Kanye West has again courted controversy after suggesting that slavery was "a choice".

In an interview with celebrity news website TMZ, the rapper said: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sound like a choice."

Celebrities including film director Spike Lee and singers Will.i.am and John Legend have hit back at the comments, describing them as "ignorant" and saying the rapper needs to "wake up".

In a post on Instagram, Lee wrote: '"SLAVERY…A CHOICE"??? My Brother, OUR Ancestors Did Not Choose To Be Stolen From Mother Africa."

Will.i.am criticised West's "harmful" and "ignorant" remarks.

The Voice UK judge told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "That statement was one of the most ignorant statements that anybody that came from the 'hood could ever say about their ancestors, that slavery is a choice. What are you talking about?"

He added: "That's not Kanye.

"To me that's a different person that's saying that. And I hope it's not to raise awareness so he could sell a record and some shoes, because that would be the worst thing to do. To stir up a very touchy race situation and you be the benefactor from it.

"So I encourage you, if you really believe this, give your shoes away for free, give your album away for free – I don't like talking about going against my community, but that is harmful."

There has NEVER been a moment in history when Black people didn't resist slavery. Some did it by jumping off ships. Some killed masters. Some ran away. Some did it through everyday forms of resistance. Slave masters didn't retire. Our resistance led to our freedom.

— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 2, 2018

In his TMZ interview, West said: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.

"Like, you was there for 400 years and it's all of y'all? It's like, we're mentally in prison.

"I like the word prison because slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks.

"It's like slavery, holocaust. Holocaust – Jews, slavery is blacks. Prison is something that unites us as one race. Blacks and whites being one race."

When asked to explain, West said: "Yeah, right now we're choosing to be enslaved."

TMZ reporter Van Lathan told West he was "appalled" and "unbelievably hurt" the rapper was calling the marginalisation of "our people" over 400 years "a choice".

The rapper then apologised to Lathan, saying he was "sorry" he hurt him.

The interview caused an inevitable social media storm, particularly among his 21.8 million followers on Twitter, with one user, @wakandria08, saying: "Kanye West does not speak for all black people."

Image:West told the TMZ newsroom he had been addicted to opiods after getting liposuction

West hit back, tweeting: "Once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.

"The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years.

"We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought. It was just an idea."

West also spoke to TMZ about other areas of his life.

The 21-time Grammy winner admitted that he became reliant on opiods after doctors increased his two pills a day in hospital up to seven when he was discharged after a liposuction operation.

He said Rob Kardashian, the brother of his wife Kim Kardashian, was fat-shamed so much in the media he flew back to the US from Italy before their wedding in Florence took place in 2014.

Donald Trump and Kanye West enjoyed a Twitter love-in
Image:Donald Trump and Kanye West enjoyed a Twitter love-in

West was heavily criticised last week for his support for Donald Trump, declaring the US president his "brother" and that they share "dragon energy".

Breaking 11-months of Twitter silence, he also wrote a philosphy book "in real time" to satisfy his "innate need to be expressive" – after deleting all his previous tweets.

The tweets included advice for budding creatives as he told his followers not to "follow crowds" and "do what you feel, not what you think".

Many fans were left puzzled by the sudden outburst.

It is not clear if West was referring to those tweets in Tuesday's interview, but as he spoke of his opiod addiction, he said: "So the reason I do not want to delete those tweets is because I was drugged the f*** out, bro."

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Kanye West married Kim Kardashian in 2014
Image:West married Kim Kardashian in 2014

He explained that he started taking more opiods during his Pablo tour in 2016, which led to him being hospitalised and forced to cut the tour short.

The US is suffering from an opiod epidemic, with more than 800 people a week dying from painkiller overdoses in 2016, according to US Department of Health data.

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