Will.i.am has led the fierce backlash against Kanye West after he claimed the enslavement of African Americans over centuries may have been a “choice”.

The singer said it was “one of the most ignorant statements that anybody who came from the hood could ever say about their ancestors”.

He also said Kanye’s comments “broke my heart” and were “harmful”.

Kanye earlier told TMZ: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years… for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”

He added: “You was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.”

He later tweeted to clarify that “of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will”.

He added: “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.”

And then he claimed he was “being attacked for presenting new ideas”.

tagged in Kanye, Will.i.am