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Entrepreneur behind Kanye West’s Stem player discusses working with his now ex-business partner

By | Published on Monday 21 November 2022

Kanye West Stem Player

Kanye West’s business partner on the Stem player project, Kano Computing’s Alex Klein, has spoken to the LA Times about that collaboration after recently confirming that his company has ended its relationship with the rapper following his recent flurry of controversial interviews and statements.

West first expressed an interest in working with UK-based Kano Computing back in 2019 and that led to him getting very involved with the firm’s Stem device, which allows users to break down a track into its constituent parts and then remix it.

The device was launched alongside West’s ‘Donda’ album in summer 2021, and the follow up album – this year’s ‘Donda 2’ – was then exclusively made available via the device.

Having become aware of Kano’s tech at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, West approached Klein about a collaboration. “I brought a set of our tech to his house, which he loved”, the Kano boss tells the Times. “He asked me if he could put his album on our speaker device. He also asked me to teach him how to code”.

The partnership initially progressed well. “I liked working with him, I liked him as a person”, Klein adds. “We spent time together in Cody [in Wyoming], where music was made for [2019 album] ‘Jesus Is King’, which was a memorable time that I’m very grateful for”.

However, the relationship was already becoming strained prior to West’s most recent meltdown, because Kano wanted to involve other artists in the Stem player and platform.

“Unfortunately, Kanye didn’t want to allow other musical artists onto the platform”, Klein says. “This was a disagreement that we had trouble resolving”. At that point West offered to buy the Kano company so to give him full control over the player, but Klein declined.

Then West started making his controversial statements and giving all those controversial interviews, which included spreading dangerous anti-semitic conspiracy theories. In a recent Reddit post Klein, who is half-Jewish, revealed that the rapper “tried to call me racist when I gently told him that attacking a whole race of people wasn’t good for him or Stem”.

Like most of West’s business partners, as soon as it became clear the rapper was standing by his controversial statements, Kano decided to end its partnership with him. “I asked Kanye not to take the path he’s on”, Klein noted in a recent Discord chat. “We’ve told him that we’re unable to work together while he’s putting out racial conspiracy theories. There’s no deal in place”.

Of course, Klein’s collaboration with West is not entirely at an end, given his company is a co-defendant on some uncleared sample lawsuits filed in relation to ‘Donda’ and ‘Donda 2’. Though Kano is trying to get itself removed from those lawsuits on the basis “the Kano and Stem team were assured by Kanye and [his company] that they would provide music with ‘all intellectual property rights, licences and consents’”.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, Klein concludes in his conversation with the LA Times: “Stem lets you customise music. You can turn down Ye’s voice if you like”.