Kanye West‘s new album dropped today and after listening to it, I legitimately had to go outside and let out a deep sigh.
‘Ye has undoubtedly been problematic and hurtful in his antics as of late, and even as a die-hard fan, I had to distance myself from any sort of allegiance to him after that “slavery was a choice” foolishness.
That is until I listened to this album.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not on his team, but my anger and disappointment have now been replaced with more complicated feelings, so twisted that I’m grappling to give it a name.
Kanye is undoubtedly disturbed, but what his new release, simply titled, “Ye,” makes stunningly clear is that he still has moments of genius. Whether we want to admit it or not, he also still very much an influencer – despite his professed love of Donald Trump.
To anyone who was able to put their justifiable anger and exasperation aside and actually listen to these seven tracks with an open mind (a feat that I struggled with at times), you will understand when I say these songs come off like a cross between a therapy session, a drunk boys night conversation, and a confessional at church, all rolled into one.
By the end of it, I was left with more questions than answers. Which may have actually been the point.
Those who hate Yeezy will probably hyper-focus on some of his more sensational admissions and use it as fodder to drag him for his irresponsibility, while his more persistent fanbase will use this release to declare, “He’s back! He still got it!”
The “this is amazing” vs “this is trash” debate has already begun on Twitter, but to be honest, they’re both kind of right.
Below are five major, and at times triggering, revelations that emerged from “Ye,” the album and the man.
1. We need to be careful about how we discuss his mental health issues
“Don’t bring that up thats gone get me sentimental
You know I’m sensitive, I got a gentle mental”
After years of speculation about his mental health, this week Kanye finally ripped off the bandaid and gave his behavior a name. While the album is called “Ye,” the cover art shows a serene Wyoming mountain landscape, (shot at some point by Kanye himself using his iPhone on his way to the listening party last night, according to his wife, Kim Kardashian West.) In child like, lime green letters are scribbled the words, “I hate being bipolar it’s awesome”
Had this been an internet meme it would have just been seen as a slightly funny, albeit incredibly inappropriate joke about the contradictory nature of being Bipolar. Coming from Kanye, it’s both an anti-climactic and sobering admission about what we already knew.
Here’s the thing though…now that we officially have a name for what’s going on with him, we need to be really careful about how we talk about his condition moving forward.
““Today I seriously thought about killing you. contemplated, premeditated murder
And I think about killing myself, and I love myself way more than I love you, so…” – Kanye West
As a staunch mental health advocate, I would be remiss not to point out that if you drag one of the most famous people in the world to ever admit he or she is bipolar, the rest of that community will not only be watching, but also internalizing what you say about him.
Dealing with mental issues is hard enough, without having your entire social media feed confirm your suspicions that people like you are disposable, unlovable nuisances that will be left for dead after an manic episode – even when they’re filthy rich and famous.
And given how our community has historically dismissed mental health as, “white people problems,” Black people living with suicidal thoughts in particular will feel the sting of some of our uglier ‘Ye jokes.
Drag him for his politics all you want. Chastise him for his publicity stunts and questionable soundbites. But can we all agree to ease up on the mental health stuff?
The kids are watching.
2. Escapism can be dangerous
“Let me make this clear till all ya’ll see I don’t take advice from people less successful than me”
I’ve always believed that money doesn’t change people, it just makes them more of who they already are. If you were a flashy person when you were broke, money just makes you even flashier. If you were a civic-minded person who cared about your community, money gives you more resources to invest in passion projects. And if you were always insecure and seeking outward validation, money enables you to find ways to do that too because ‘yes men and women’ who will kiss your ring for a moment in the spotlight are a dime a dozen.
It’s abundantly clear that Kanye is both aware of, and tickled by the fact that no matter what he does, people will always in some way be drawn to him due to his success and celebrity.
When he raps, “Ask your homegirl right now, You get a shot at ‘Ye and you’d drop everything” – he’s right.
While he’s not personally my type, there are countless people out there who would kill to get within smelling distance of Kanye and the Kardashian’s limelight even though they roll their eyes at them with the rest of us.
This is where the album turns the mirror away from ‘Ye and back at us, the attention hungry masses who low-key want what he already has.
To prove his point, all you have to do is go on social media to see how many folks are ‘stunting for the ‘Gram’ on the daily about their six figure salaries, snatched waist trained/botoxed bodies, and all-access passes to cool events.
Kanye and Kim are the king and queen of ALL that.
They are aiming for billions instead of six figures, Kim has altered her physique to make it look like she has on a waist trainer even when she’s naked, and they have access to every cool A-list event, including the decidedly uncool White House.
In fact, the only place they can’t get an invite to at this point is the Carter’s house.
