Kanye West has officially launched his White House 2020 campaign, with an unorthodox rally in Charleston, South Carolina.
The 43-year-old rapper is running as a candidate for his self-styled “Birthday Party”.
At the event, Kanye West seemed to make policy decisions off-the-cuff and made several rants, including on abortion and on abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
Fans have questioned whether his last-minute bid for the White House is actually a promotional stunt.
The Charleston rally did little to clarify whether Kanye West’s run is genuine. But a now-deleted tweet sent from Kanye West’s account on July 18, appearing to show the song list for a new album, added to the speculation.
The event, held at a wedding and conference hall in the city, was said to be open to registered guests only – but Kanye West’s campaign website had no function for people to register or RSVP.
Kanye West appeared with “2020” shaved into the back of his head and wearing a protective security vest, and addressed the gathered crowd without a microphone.
There were no audience microphones either, leading the rapper to repeatedly tell the crowd to be silent so he could hear the questions being asked.
At one point Kanye West began crying when talking about abortion, saying that his parents almost aborted him: “There would have been no Kanye West, because my dad was too busy.”
He added: “I almost killed my daughter… even if my wife [Kim Kardashian West] were to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into the world, even when I didn’t want to.”
However, the rapper then added that he believes abortion should remain legal, but there should be financial support for struggling new mothers – suggesting that “everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars”.
“The only thing that can free us is by obeying the rules that were given to us for a promised land,” Kanye West said.
“Abortion should be legal because guess what? The law is not by God anyway, so what is legality?”
At another moment, Kanye West gave an impromptu monologue about 19th century abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
He said: “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people.”
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery, but managed to escape a Maryland plantation in 1849, at the age of 27. She then returned to the South to rescue other slaves on the network of routes and safe houses known as “underground railroad”, risking her own life to lead people to freedom.
Kanye West also became tearful when talking about his late mother, who died in 2007 from complications during cosmetic surgery.
The speech has been met with anger by some – mostly sparked by the rapper’s comments about Harriet Tubman – but also with concern over Kanye West’s welfare.
Kanye West, who announced his candidacy on 4th of July, has already missed the deadline to qualify for the ballot in several states. He needs to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot in a number of others.
Last week, he qualified to appear on Oklahoma’s presidential ballot, the first state where he met the requirements before the deadline.
In order to appear on South Carolina’s ballot, Kanye West needs to collect 10,000 signatures by noon local time on July 20.