John Legend is clearing the air about the political rift that ended his friendship with Kanye West. It was previously reported that the longtime friends and collaborators had struggled to see eye-to-eye regarding the 2020 presidential race and West’s public support of Donald Trump. Legend now says it was more personal than that.
“What it got described as was, we stopped being friends because he supported Trump, which was a mischaracterization of what I said,” Legend says of the widespread reporting following an August appearance on The Axe Files podcast with CNN’s David Axelrod. “What I was saying was that he was very upset with me that I didn’t support him running for President, and that was the real impetus for us having a strain in our friendship.”
Legend says that, “I don’t know what will happen in the future” regarding his relationship with West, which stems all the way back to working together on West’s albums in the early 2000s. “He was very upset with me that I didn’t support him and I supported Joe Biden,” Legend says. “It’s up to him whether he can get past that.”
He also addresses West’s decision to make public private text messages that they had exchanged at the time of their disagreement in 2020.
“Everyone saw how I talked to him about it. I talked to him with love and with empathy, and tried to help him see another way of looking at things. And obviously he went the way he went with it,” Legend recalls. “The most frustrating thing about his run for the presidency for me was how much it was an operation run by the Trump campaign. I don’t know how aware he was of the fact that there was so much Trump personnel throughout his campaign, raising money for him, getting petitions signed for him, getting him on the ballot. I saw their work on his behalf as a clear scam and an operation to try to siphon Black votes away from Biden, so there was no way I was going to support it. Kanye was upset with that, and we haven’t been friends since, really.”
The 43-year-old EGOT winner — whose real name is John Stephens — does credit West with preparing him for stardom and says the rapper was one of the people to push him to take on the “Legend” stage name.
“It was a nickname that a guy named J. Ivy started calling me. I met him while we were working on The College Dropout with Kanye. He started calling me the Legend, because I reminded him of some of the artists we grew up listening to, and he heard the ancestors in my voice. That morphed into John Legend, and he and Kanye and a bunch of the other people around us were, like, ‘Man, that’s a stage name, John. You should go with that!'” he says.
Legend continues, “When they started calling me that nickname, it was more our inner circle. But then Kanye started referring to me as that when he was introducing me to people: ‘Check out this artist I’ve signed! His name is John Legend.’ I was, like, ‘F**k, how am I going to tell people to call me John Legend? I don’t even have a record deal yet! What if I’m a flop? I’m just going to bet on myself and spend all my energy trying to live up to this lofty stage name.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
The “Honey” singer — who is gearing up to release his double album, Legend, on Sept. 9 — also opens up about wife Chrissy Teigen‘s current pregnancy as the couple prepares to welcome their third child. The joyous news came two years after their tragic pregnancy loss in 2020, when the family lost their expected son Jack at 20 weeks’ gestation. Legend says he addresses the grief of the experience in his new song, “Pieces.”
“I’m someone who generally tends to write and perform songs that are optimistic. This song has some of that optimism — we’re going to get through this, we’re going to cope — but we’re not ever going to be the same as we were prior to this grief,” he says. “I certainly felt that way after we lost our baby, in 2020. You learn to live with that grief and carry it with you. It doesn’t have the same weight and pain, but you’re never the same again.”
Regarding their next child, Legend adds, “We don’t know anything about our new baby yet, so it’s hard to know how we’ll feel in the moment. I’m not anticipating filling the hole that we felt when we lost Jack. I just feel it’ll be a new person in our lives to love and to make our lives more joyful. We’ll still always carry some of that grief from Jack, but we’ll just keep living and loving and finding joy in life.”
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