Kanye West, the entertainment mogul who urges listeners in one song to “reach for the stars, so if you fall, you land on a cloud”, said on Saturday he would challenge Donald Trump for the US presidency this year.
“We must now realise the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION,” the rapper tweeted as Americans marked Independence Day.
But his announcement has angered fans of presidential contender Joe Biden for fear that, as an independent candidate, West will take votes away from Mr Biden, a tactic that could favour Mr Trump. West has endorsed Mr Trump before and was invited to the White House where he was pictured wearing a “Make American Great Again!” hat.
West offered no further details on his supposed campaign, four months before the November election, and it is unclear if he has officially registered to run for office.
Hundreds of thousands of Twitter users reacted to the star’s announcement and “Kanye” shot to become the top-trending term on the platform, although many questioned whether the volatile rapper would go through with his plan and others said it was a publicity stunt.
CJ Pearson, president at activist youth organisation Last Hope USA, expressed pessimism about the prospects of the rapper running as independent.
“If Kanye runs in 2020 (which I’m doubtful he will), he’d only take away votes from Joe Biden. Young people are already unenthusiastic enough as is about Biden’s candidacy but he’d also chip away at Biden’s black support,” he wrote.
“Trump voters are TRUMP voters. His base remains unchanged.” The comments about the potential split vote were echoed across the platform.
West’s wife, the reality star Kim Kardashian, replied with a US flag emoji, while Tesla chief executive Elon Musk wrote: “You have my full support!” But that praise was backed up on Twitter only by some of Mr Trump’s most ardent followers.
Another section of social media believed it was a stunt organised by West before a potential album launch. He released a new song with fellow rapper Travis Scott last week.
Others considered the possibility of the rapper performing an about-turn and siding with the Democrats.
“Imagine if Biden picks Kanye for his VP,” Omar Shakry wrote. “2020 can no longer surprise me, so just putting that out there.”
West’s intentions remain unclear, but what he has done is insert himself into the centre of the presidential discourse before one of the most important elections in America’s history.