Featured, Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

I Dont Know How I’m Supposed To Feel About Kanye

This piece started off quite differently.

You see, after years of skating around the margins of the sentiment, I’d finally leaned into full-on “Fuck Kanye West” mode. It followed years of annoyance at his trend of constantly obnoxious and solipsistic behavior. Even his admission during a recent concert that he didn’t vote at all Nov. 8 but would have voted for Donald Trump—as many of his fans struggle to grasp the reality of our incoming president—barely made me bat an eye. Just Kanye being Kanye.

But his Nov. 19 show in Sacramento, Calif., during which he went on a 17-minute rant before bouncing after performing less than five songs, was a bridge too far for me. It wasn’t the shots at MTV and DJ Khaled. It wasn’t the reference to Kid Cudi and himself as “aliens.” It wasn’t the renewed public butthurt at Beyoncé and Jay Z, at whom he’s still apparently pissed for not respecting him to the degree he feels he deserves.

What did me in was thinking about the Sacramento fans who paid upward of $200 for a ticket—some of whom certainly switched work shifts, hired baby sitters and spent dollars that were very significant to them—to see an artist they loved. I couldn’t reconcile that with garden-variety Kanye arrogance, so I cracked my fingers and hit my keyboard, intent on leaning in on him.

About halfway through my first draft, news came down that he had canceled the rest of his Saint Pablo tour and was hospitalized following the Sacramento performance, ostensibly for “exhaustion.” I was left staring at my keyboard, thinking, “Goddammit, maybe he’s not a complete asshole.”

If Kanye is suffering from a legitimate psychosis – diagnosed or not – it opens up a litany of questions involving his behavior as a whole. But it also demands that, as a human being who bleeds when I’m cut, I approach his situation from a point of compassion that I wasn’t ready to have for him.

It speaks volumes about Kanye’s pop-culture imprint that he engenders more conversation these days about his behavior and the motives behind it than his actual product. Everyone, ranging from armchair therapists (read: all of social media) to people actually trained to know what the fuck they’re talking about, have conjectured that something hasn’t been kosher in Kanye’s noodle since his mother’s untimely death in 2007.

On the one hand, I recognize that, as a society, we tend to be too blasé and dismissive of mental-health issues—citing them when it benefits our narrative and dismissing them when it does not. It was refreshing to see us embrace Kid Cudi for his bold, candid admissions of his mental-health struggles (and also refreshing to see us jump on Drake for clowning Cudi’s challenges, even if for a hot second).

On the other hand, it’s remarkably difficult for me to forgive much of Kanye’s behavior as manifestations of mental illness. The whole Taylor Swift business. The puerile public comments he made about a woman he once loved. The consistently aberrant and narcissistic social behavior that always seems to precede an apparent self-awareness through his mea culpas.  

And I’d be remiss not to admit that I do indeed miss the old Kanye very much. That Kanye was also arrogant, but he backed it up with an uncanny flair for manipulating soul samples that would come to define his early mainstream sound and make him one of the 10 best hip-hop producers of all time.

He was a true hip-hop fan in the first decade of his career, giving his all to produce entire albums for local Chicago artists and ultimately for his heroes, pioneers of turn-of-the-century boom-bap like Common, Talib Kweli and the erstwhile Mos Def. His first three albums are debatable classics, and he’s the mastermind behind my single favorite hip-hop track of this century’s first decade.

But he’s spent a lot of energy conforming to (bad) mainstream rap as of late. The one-two punch of G.O.O.D. Friday loosie tracks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was the last time I got truly hype about his output, and they were released back when Barack Obama was still developing his sea legs in the White House.

The old Kanye is indeed dead, having apparently left this plane along with his mother—most of his off-the-hook behavior seems to have occurred in the nine years since Donda West passed. The mere thought of losing my mother at this age brings pressure to my body, so I wouldn’t deign to attempt to understand his feelings given the Nov. 10 anniversary of that event.

If the Sacramento rant was a manifestation of that anniversary—as many have speculated—then I feel bad that a breakdown had to occur so publicly and I hope the Kardasharati take good care of him … especially for the sake of his children.

But I maintain that Kanye has to truly atone for some of his behavior—if not to his fans, to the Amber Roses of the world who deserve it. Here’s hoping he comes out of this dark hole a better artist and a better human being.

Dustin Seibert

Dustin J. Seibert lifts heavy weights and plays all his video games on hard mode to find peace. He has a better ear for hip-hop than anyone else you know. He writes like the English language is going outta style because the steaks in his freezer are dependent on it.

  • Scorpiogoddess??

    In as much as people brush it off and do NOT want to hear it, the music industry, entertainment industry is NOT a joke. He ain’t in mourning. There are bigger things in play, behind the scenes. Mourning is just the excuse being used here.

  • MysteryMeat

    I still got love for Ye only on the count that hes melanated. I will irresponsibly say, that Im kiiiinda not here for artist admiting their faults. Be crazy, make good art and stay misunderstood. Kanye seems like hes whining all the time and it irritates me.

    BUT, like the author said, since he legit has mental illness I do hope he gets better. IF HE WOULD JUST STOP TALKING!!!

