YouTube’s head of music Lyor Cohen has discussed the recent controversy that saw him appear in a photo with Kanye West, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat signed by Donald Trump.
In April, West tweeted a photo of himself, former Def Jam/Warner boss Cohen and Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge. The caption read: “we got love”.
The picture followed tweets from Kanye that saw him say that he “loves” Trump and describe the US President as his “brother”. West also said the pair were both “dragon energy”.
Adding context to the photo and explaining that he didn’t know the picture would be shared on Twitter, Cohen told Pitchfork: “We were [in Calabasas] because Kanye wanted to play us some music. I was on the way to the restroom and there was Lucian and Kanye was coming out, and he said, ‘Oh wow, we’re all together. Let’s take a photo.’ I thought he was going to take a photo and send it to Lucian and myself. I had no idea that he was going to put that on social media.”
Cohen also described Kanye’s new music as “amazing”, but said: “I don’t love his politics”. He continued: “I was really impressed with the music. I think he’s doing himself a disservice by not leading with the music”.
Cohen denied knowledge that the “OK” hand gesture he is making in the photo has links to the alt-right. “Isn’t that scuba for when you’re in the water and you’re all good?”, he said.
In a separate interview, Cohen also told Rolling Stone: “First of all, I adore Kanye. He was instrumental to Def Jam Recordings and I don’t abandon people. The responsibility to the artist community is so critical – if we keep focused on the artist and the consumers, we’re going to have a very successful time. Our responsibility is like I said, to connect artists and people most likely to enjoy their music. If we can do that, the consumer wins and the artist wins.”