The billionaire rapper and fashion designer will officially be known as “Ye” — a move that could boost his reputation and pad his bottom line.
Kanye West is now Ye—and that could be good for business.
The entertainment and fashion mogul cited “personal reasons” in the petition he filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court to legally change his name from Kanye Omari West to just Ye (pronounced yay, with no middle or last name), according to media reports. West has long referred to himself as Ye in songs, on social media and on phone calls with at least one Forbes editor. His 2018 studio album was titled “Ye,” and that same year on Twitter he renounced “the being formally known as Kanye West,” declaring, “I am YE.”
While Ye’s decision to rename himself appears motivated by matters of identity and self-expression, the name change is also likely to serve Ye’s business interests, according to experts in marketing, branding and reputation management.
“Authenticity is what drives relevance today, and the biggest risk for a fashion brand is to not be relevant,” says Angelique Rewers, CEO of consulting firm BoldHaus. “What’s so beautiful about this is [that] this is even more authentically Kanye, because this is what his inner circle has called him for a long time—it’s an authentic evolution of his brand.”
That evolution could boost Ye’s already considerable fortune. Forbes estimates Ye’s net worth to be $1.8 billion, with $1.5 billion of that from his booming Yeezy sneaker empire, a partnership with Adidas that sold an estimated $1.3 billion worth of shoes in 2019 and $1.7 billion in 2020. If the visual similarity between Ye and Yeezy helps drive awareness of the Yeezy sneaker brand and converts more music listeners into shoe shoppers, then Ye’s net worth will likely rise accordingly.
“He is doing something that garners attention from the media and therefore drives awareness among consumers, and he’s doing it in a way that connects his brand to his sneaker business and drives interest in it,” says Kim Whitler, a professor of marketing at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Ye’s new name may also broaden his appeal to a new generation of listeners and consumers. By shortening his name to a single syllable, the 44-year-old Ye is (wittingly or unwillingly) following in the footsteps of global brands and high-growth startups that trim their names to sound savvier and appeal to younger demographics. “Single syllables are easier to communicate and have a cool factor within entertainment and the populace today,” says Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants.
Corporate name changes are often designed to reflect a company’s shifting business priorities: Dunkin’ Donuts shortened its name to Dunkin’ in 2018 as it tried to pivot from donuts to breakfast sandwiches and beverages. Some consumers may associate Ye’s traditional moniker, Kanye West, with his music career, or support for the twice-impeached former president, or his public feud with fellow pop star Taylor Swift.
In that light, “Ye” is not only a crisp, authentic umbrella term for Ye’s burgeoning fashion and retail empire, which includes a new partnership with retailer Gap—it also helps shed undesirable memories and associations. “You gain the attention and the alignment with his other brands, and you insulate against some of the negative recent challenges with the Kanye name,” says Schiffer.
Above all, Ye’s name change accomplishes something that Ye has always been adept at: generating publicity for publicity’s sake. A new name keeps Ye in the news, draws attention to the forthcoming release of his new studio album Donda, raises awareness of his burgeoning Yeezy empire and reestablishes his bona fides with long-time Kanye West fans.
“Part of what makes his brand so powerful is that he really has full creative vision over it,” says Rewers. “It’s always an expression of that vision—and so is this name.”