Kanye West. Picture: Bang Showbiz

will.i.am has slammed Kanye West as "ignorant" after he seemingly claimed slavery was a "choice".

The 40-year-old rapper has been hitting the headlines over the past month for his controversial comments on subjects such as his support for divisive US president Donald Trump, and in an interview released by TMZ this week, he seemed to suggest that the 400 years of black slavery was a "choice" made by those who were enslaved.

Now, fellow musician will.i.am has hit back at Kanye, saying he feels heartbroken by his words, and accusing him of "throwing their ancestors under the bus for profit".

Speaking on 'Good Morning Britain' on Wednesday, A, Will, 43, said: "That broke my heart, because I thought about my grandma, who was born in 1920, and her connection with her mom who raised her, who was born in the late 1800s. And my grandmother's grandma, who was a slave. And when you're a slave, you're owned. You don't choose if you're owned. When you're a slave you're deprived of education. That's not choice, that's by force.

"So I understand the need to have free thought, but if your thoughts aren't researched, that is just going to hurt those that are still in conditions where it's not choice, that when they go down the street and there's a liqueur store and fast-food restaurants and your education is not being funded the same way that it is being in Calabasas, when governments stifle and limit the amount of money that goes to Chicago, Bronx, Watts, 5th Ward Mississippi, East Los Angeles, where I'm from."

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He added: "That statement was one of the most ignorant statements that anybody who came from the hood could ever say about their ancestors, that slavery is a choice. What are you talking about.

"To me, that's a different person that's saying that, and I hope it's not to raise awareness so you could sell some records and some shoes, because that would be the worst thing to do, to stir up this 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. And I don't like talking about going against my community, but that is harmful.

"I will not throw my ancestors under the bus to profit."

In his original comments, Kanye seemed to suggest that the length of time people of colour were enslaved meant that they chose not to fight back.

He said: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. We're mentally imprisoned."

However, the 'Stronger' musician later took to Twitter to say his comments had been misconstrued.

He clarified: "to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will

"My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved

"They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other.  I will not allow my tongue to be cut

"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 (sic)"

Bang Showbiz