A Brief History Of Kanye West’s Metal Fandom Through T-Shirts

Posted by Corbin Reiff on

Def Jam

Last week, Kanye West was caught by the paparazzi stepping out for the night in Los Angeles. Maybe he was going to dinner. Maybe he was hitting a movie. Maybe he was on his way to the studio to work on some new tracks. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s not what he was doing that caught my, and many other people’s attention, it was what he was wearing: a black long sleeve Cradle of Filth shirt.

On Twitter, people were understandably taken aback by the sight.

From a purely sonic standpoint, it’d be hard to imagine two more diametrically opposed entities than Kanye West and the British extreme metal group. We’ve seen him decked out in some more mainstream rock band pieces in year’s past from Guns N’ Roses to The Ramones and even Megadeth, but lately it seems his tastes have gotten a little harder and a little more obscure. A few months back he stepped out wearing a Testament tee which drew condemnation from that group’s guitar player Alex Sklonick.

“Normally I’d be flattered and appreciative from one artist to another,” he wrote in a press release, “It’s not the music/artist part of the equation I have a problem with — it is the reality TV, publicity junkie part…the Kardashian clan (of which he’s a part of by marriage) are not doing art — it is the lowest form of cheap entertainment, turning people into brainless nincompoops and slowly destroying the country.” Seems a bit much, but okay.

Now he’s taken his wardrobe into far more satanic, hardcore directions. Even at his most grating, bleak and aggressive like on some of the tracks off Yeezus, Kanye can’t hold a candle to the filth and fury of “Her Ghost In The Fog” or “Nymphetamine Fix.” That being said, they do have one thing in common: They are two of the most provocative artists in their given genres.

I have no idea whether Kanye actually likes Cradle of Filth or not. If I ever get the chance to talk to him – And yes, Kanye, I am available – I will certainly ask what he thought about Dusk And Her Embrace, but until then, the mystery remains. What we do know, at the very least, is that Kanye admires the group’s aesthetic, and whether he’s aware of it or not, I’m sure at least some part of him would appreciate the band’s proclivity for causing outrage.

Something you need to know about Cradle of Filth. In addition to affixing their name to the eye-popping ensemble you see Kanye wearing above, the band is also responsible for rolling out what’s widely considered to be the most offensive T-shirt ever created. 24-years ago in 1993, Cradle of Filth was about to go on tour and began brainstorming about new merch designs. What they came up with was almost too shocking to believe. On the front was the image of a woman, totally nude except for a nun’s habit, pleasuring herself with a crucifix. On the back, in big letters the phrase, “Jesus Is A C**t.”

“We had a different T-shirt at the time,” front man Dani Filth told Rolling Stone. “It had a picture of my wife, who was all done up in black metal regalia, and it said ‘The Black Goddess Rises’ on it. We needed to get a new shirt done quickly for the tour; we’d already come up with the ‘Vestal masturbation’ image and phrase, but we still needed a back print for it.”

That’s when someone came up the vulgar phrase. “We all were laughing about it, like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so anarchic –- can you imagine that on a T-shirt?’ We looked at each other conspiratorially, like, ‘Shall we?’ And yeah, we did it. Even at the time, we thought, ‘Well, this is pushing the boundaries a little bit.'”

Reaction to the shirt was understandably severe. In 1996, a fan in London was arrested for wearing it and found guilty of committing “Profane Representation under the 1839 Act.” The group’s own drummer Nicholas Barker was arrested for wearing it just a year later. Then in 2015 a woman took a can of spray-paint and covered over the display housing one of the shirts at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Obviously, Kanye himself has never created something that has landed people in jail, but he has sparked numerous public outcries through the years. Remember that time that President Obama called him a jackass after the Taylor Swift/VMA’s incident? Or how about the condemnation he received from religious leaders after dropping “I Am A God.” The most recent event that got tongues wagging was his pre-inauguration meeting with Donald Trump. Whether you love him or hate him, Yeezy knows how to get a reaction.

Maybe that’s why he seems to be so into the metal oeuvre? While his music doesn’t reflect his taste in that genre, his fashion choices certainly do. Over the years, Kanye has stepped out sporting merch from some of the biggest names of the ’80s and ‘90s. What’s more, he’s take many stylistic cues from metal and incorporated it into his own designs. His entire range of Yeezus Tour apparel in 2013, from the Indian skulls and grim reapers emblazoned on the fronts of his t-shirts to the typography of the logo was drawn from that well. And, because he’s such a tremendous force in fashion, he’s caused other artists like Justin Bieber and Future to follow suit with their own tour offerings.

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While metal fans and hip-hop head continue to scratch their heads each time Yeezy steps out donning a hard rock outfit it’s clear that he has a deep affinity for its style and maybe some of what it represents. It’s edgy, it’s uncompromising, in that sense, it’s very Kanye. What do you think he’s gonna throw on next? Tool? Slipknot? GWAR? Maybe Rammstein? Anything seems possible at this point.