Anyone who has listened to Kanye West in the past two years or so will know that he’s had his fair share of erratic statements. The man needs no introduction, as everyone and their mother and their mother’s dog know who he is, but what many are keen to ignore is that health concerns have followed him throughout his career, and they led to both groundbreaking and disastrous results. The fact that his first hit was rapped with his jaw wired shut after a near-fatal car accident is a fitting metaphor for his entire career and existence as a public figure.
On September 2nd, 2005, Kanye West appeared next to Mike Myers in NBC Universal’s “A Concert for Hurricane Relief,” a network special designed to help those in need after Hurricane Katrina. Although asked to read off a teleprompter, West decided to ad-lib and say, completely unprompted, “George Bush does not care about black people.” Most on set would agree he was correct, as would I, but his statement caused his first wave of controversy, one that he’s been riding in and out to this very day.
This prompts the question: Is Kanye okay? Has he ever been okay? Or have we taken our concern too far?
Well, “okay” is a broad word. We know, confirmed by The College Dropout himself, that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Looking purely in a vacuum, we can just assume that he always had it and it wasn’t made public until a few years back. Case closed, right? No, actually. Something huge changed about him in 2018 that caused this discussion to reach new heights,and his public perception shifted downwards. He released an album that June called Ye that was met with a very lukewarm reception compared to the usual acclaim he gets, but this was the least of his problems. Just one month prior he went on TMZ and dismissed 400 years of slavery as a choice. This caused many people, including me, to stop seeing him as a rich and famous rapper who says and does dumb things now and again and instead as a malignant figure. Just like that, his public image was tarnished, and for the first time in his career he was backed into a corner he couldn’t wriggle himself out of.
After his comments about George Bush, he had the highly acclaimed Late Registration to fall back on. One year after his 2009 VMA appearance where he embarrassed Taylor Swift, he released what is regarded as one of the best rap albums ever made, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This time, the water he got himself in was way too hot, and his ensuing album, Ye, was too little too late. Couple this with the fact that Ye’s album cover had the phrase, “I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome,” and the discussion that persists to this day reached new heights. Shortly after, instead of apologizing for or taking back his incendiary comments, he got deep into Christianity, releasing a Christian rap album the next year that critically and commercially fared even worse than Ye, and now Kanye lives as a meme and, more bleakly, a shell of his former self.
As if this weren’t enough, then came his presidential campaign. Good god, his presidential campaign. We were all warned in 2016, and we did nothing about it. As of this writing, Kanye West is running for President of the United States as an official affiliate of the “Birthday party.” Yes, you read that right. The “Birthday party.” This is where his antics go from concerning to potentially actively harmful. According to a CNN article published on September 4, 2020, his run won’t result in enough votes to win the election but could potentially siphon votes away from Joe Biden and change the outcome. Given that Trump has been the least popular President in United States history, this is worrisome. It’s worth noting that Kanye openly endorsed Trump in 2018, around the same time as his slavery comments, which likely only made him more popular with Trump supporters. This is the most recent news from the Kanye camp and things have not been looking up for him.
Since 2018, his Twitter feed has spoken for itself. Having gone on multiple tirades about wanting to “buy his masters,” AKA his record label execs, how everyone will miss him when he’s dead, trying to spread positivity while also trash-talking Drake, and doubling down on his slavery comments, Kanye has turned his own image into something of an unstable theme park, and no one is taking proper care of the rides. Various people since then have jumped down Kanye’s throat whenever he has anything to say, whether it’s of importance or not, and I personally take small issue with the people that fan the flames of his newfound infamy.
So, is Kanye okay? Or is everything he’s doing just an extended publicity stunt?
Honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to try and examine his mental state. The only people that truly know what’s going on are Kanye himself and those closest to him and trying to answer that question as mere outsiders does more harm than good. Part of the problem is people railing on him for having bipolar disorder, as seen in the replies to anything he tweets. This kind of mass hysteria around his disorder is more harmful than anything, as it further perpetuates the stigmas that surround the condition and makes anyone living with it indirectly feel more and more like the butt of a joke. How much of this uproar is Kanye’s fault for openly not medicating himself is up for debate, but all we can do is hope he’s in good health, that he knows how to cope with his issues, and that the people in his corner are looking out for him. No matter how many great albums he makes, his health matters more.