Kanye West took to Twitter on Tuesday night (01May18) in an attempt to explain his controversial suggestion that 400 years of slavery in America was "a choice" for many.

The hip-hop star made the incendiary statement during an interview with TMZ earlier on Tuesday, with the Black Skinhead rapper suggesting African-Americans, who were slaves until the inhuman trade was formally abolished in the U.S. in 1865, simply chose to be imprisoned for centuries by white masters.

"You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice," the 40-year-old told the hosts of TMZ Live in the video interview. "Like, that was there for 400 years and it's all of y'all?"

Following the controversy caused by his remarks, Kanye attempted to clarify just what he had been thinking in a series of tweets.

"To make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will," Kanye began. "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."

Kanye, who has frequently caused scandals since returning to Twitter last month (Apr18), then stated that his intention had been to raise a "new idea" with the remark.

"We are programmed to always talk and fight race issues. We need to update our conversation," he continued. "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... once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas."

As well as causing outrage on social media, Kanye's comment left a sour taste in the mouth of TMZ staffer Van Lathan, who also appeared on the video and said he was "appalled" and "unbelievably hurt" by the musician for making an observation with the "absence of thought".