The Kardashian-West story is a cautionary tale of what happens when a cocktail of trauma and dysfunction gets covered up in a pile of money and attention. It highlights the escapism we’ve all fallen victim to and takes it to the extreme. If even Kanye can admit that, it’s time the rest of us stop pretending otherwise.
Next time you want to post a cute selfie online instead of dealing with the fact that your world is falling to pieces in real life, maybe turn off the app and use that same phone to instead call a friend (or a counselor) to address whats going on.
Twitter may feel like therapy, but all you’re doing is making a spectacle of yourself. Sound familiar?
3. When does being a ’ride or die’ woman go too far ?
When Kanye started talking about his love for Donald Trump the first thing a lot of people did was go to Kim Kardashian’s page to see how she was going to address her man’s meltdown. While she played it cool for the masses, Ye is now conceding that behind the scenes she was a wreck.
“My wife calling screaming say we bout to lose it all
had to calm her down cause she couldn’t breathe
told her she could leave me now but she wouldn’t leave”
It can’t be easy being married to Kanye West. And many have speculated that Kim is way over her head in dealing with the complexities of his disorder and unresolved trauma.
Snoop Dogg recently sparked a heated debate after he said on “The View earlier this week, “He truly misses his mother. He truly misses a Black woman in his life. He truly misses the stability of having somebody telling him when he’s wrong and correcting him and checking him as opposed to allowing him to continue to do what he doing.”
.@SnoopDogg gives his take on Kanye West’s recent controversial comments about slavery, saying “he’s crying out for help”: “He truly misses his mother, he truly misses a black woman in his life. He truly misses the stability of having somebody telling him when he’s wrong …” pic.twitter.com/jUWROfU3Mq
— The View (@TheView) May 24, 2018
And then the rapper doubled down on his comments at The Breakfast Club by explaining, “There’s no Black women in his life. Let’s just keep that one hundred. That’s real. I got aunties that will pull up with those big church hats on, ‘N***a, what’s happenin’? What you on, nephew? You bullsh-ittin’. We taught you way better than that.’ So, it got to a point where it’s like, it was funny, and then it got sad.”
While I agree that women of color have a well earned reputation for grabbing the bull by the horns and getting people on the right track (Channing Dungey was the latest sis to prove that when she nipped Roseanne’s antics in the bud), I’m a little tired of this mindset that women of color are only applauded when it’s time to take out the trash.
Wasn’t NOBODY telling ‘Ye he was better off with a Black woman when he was at the top of his game and at the height of his approval ratings. Back then, not only did brothers applaud him for his choice in Kim, they all went out and got themselves Kardashians, (or the closest thing they could find to one) themselves.
But once ‘Ye started wandering through the woods in Wyoming dressed like a homeless zombie in a MAGA hat, talking to trees and singing “poopity scoop” at the birds, NOW folks wanna wax poetic about the value of having a Black woman by your side?
Nah bruh. Ya’ll can keep him.
As a woman though, I do at times find myself feeling slight pangs of sympathy for Kim’s role as a wife. Regardless of race or socio-economic standing, most women know what it’s like to love a troubled soul who has you treating them more like your child than your life partner.
At this point even ‘Ye knows he’s a pain in the ass. In the songs where he addresses their relationship, two things are made clear: 1. He truly loves this woman and 2. He has NO intention of changing his ways.
“For any guy that ever f***ed up, ever embarrassed their girl, ever embarrassed their wife, she told you not to do that s**t, she told you you was gonna f**k the money up, but you ain’t wanna listen did you?
Now you testing her loyalty. This is what they mean when they say for better or for worse huh?
For every down female thats stuck with their dude, through the best times, through the worst times, this for you.”
They say the best apology is improved behavior. But rather than apologize, all Kanye does is romanticize the idea of dragging your partner down a path of bad decisions while thanking her for putting up with it.
What kind of self-indulgent, trash ass message is that?
The saddest part is, someone reading this right now is in the exact same predicament, and like Kim, has found a million different ways to justify settling for less than she or he deserves. Learn from Kim’s mistakes. This “ride or die” bull that rap songs keep trying to feed us has it’s limits.
Healthy love would never demand (repeatedly) that you to be publicly embarrassed while defending the very person who made you look stupid in the first place.
I will always ride for my man!
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 27, 2018
4. What happens to misogynists after they have daughters?
One of the most touching moments on the album surprisingly comes from a song called, Violent Crimes, in which Kanye comes to terms with all the horrible, scallywag things he’s done to women who loved him (*cough* Amber Rose) while having to reconcile that with what it means to now raise daughters.
