Signs were already trending “not great” in regards to Kanye West’s latest Donda listening party in Chicago tonight, with reports circulating that the musician—who’s been promoting his new album in typically Kanyesian fashion of late, through a series of elaborate live shows and apparently deliberate delays—would be skipping vaccination requirements or COVID tests for the jam-packed event at Soldier Field. West managed to limbo under even those low expectations tonight, though, when he decided to bring two of his many musical friends out in front of the crowd to celebrate the occasion: Rapper DaBaby, and musician Brian “Marilyn Manson” Warner, in a gesture that is very hard not to read as the latest raised middle finger in a career that has featured them in abundance.
For his part, DaBaby has been facing controversy for the last few months, after homophobic comments made at a concert caused him to lose a set at Lollapalooza in Chicago. (Other festivals later followed suit.) DaBaby not only appeared at the show, actually, but apparently featured; Pitchfork reports that his new verse on the album appears to have replaced one from Jay-Z that was heard at earlier shows. (The politics of that particular movement being both labyrinthine and petty in a way we don’t feel qualified to fully explore.)
It’s Warner’s presence, though, that is the clear and obvious “Fuck you” here. Warner has, of course, been the subject of a series of allegations of sexual assault and domestic abuse since February 2021, when Evan Rachel Wood named him as her long-time abuser. (Several more women, including actress Esmé Bianco, have since come forward with similar allegations against the musician.) He’s since lost contracts, TV gigs, representation, and more, even as more allegations have come to light. Per Pitchfork, both men joined West out on the field tonight, hanging out outside a replica of the musician’s childhood home, awkwardly milling about, and presumably serving as a statement of some kind of intent from West, who does not appear to care that Warner is facing sexual assault allegations and lawsuits from multiple women related to incidents stretching across decades of his career.