down his relationship with Ye, admitting that he found the rapper’s support of Trump particularly “difficult” because Ye had no political background.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, John said of their differing political stances: “I’m not trying to disown Kanye because I still love him and I love everything we’ve done creatively together, but we were never the closest of friends.”
“I think what’s always been difficult is that Kanye was never political,” he added. “He just kind of embraced the spirit of Trump and the energy of himself being countercultural by supporting him.”
And the year after, in 2020, Ye announced he was running for president – which John refused to support.
In November 2021, Ye called out John for turning his back on him, calling him “sold out” as he confirmed they were no longer friends and demanded an apology.
Speaking on the Drink champions podcast, Ye said, “John Legend and Big Sean when I ran for office were quickly used by the Democrats to come to their boy who actually changed their lives, and that’s crap for sale. . And I don’t rock with any of them. And I need my apologies.
And now John has confirmed that Ye’s presidential run combined with his support for Trump has become “too much” for their friendship to survive.
“We’re not as friends as we used to be because I honestly think because we publicly disagreed about his candidacy, his support for Trump, I think it’s become too much for us to maintain our friendship,” he said. John on Ax files podcast Thursday.
“He was upset that I did not support his candidacy for President of the United States of America for understandable reasons,” John said. “I wasn’t the only one. But, you know, he wasn’t happy about that. And we really haven’t been close since then.
Despite their rocky relationship, John continued to praise how “open” Ye was and insisted that the public get to know the “real Kanye.”
“I think he’s been very open with who he is and his mental health issues. And he’s very real, honestly. So I think there’s not much about him that people don’t understand. not,” he said.
“He’s been pretty outspoken with his opinions, his struggles, all the things he’s been up against. And I think what you see with him is pretty much what you get. I don’t feel like he’s a totally separate person in private than he is in public,” John continued. “I think you pretty much see the real Kanye publicly.”
John’s appearance on the podcast came just a day after his wife, Chrissy Teigen, announced she was pregnant – two years after the stillbirth of their son, Jack.
John and Chrissy also share Luna, 6, and Miles, 4.