For the past few years, Kanye West has been on a self-declared spiritual journey, evident in his 2019 album Jesus Is King, his celeb-frequented Sunday Service gatherings, and most recently in his latest album Donda, where themes of religion are weaved throughout the 27-song effort.
Considering the material, it wasn’t too surprising when West’s merchandise for the Aug. 5 listening event at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium showcased some of this soul-searching, although the $100 price tag for shirts might have raised a few eyebrows.
Neutral-colored long-sleeve T-shirts were stamped with a bolded, stretched-out Star of David with a thin cross centered in the middle, positioned a few inches below the collar. Underneath read “Donda” along with the date of the event.
But in a tactic that seems to come straight out of the Kardashian-Jenner playbook, particularly that of Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian, an emerging Black music and creative group told The Daily Beast that West ripped off their logo and slapped it on his shirts—only a week after they drove nine hours from Miami to Atlanta to meet with him.
There’s no doubt that Infinity G8ds’ logo is uncannily similar to the one featured on West’s limited-edition merch—the primary changes only being a slightly elongated star and the removal of the infinity sign from the cross.
To Randy Dawkins, the creative director behind Infinity G8ds, it’s a blatant copy of their design, which has been featured on the group’s—and their main artist SSO Sneezy’s—Instagram pages since March, and emblazoned on their luxury T-shirts, hoodies, and matching sets.
“It’s disappointing,” Dawkins tells The Daily Beast. “We don’t have any bad vibes or bad feelings toward him, we actually like the dude. But how he handled business? Well, that’s another story.” (West did not respond to requests for comment.)
It was West’s longtime personal executive chef Willie Wallace who Dawkins says initially contacted him in late July. The two men were friendly and knew each other through another one of West’s personal chefs, Travis Reese, who is also an Infinity G8ds member.
Catching up over the phone while Wallace was stationed in Atlanta, where the eccentric rapper decided to hole up underneath the stadium while he finished tinkering with his album, Dawkins says Wallace suggested he send over some items that he could show West, saying he thought he’d be interested in them.
Dawkins says they ended up shipping Wallace about five pieces from the latest line, which Wallace received. The Daily Beast reviewed a tracking number of the shipment, which confirmed the delivery. The next day, Dawkins says he received a FaceTime from Wallace, who had West on the phone with him.
“I was on the phone directly talking to Kanye,” Dawkins says. “He was like, ‘Bro, I really love your design. It’s really dope. When can I meet you to talk about your process?’ His exact words, he said that he wants to talk to me about my mind.”
Katana Wilder, who also collaborates with the Infinity G8ds group, excitedly filmed a portion of the call between Dawkins and West, who can be overheard commenting on the T-shirt’s material, saying, “I like this fabric,” as they hashed out plans for a meeting.
Dawkins says they immediately drove up from Miami to Atlanta to meet with West and his team on Monday, July 26. Wilder also happened to film Dawkins and SSO Sneezy (real name JayShawn Bull) waiting to meet West inside the stadium, outside of the AMG Lounge and Truist Club restaurant, where Wallace has posted several photos of the meals he makes for West. (In one photo posted on July 31, Wallace tagged Infinity G8ds’ Instagram, highlighting the red messenger bag the men had brought up for the meeting.)
They say they were brought into West’s makeshift studio and the 40-minute meeting went well, with West picking the men’s brains about the meaning behind their logo, which was created in the summer of 2020 as a representation of their spirituality. The Star of David is for the Bible’s Old Testament, the cross stands for the New Testament, and the infinity symbol is a representation for these beliefs in the present.
Dawkins explains that Infinity G8ds’ mission and SSO Sneezy’s music aim to serve as a voice for people who are spiritual and religious but may not look like typical clean-cut churchgoers. It was another reason why they were excited about meeting with West.
“The conversation was pretty general,” Dawkins recalls. “He just wanted to understand our process—what does the design represent? We explained it to him and broke it down. We are very deep into spirituality; we try to inspire people on that. He was really loving it because he’s on his own spiritual journey, as well. He was loving the whole idea, the whole design. He was so intrigued. He’s spiritual to a certain point and because he’s doing all this Jesus stuff.”
“He started to sell us dreams about doing business with him, and that was the meeting,” Dawkins adds. “He asked us to hang around for dinner, and we ate dinner with them. At the end of the meeting, he told us he was going to keep in contact with us but never did.”
Dawkins says West never mentioned anything about merchandise for his event nor any immediate plans for the potential collaboration, and it was the last they heard from him until Reese saw the merchandise come in for the Aug. 5 listening event.
“He called us and says, ‘Bro, I’m in the kitchen and these people walked in with our design on their clothes,’” Dawkins recalls. “I’m like, what? [They] never called us, never asked us, never did anything like that.”
Dawkins tried to get ahold of West and his team through Wallace, since the two were friendly and he had set up the initial meeting. “All of a sudden he didn’t want to put us in contact with anyone,” Dawkins says. “I’m like, ‘Bro, why are you moving so weirdly?” (The Daily Beast has reviewed text messages corroborating this.)
With West’s team unresponsive and the merchandise already released at the listening party, Dawkins says the group felt they were out of options, and decided to go public with their story on social media. A TikTok video and Instagram post includes videos of the phone call with West inside the Atlanta stadium, and a screenshot of an email confirming their visit, which included paperwork they had signed.
“This situation was definitely unfortunate,” he explains. “But we have to speak up about it to defend our brand because that could definitely [hinder] us in terms of him putting that out. We’ve had our brand out and because of his platform and his public visibility, it could dampen what we got going on because we are a small, upcoming brand.”
Kanye West is seen at the ‘DONDA by Kanye West’ listening event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 22, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dawkins says in reaction to Infinity G8ds telling their side of the story, West’s business manager Bu Thiam reached out to them, but ultimately nothing was resolved. (The Daily Beast reviewed these DMs). It also led to Reese losing his position as a chef on West’s team, as Dawkins says Reese made clear that he sided with his Infinity G8ds teammates, resulting in Wallace saying it was best for him to leave.
The entire meeting with West was a monumental letdown for Dawkins and members of Infinity G8ds, who admired West not only as a rapper and designer, but because he was open about his spirituality, yet was still able to have success as a mainstream artist.
“We looked at him in the same light as us in terms of, this guy embraces his spirituality, he embraces being biblical, but he still is able to live the way he sees fit,” Dawkins says. “That to us is freedom. So, we looked up to him in that light. To see him move in this type of way was like a misjudgment of his character for me.”
Dawkins stresses that all Infinity G8ds wanted is some credit, seeing as how West allegedly ripped off their idea and, despite talk of collaborating, ghosted them.
“You met with us, you had opportunities to say, ‘Let’s collab in this way, let’s do it that way,’ but he didn’t see any reason to involve us in what he wanted to do, and being that we know for a fact that we inspired him to create his Donda merch, I’m disappointed,” Dawkins adds.
“Our side of the story is, we’re not mad at you, but from one Black artist to another Black artist, he could have said, ‘I see what you got going on, let’s help you gain some exposure, some visibility. That’s all we ask. We’re not the only victims in this rampage. We hope that people come out and really speak upon their side of this story as well, because I feel like there needs to be protection for our small businesses.”
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