Warning: This story contains descriptions some readers may find disturbing.
Kanye West responded on Sunday to fierce backlash against his music video that appears to show the musician kidnapping a character that looks like Pete Davidson and burying him alive from the neck down.
"Art is therapy," the musician wrote in an Instagram post. "Art is protected as freedom of speech. Art inspires and simplifies the world. Art is not a proxy for any ill or harm. Any suggestion otherwise about my art is false and mal intended."
The rapper has made his feelings toward Davidson clear in the months since the comedian began dating his ex-wife Kim Kardashian. The four-minute black and white music video is for Eazy, a song West released in January in which he rapped about wanting to "beat Pete Davidson's ass."
The video, posted last week, includes claymation imagery and also features rapper The Game. Roses appear on top of the head of the character who resembles Davidson, and an animated West clips them with scissors. We see a close-up of Davidson's face, where he seems teary-eyed and in pain.
"I hope Pete Davidson is OK and has excellent security," one Twitter user wrote, reflecting widespread "That video is disturbing as hell."
After the song Eazy first dropped, so did a flood of aberrant Instagram posts. In them, the rapper shared bizarre memes of him and Davidson alongside more hostile posts toward the SNL comedian that have raised alarm bells.
"Globally, we are witnessing the disturbing actions of Kanye West against Kim Kardashian and it is our responsibility to name this abusive behavior," Vera House, a nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence, tweeted Monday.
West has spoken publicly about his struggles with bipolar disorder, as has his former wife, who pleaded for "compassion and empathy" toward her then-spouse in July 2020 as his behavior became more erratic. Despite actions that many observers consider alarming, he still has vocal supporters. "As dark as it is, it's beautiful," one fan wrote of the Eazy video. "He's an artist expressing his grief."
So what led to the Eazy video? Here's a breakdown.
Kanye and Kim's divorce
Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kanye West in February of 2021, after more than six years of marriage. A Los Angeles judge declared Kardashian legally single on March 2, the same day Kanye released his music video for Eazy.
Pete Davidson and Kim get together
In October of 2021, Kim and Davidson were spotted together holding hands on a theme park ride. Kim had appeared on Saturday Night Live a few weeks earlier. Over the next few months, they'd be captured doing various activities together including going to see Spider-Man: No Way Home and traveling to The Bahamas.
Pete Davidson publicly called Kardashian his girlfriend for the first time last month in an interview with People magazine.
Kanye's public comments against Pete, and Eazy song release
West released the song Eazy on Jan. 15. The song included the lyrics "God saved me from the crash, just so I could beat Pete Davidson's ass," which references Kanye's 2002 car accident.
In mid-February, Kanye posted a meme of himself and Davidson photoshopped onto a poster for Captain America: Civil War. He captioned it, "The internet has still not found a decent picture of Skete." The artist has repeatedly referred to Davidson as "Skete."
Some posts were less amicable. On Feb. 13, West posted a screenshot of a text conversation between him and Davidson and wrote, "No you will never meet my children." The next day, West told his Instagram audience that if they love him, they should, upon seeing Davidson in real life, "scream at the loser at the top of your lungs and say Kimye forever." All of these posts have since been deleted.
West also posted a screenshot of a text exchange between him and Kardashian to Instagram. She wrote, "U are creating a dangerous and scary environment and someone will hurt Pete and this will all be your fault." He captioned the Instagram post, "Upon my wife's request please nobody do anything physical to Skete."
Kanye West Eazy music video
After West trims the roses from a mostly buried Pete Davidson's head, we see a truck filled with flowers that looks similar to one involved in West's gesture to Kardashian on Valentine's Day.
Parts of the visually and thematically dark music video also show West holding a decapitated head. The end of the video includes text that says "Everyone lived happily ever after, except Skete you know who." Another panel adds, "Jk, he's fine."
Davidson did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, but some of his supporters spoke out in his favor. "For the record, Pete Davidson is one of the nicest, sweetest guys I know," director James Gunn tweeted. "A truly generous, tender and funny spirit, he treats everyone around him with respect."