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Kanye West vows to move back: Will Chicago welcome him?

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West in 2016 | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Kanye West made headlines — a near-daily occurrence of late for the eccentric rapper and producer — with his announcement Monday during an Open Mike Chicago event that he was moving back to Chicago “and never leaving again.”

A Chicagoan since he was a toddler, West’s eight studio albums are peppered with love songs to the city, like his 2007 hit “Homecoming,” which centers on how much he misses the “fireworks at Lake Michigan” and ends with a promise that he’s “coming home again.”

But will he, really?

West’s relationship with Chicago has been tumultuous in recent years. He lamented that “nothing in Chicago changed” during Obama’s presidency hours before sharing snapshots of his mansion, states away in Calabasas. He came to local radio station 107.5 WGCI with his apology after causing an uproar when he said centuries of slavery “sounds like a choice” on TMZ.

That remark, plus his repeated endorsements of President Donald Trump, deepened the growing rift between West and longtime friend Che “Rhymefest” Smith, co-founder of Donda House, the youth arts nonprofit the duo launched together in 2011 and had planned to headquarter in West’s childhood home. Early this summer, the conflict peaked, leading Smith and Donda’s House publicly cut ties with West, even renaming the organization, now called Art of Culture, Inc.

But over the last month, West has made repeat trips back to his hometown, meeting with local activists while working on a new musical project with frequent collaborator Chance the Rapper

On Saturday, West posted a video on Instagram of Smith greeting NFL Hall of Fame-inductee Jim Brown without comment.

The day before Chicago-native G Herbo and hinted at a collaborative song with local rap-legend Bump J. It would be the first time Bump J worked with West after serving eight years in a federal prison for a bank robbery in Oak Park, Ill.

Chicago activist Aleta Clark — best known by her social media handle, “Englewood Barbie” — shared photos from a meeting with West on Saturday, teasing that West told her she was “part of the plan,” but she could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Clark’s social media campaign “Hugs no Slugs” earned her national attention after a photo of her kneeling with two Chicago Police Officers last year went viral.

Still, West’s frequent Chicago visits don’t reflect a total reversal to the public figure he once was. In between reconnecting with old friends and collaborators, West appeared in a photo shared on Twitter by Candace Owens, communications director of the pro-Trump conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA. Owens is a vocal Trump supporter who frequently takes public aim at Chicago for its crime rate. West received backlash earlier this year after Tweeting that he loved “the way Candace Owens thinks.”


On Sunday, after photo-ops with Chance, Clark and Smith, Owens Tweeted a series of photos and videos of West smiling in a crowd, announcing “Kanye West is back.”