Kanye West, who recently changed his name to Ye, landed in Los Angeles on Friday with actor Will Smith after a quick trip to the Middle East. The rapper and the Fresh Prince star were spotted at LAX airport, where they were greeted by fans and paparazzi. The duo reportedly visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt as part of a cultural exchange program sponsored by the US State Department.
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But what was the purpose and itinerary of their trip? How did they interact with the local people and culture? And what controversies and reactions did they spark along the way? In this article, we will give you all the details and insights about Kanye West and Will Smith’s Middle East adventure.
The trip was a rare public appearance for West, who has been laying low since his controversial fashion show in Paris, where he displayed clothing and accessories with the slogan “White Lives Matter”, which is considered a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. West also had his social media accounts restricted for violating policies after posting messages that were criticized as antisemitic. In addition, his appearance on the YouTube series “The Shop: Uninterrupted” was canceled because he used his platform to “reiterate more hate speech and very ugly stereotypes”, according to the show’s producers.
West’s personal life has also been in the spotlight, as he reportedly married his Yeezy employee Bianca Censori in a private ceremony, but without a legal marriage certificate. Censori, who is from Australia, did not join West and Smith on their trip, but is expected to meet West’s family soon. West’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian, who filed for divorce in February 2022, has not commented on West’s new relationship, but has been focusing on her law studies and her four children with West.
Smith, on the other hand, has been promoting his new memoir and film, both titled “Will”, which chronicle his life and career from his humble beginnings in Philadelphia to his global fame and success. Smith has also been vocal about his support for social causes, such as racial justice, environmental protection, and mental health awareness. Smith has been married to actress Jada Pinkett Smith since 1997, and they have two children, Jaden and Willow, who are also involved in the entertainment industry.
According to sources, West and Smith were invited by the US government to participate in a cultural diplomacy initiative that aims to foster dialogue and understanding between the US and the Middle East. The pair met with local artists, musicians, activists, and officials in Riyadh and Cairo, where they discussed topics such as creativity, innovation, social justice, and human rights. They also visited historical and cultural sites, such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Al-Ula heritage area.
West and Smith to showcase their talents and passions
The trip was also an opportunity for West and Smith to showcase their talents and passions to the Middle Eastern audience. West performed some of his songs, such as “Stronger”, “Jesus Walks”, and “Power”, at a concert in Riyadh, where he was joined by Smith, who rapped his classic hit “Summertime”. The concert was attended by thousands of fans, who cheered and danced along with the stars. West also gave a speech, where he expressed his gratitude and admiration for the Saudi culture and people, and praised the country’s efforts to modernize and diversify its economy and society.
Smith, meanwhile, hosted a screening of his film “Will” in Cairo, where he shared his personal and professional journey with the viewers. The film, which is based on his memoir of the same name, depicts Smith’s rise from a troubled teenager to a global icon, and the challenges and lessons he faced along the way. Smith also answered questions from the audience, and gave advice on how to pursue one’s dreams and overcome obstacles. Smith also visited a local school, where he interacted with the students and teachers, and donated books and laptops to the institution.
However, not everyone was impressed or pleased by West and Smith’s trip. Some critics and commentators accused the pair of being naive and insensitive, and of whitewashing the human rights violations and political repression that are prevalent in the Middle East. They also questioned the motives and agenda of the US government, which sponsored the trip, and suggested that it was a propaganda stunt to improve its image and influence in the region. Some also pointed out the hypocrisy and irony of West and Smith, who have been vocal about their support for social causes in the US, but remained silent or oblivious about the issues and struggles that affect the Middle Eastern people.
West and Smith also faced some backlash and ridicule from their fans and peers, who mocked their trip as a publicity stunt or a midlife crisis. Some also expressed their disappointment and frustration with West’s actions and comments, which they perceived as offensive, ignorant, or contradictory. Some of West’s former collaborators and friends, such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Drake, reportedly distanced themselves from him, and refused to work with him or endorse him. Some of Smith’s fans and admirers also expressed their concern and confusion about his friendship with West, and wondered if he was being influenced or manipulated by him.
West and Smith, however, seemed unfazed and unapologetic by the criticism and controversy. They defended their trip as a positive and meaningful experience, and claimed that they were trying to bridge the gap and promote peace and harmony between the US and the Middle East. They also asserted their right and freedom to express their opinions and beliefs, and to associate with whoever they want. They also hinted at a possible collaboration, and teased that they were working on a new project that would surprise and delight their fans.
West and Smith’s trip to the Middle East was a remarkable and unexpected event that captured the attention and curiosity of the world. The trip revealed a new side of the rapper and the actor, who bonded over their shared interests and experiences, and explored the rich and diverse culture and history of the region. The trip also generated a lot of controversy and criticism, as West and Smith faced accusations of being ignorant, insensitive, or hypocritical, and of being used by the US government for its own interests. The trip also raised questions and speculations about the future of West and Smith, both personally and professionally, and whether they will collaborate or clash in their upcoming projects.
As West once said, “I refuse to follow the rules that society has set up and the way that they control people with low self-esteem.” And as Smith once said, “The first step is you have to say that you can.” Both of them have shown that they are not afraid to challenge the norms and expectations, and to pursue their passions and visions. But they have also shown that they are willing to learn and grow from their mistakes and feedback, and to respect and appreciate the diversity and complexity of the world. Whether West and Smith will continue to be friends or foes, allies or rivals, mentors or students, remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: they will never stop surprising and entertaining us.