There is the same sort of ironic clarity in this track as in Drake‘s pro-woman anthem, ‘Nice For What?’, where a dude who is the problem calls out all the other dudes just like him, and shows he low-key knew better the whole time, but intentionally chose to still be a jerk anyway.
“N****s is savage, n****s is monsters
N****s is pimps, n****s is playas, till n****s had daughters
Now they precautious
Father forgive me, im scared of the karma
Cause now I see women as something to nurture not something to conquer
I hope she like Nicki, I’ll make her a monster”
On a quest to constantly stay provocative, at the end of that song Kanye adds a snippet of a voicemail from Nicki that shows she actually suggested her own shout out lyric in the song, which uses her as an example of what little girls should aspire to be.
Why I’m giving everybody the side-eye for that exchange is another conversation for another time. Right now, lets unpack why this song adequately illustrates the conundrum many men face when they spend their lives debasing women, only to have a child who will someday end up being a woman.
“How you the devil, rebuking the sin?” Ye asks himself. And some of the scenarios he thinks up are a father’s worst nightmare, straight out of an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
If his daughter’s North and Chi have made him reconsider his stance on how women need to be treated, thats wonderful. A bit late considering he’s already 40 and married, but as he reminds us, at least he’s not as bad as Russell Simmons, who has two daughters as well, and is even older, but still out here acting like a creep in these streets.
Russell Simmons wanna pray for me too
Imma pray for HIM cause he got Me Too’d
Thinking what if that happened to me too
then I’m on E News
Shots fired. Justifiably.
5. Younger millennials relate to him for the VERY reason the rest of us drag him
When ‘Ye went all the way off the rails, everyone I knew wrote him off like, “Damn his career is over. Rest in peace ninja.”
One of my colleagues was quick to say, “Not so fast. They young kids still rock with him.”
I was hesitant to believe this at first. Especially after news broke that Kanye’s 2XU event in Sydney had been cancelled last minute due to a poor turn out.
Even when ‘Ye peddles questionable clothing that looks like it was dragged under the wheel of a car, people camp out overnight and his stuff sells out like hot cakes. Surely the lack of a crowd in one of the most Kardashian-West loving countries outside of America signaled the beginning of the end, right?
But now I’m starting to realize that moment may have been more of a hiccup than a D.O.A. and that my colleague may have been onto something after all.
The track that made me see that is Ghost Town, a stand out song on the album that feels like an anthem for the millions of depressed, misunderstood, emotionally unstable and numb from the internet millennials that walk amongst us.
“And nothing hurts anymore I feel kinda freeeeeee
Wasting the kids we used to beeeeeee
I put my hand on the stove to see if I still bleed
And nothing hurts anymore I feel kinda freeeeee”
This siren song is both dangerous and poignant in its accuracy about what our young people are dealing right now. Because Yeezy has always been a man-child, I can see why his Black Peter Pan approach to everything would speak directly to actual young people who are struggling with the exact same issues he is.
It’s important that we older folks take a moment to actually listen to these kids, because a lot of them are hiding in plain sight.
Willow Smith recently shocked her mother Jada Pinkett-Smith and her grandmother during an episode of jada’s Facebook show, ‘Red Table Talk’ after she admitted that she’d been cutting herself during the height of her success without anyone noticing.
“I would have to say — honestly I feel like I lost my sanity at one point,” she confesses. “It was after that whole “Whip My Hair” thing, and I had just stopped doing singing lessons, and I was kind of like, just in this gray area of ‘Who am I? Do I have a purpose? Is there anything, like, I can do besides this?”
Willow then explained to her matriarchs that she had felt numb and lost, a sentiment that Kanye also alludes to when he raps, “They don’t know they dealing with a zombie, n***s been tryna test my Ghandi.”
We have a whole generation of over-stimulated young folks who feel like zombies too. And one could argue that Kid Cudi, who is a close friend of Kanye for reasons that are obvious at this point, has proven with his legion of fans that there is definitely a market for people looking for a messy, mentally unstable anti-hero.
‘Ye is aware of this and is even banking on it. He saw how many people where in the mental ward when he got admitted and whether we like it or not, is now positioning himself as their king.
On a track appropriately titled, Yikes he boasts.
“That’s my bipolar shit, n*** what?
That’s my super power n***!
Aint no disability.
I’m a super hero. I’m a super hero!!”
So yeah. Like I said at the beginning of this, the album is complicated and so are my feelings about it.
But it makes one thing abundantly clear: Our community has turned a blind eye to a lot of things, mental health, misogyny and escapism just to name a few. And aside from being a nuisance, Kanye West may also be our karma; forcing us to finally address these topics in an honest and unflinching way before he becomes the norm.
This deserves more than a fun Twitter drag fam, it’s time we really start talking to each other.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric