Wake up, Mr. West. Please.
Despite all his flaws and controversies, Ye used to be a person who still inspired me.
He once said “If you listen to my music, it’s the code to self-esteem. If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re a fan of yourself.” He wanted to make people feel like they could get over “whatever situation they’re dealing with.”
Now, he makes antisemitic statements, harasses his ex-wife on social media and even claims his children are secret spies.
He used to speak and care about social issues and racial justice, even if “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” caused him mass ridicule. He clearly felt those words deeply and cared about the people affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Ye used to channel personal tragedy and media mockeries to make the type of music that made me feel like I could get over anything.
This isn’t the first time Ye has tried to torch his career. Longtime fans remember the VMA incident with Taylor Swift in 2009.
But not many people remember the context of that incident. Kanye’s mother Donda West had unexpectedly died on the operating table less than two years before that point, and his engagement had ended with Alexis Phifer, who he had dated on and off for seven years.
So feeling the pain of grief, he engaged in behaviour that made it seem like he wanted to self-destruct. The president of the United States even called him a “jackass.”
Then, after a short break to pursue working as a fashion intern in Milan, he channeled his creativity into his most ambitious project to date, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
At the time, music publication Pitchfork gave it a perfect rating. Ryan Dombal wrote it “feels like an instant greatest hits, the ultimate realization of his strongest talents and divisive public persona.”
“Who Will Survive In America” samples the 1970 spoken-word poem “Comment #1” by Gil Scott-Heron, (also known as “the Black Bob Dylan”) to speak about middle-class white moderate progressives’ inability to perceive racial struggles during the civil-rights’ movement. It was a powerful moment on a powerful album.
Now, after his public divorce from Kim Kardashian, it seems like everything has spiraled out of control.
It’s hard to even keep track of Ye’s harmful rhetoric. He’s expressed his belief that “slavery’s a choice” and his desire to beat “Pete Davidson’s ass” and proclaimed “death con 3 on Jewish people” on Twitter. Ye’s also claimed that his children were replaced by imposters to sexualize them. It’s all too much to even digest.
This rhetoric hurts a lot of people, including the ones who used to be inspired by him. It hurts on multiple layers.
Ye was publicly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and manic episodes in 2019. He described episodes that left him so paranoid that he would “feel like the government is putting chips in my head. You feel like everyone is now an actor. ” He was hospitalized for these issues in 2016 and 2019.
I feel sympathy for someone who is susceptible to conspiracy theories and thinks his own children are actors due in part to mental illness. I just can’t call myself a fan of someone who engages in this type of repetitive abusive behavior.
This time, there’s no album that can redeem him. I only hope that Ye can get the help that he needs, but I can’t call myself a fan anymore.
I miss the old Kanye.
Published in Volume 77, Number 09 of The Uniter (November 10, 2022)