TMZ’s Van Lathan recalls the day he took on Kayne West

by | Feb 11, 2019 | News

Sydnee Walcott, Life Reporter

Laughter, the discussion of race, culture and politics were some of the many topics TMZ journalist Van Lathan talked about at last week’s IGNITE Real Talks. 

But the focus was on Lathan’s confrontation with Kayne West over the comments the controversial rap star made about African Americans and slavery last year.

Lathan’s appearance at Humber was part of the Black History Month Edition of IGNITE Real Talks on Feb. 7. He also took time to share his story on how he got his start in journalism. 

He told the audience of about 30 people that West’s statement suggesting slavery was a choice during an interview at TMZ last May angered him. The statement hit Lathan with waves of emotion.

“The first wave was just pure blinding anger. I know he didn’t just say that about my ancestors,” Lathan said.

The second was shock as he realized he was talking to Kanye West. The third wave made him realize that Lathan needed to be tempered in how he responded to the rapper.

“I’m disappointed, I’m appalled and brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that have you morphed into something, to me, that’s not real,” Lathan told West during the interview.

Matte Babel (left) listens to TMZ reporter Van Lathan (right). The reporter confronted controversial rap star Kayne West in 2018 over statements about slavery. (Sydnee Walcott)

After the confrontation, Lathan said he called his friend, Charlemagne Tha God, telling him he felt like he messed up when he yelled at West.

Before getting the chance to explain what happened, Charlemagne received a phone call by West, who had told him what had happened.

But before Charlemagne and Lathan could talk about it, the TMZ reporter’s phone was inundated with messages with support from people who were as frustrated with West. 

The event was hosted by Matte Babel, an established Canadian pop-culture icon who worked for MuchMusic as the host of Much On Demand (MOD), and contributed to the launch of CP24 Breakfast.

“Being black was almost like a creed,” said Babel as he opened the event. He said if a person doesn’t subscribe to the subcultures dominant in their community or the things that were shown on television, weren’t considered to be a part of that community.

Babel said if a black person spoke in a certain way, dressed a certain way, or didn’t listen to specific music, they weren’t considered to be black.

In a Question-and-Answer period with the audience, a student asked Lathan about his opinion on “cancelled culture.”

“I’m not a fan of cancelled culture,” Lathan said. Cancelled culture involves no longer supporting people who have done controversial things.

He said separating the art and artist depends on what they did. He says some things can be talked out, while others — such as the R. Kelly allegations of sexual assault of underage girls — can’t be.

Supar Hassan, a student in the business program at the University of Guelph-Humber, came out to hear because he wanted to learn more about Lathan’s story and he felt as if he learned some new things about him. 

In a addition to being a reporter for TMZ, Lathan also hosts a podcast called Van Lathan’s The Red Pill. In this podcast he talks about hot topics in the news and in pop culture.