Kanye West Wanted to ‘Cage’ Donda Students: Lawsuit 

A former Yeezy and Donda Academy employee claims Kanye West wanted to install a jail at his school to “cage” students, threatened to punch him during a “temper tantrum,” and gave preferential treatment to white employees, according to a new lawsuit obtained by Rolling Stone

Trevor Phillips filed suit against the rapper, who now goes by Ye, on Tuesday in Los Angeles, joining a number of former employees who are suing the 46-year-old. The 42-page complaint gives a behind-the-scenes look at what Phillips says it’s like to work for the eccentric artist, including spontaneous firings, a late-night summons to Nobu, watching The Batman on mute, and awkwardly navigating Ye pretending to masturbate. (A rep for West did not immediately reply to a request for comment.)

From the start of his nine-month employment in November 2022, Phillips, who is Black, says it was “immediately apparent” that Ye “treated the Black staff considerably worse than white employees” and would “scream and berate Black employees, while never even as much raising his tone at the white staff.”

Coming on board weeks after Ye’s fallout with Adidas and Gap over his antisemitic remarks, Phillips claims Ye continued to “double down” and make similar statements throughout his employment. Ye also threatened to go after the LGBTQ+ community “next,” according to the suit, because “gay people are controlled by Bill Gates so that they don’t have children for population control.”

Some of Ye’s “dangerous rhetoric” was repeated in front of Donda Academy students, according to the suit, and Ye allegedly once told two children that he wanted them to “shave their heads and that he intended to put a jail at the school – and that they could be locked in cages.” 

When Phillips tried to push back against Ye’s “bigotry,” the artist “responded mercilessly, with incessant harassment, humiliation, and attempts to both mentally control, and destroy, Phillips,” the lawsuit filed by Shegerian & Associates claims. “Kanye’s ill-will towards the plaintiff ultimately culminated in a vulgar lashing in front of schoolchildren and their parents. Kanye even threatened Phillips with physical violence.” 

Phillips says he was hired in November 2022 to work for the fashion line Yeezy, around a month after the rapper paraded a “White Lives Matter” shirt down the runway at his brand’s Paris Fashion Week show. The widespread criticism from the spectacle led to Ye unleashing a stream of antisemitic rhetoric, which prompted Adidas and Gap to sever their business relationships with Yeezy. Phillips’ role on what Ye dubbed the “Vertically Integrated Crew” was to now oversee projects related to “growing cotton and other plants to use as materials” for Yeezy projects. But because of the continued fallout, Phillips’ job quickly blended into work for the rapper’s private Christian school Donda Academy and a future self-sustainable community project. 

Phillips was expected to be on call 24/7 for his all-encompassing role, according to the suit, and although he was promised pay of $100 per hour, Phillips allegedly made far less than that and some payments were delayed after the Yeezy bank accounts were frozen, the suit claims. 

One of Phillips’ first tasks was to convert one of Ye’s Calabasas properties into a new campus for Donda Academy after a landlord broke their lease with Ye over his antisemitic comments. But by January 2023, Phillips says Ye scrapped those plans and instead wanted a dilapidated church to be the new facility. Given a deadline of a matter of weeks, Ye allegedly told Phillips he expected his team to “complete the renovations without any permits” and later demoted Phillips when he expressed concern with the safety and legality of completing the renovations.           

While spending time at Donda Academy, Phillips claims that Ye began “spreading antisemitism” in school meetings, including in front of some students. Other inappropriate commentary allegedly included Ye saying he “only likes to date white women,” and telling employees that no one could be fat — otherwise they’d be fired. Ye also allegedly boasted that he used $2 million of the school’s budget to splash out on a trip to Paris.

In one strange encounter in December 2022, Phillips says Ye requested they meet at Nobu Hotel in Malibu to discuss business plans. Over the next three hours, Phillips describes feeling uncomfortable as Ye went on a rant about Hitler’s greatness, said the Holocaust was fake, and said “gay people are not true Christians.” At some point, Phillips says Ye had hotel staff come to the room and put on 2022’s The Batman, with the two men watching the movie on mute in silence. 

While lying flat on the bed, Phillips claims that Ye “began to make slow up and down motions with his hand just above his genitals as though he was masturbating” and talking about his sex life, according to the lawsuit. The rapper then FaceTimed a woman and instructed her to wear lingerie and shoes he bought for her. Phillips “immediately recognized the female’s name because only a few weeks earlier, while at the Yeezy headquarters,” the suit continues. “Kanye had flaunted nude pictures of her to many of the Yeezy staff members.”

Phillips claims his relationship with Ye had soured by May 2023 after a series of minor misunderstandings, culminating in Ye throwing a “temper tantrum” and threatening to punch him. Ye was apparently unhappy with a garden Phillips was tending to and began screaming in front of a crowd for Phillips to “get the fuck out of here,” and that he was “fucking fired,” according to the suit.

Later as Phillips pleaded his case with Ye, explaining his daughter and little brother both attended Donda and that he was in the midst of an undiagnosed medical condition, Ye allegedly began another tirade. “Kanye raised his hand and pointed at Phillips’ neck condition and screamed: Fuck your neck!’” the suit claims. “Then pointing at the school, Kanye belched, ‘And fuck your daughter. I don’t give a fuck about none of that.’”

“Kanye then ran to the gardens and attempted to pick up and toss the garden,” the lawsuit continues. “But, too weak and out of shape – failed to pick them up. Instead, he started pulling out the plants and individual pieces inside the boxes, ripping them apart and throwing them on the floor, in a worse and more immature temper tantrum than any of even the youngest Donda schoolchildren had ever thrown.”

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The rapper then “physically threatened” Phillips, according to the suit, repeatedly saying he was “going to punch you in the face” before his mood suddenly shifted. “Imitating the celebratory dance of Mario from the famous video game Super Mario Brothers,” the suit claims. “Kanye jumped up with punching one fist in the air, while he said “I’m gonna give you one more chance. Another life!”

Phillips was tasked with checking out a farm property that Ye wanted to buy, but the next day Ye fired him again because he was “not on the level.” Phillips claims he was allowed to continue out the last few days of the school semester and his last day was August 2023. He is seeking at least $35,000 for what he labels as whistleblower retaliation, discrimination based on race and a hostile workplace, among eight other causes of action.

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