    • I’ve been to enough liquor stores to know that crazy people are going to talk. That’s just their thing.

  • Brandon Allen

    In retrospect, as a true fan, his first three albums are overrated. Especially sonically. TLOP and Yeezus mere great. Kanye just needs to step away and pull a chappelle for a few years to recover.

    • Dustin John Seibert

      Eeeeee….

      • Brandon Allen

        An 808s —> Watch the Throne is Kanye’s best work tbh.

        • MsSula

          Same.

    • You must be crazy

      • Val

        I see what you did there.

      • Brandon Allen

        Nah, I just have perspective. I love those albums but do you ever need to hear “Breathe in Breathe out” or “Bring me down” again? No.

        It’s just that hip hop was so trash then it was breath of fresh air.

        • I kinda like Bring me Down. Every Album has it’s lesser tracks. Early Kanye had fewer of them.

    • Glo

      Nah.

    • You didn’t like the 8 skits and 26 long album with average lyrics?

    • B ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh… you are singing my life….. You say that and folks act funny as heII… 808 was genius from production to writing…

    • Epsilonicus

      TLOP grew on me. I thought it was fine when it came out at first. The more I listened to it, the more I appreciated it.

  • Val

    You were upset about the Taylor Swift thing? Really? Lol And folks who buy tickets to a Kanye concert and complain are the same folks who buy Lauryn Hill tickets and complain when she’s 8 hours late as always.

    Anyway, I hope Kanye gets better. But mostly I hope that he will use this experience the way Kid Cudi did to spread awareness about mental illness.

  • Glo

    He does generally seem to lose his mind every year around the time of the anniversary of his mom’s death. Losing family on or near the holidays is always hard because the holidays tend to feel like a constant reminder of your loss. This year, though, the anniversary of him mom’s death came right after Kim was robbed. We don’t know all of the details of what happened, but that whole situation had to have been both terrifying and stressful. He also refunded the tickets for the Sacramento concert, so, as you said, he’s not a COMPLETE a$$hole.

    I’m usually the last person to defend Kanye, but he has my sympathy now.

    • PinkRose

      Sadly, I’m in that lost a parent around the holidays group. And it’s never, EVER the same.

      • Glo

        Sending you hugs.

        • PinkRose

          Thank you!

      • Whitney Helm

        It truly isn’t. I’ve always sympathized with Ye because our mothers passed away the same day. And I always think of him during this month, because I know how hard it is for me and my siblings. I hope he gets the help he needs and can move on from this, asshole or not.

      • Val

        *eHUG*

        • PinkRose

          Thank you Val!

      • BeautifulSunshine

        Hugs PR.

      • BeautifulSunshine

        When I was growing up there was a lady who lost her son at sea, ( code he was running drugs and got killed), his body was never recovered. She was fine throughout the year but around the time he disappeared she became very morose and inconsolable. That went on for close to 20 years until she died.

    • BeautifulSunshine

      That I understand. People handle grief differently.

  • Photoshop’s a helluva drug

    Black people look at getting mental help worse than drug abuse, ratchetness or joblessness. We would rather create conspiracy theories on how the Illuminati got to him than admit that he needs help. Many creative people live on that edge, I have experienced it myself. You have to have a grounded person or persons to bring you back when you slip sometimes. He has had a bunch of people who only make money when he is working around him. BTW I don’t include Kim in that group. I think she just really didn’t understand what she was walking into. Too self absorbed to realize he was more than an accessory.

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    • Wise Old Owl

      Yes, sadly in the Black Community mental illness has more stigma the drug addiction. A Black parent without shame will get up on Sunday morning and ask the church congregation to pray for their child on drugs, but will be to embarrassed and ashamed to ask for prayer for their child suffering a mental illness…We must do better as a Community and erase the shame and stigma of mental health.

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      So…we’re just going to pretend Kanye cancelling his entire tour right before being admitted to the hospital doesn’t look a tad bit suspicious? We’re going to pretend that it’s not possible he’s looking for an insurance loophole to avoid any financial accountability for lost funds? We’re going to pretend that his “psychotic meltdown” on stage was not psychotic at all as much as it was a jealous attempt to sully the names of artists who are richer, better, and more successful than he is? We’re going to pretend that Kanye’s continuous (and very selective might I add) rants and storming the stage is not fueled by his desire to look cool/tough/hard etc? Instead, we’re just going to pin this on black people being ignorant again?

      Oh. Ok.

      • Photoshop’s a helluva drug

        Are we pretending this dude has been unstable for years? Are we pretending he hasn’t acted out like this for years before this tour? And in what world, to who would these rants look cool or tough?

      • Photoshop’s a helluva drug

        And if you had read my post, I was saying he has been mentally ill for years and it was not addressed because of a stigma in our community and greed of himself and those around him. And at no point did I call black people ignorant. His issues should been address years ago. EVERYBODY saw this coming.

  • miss t-lee

    “If Kanye is suffering from a legitimate psychosis”

    Considering the fact that he’s been away for a little bit now, I think it’s safe to say there isn’t an “if” involved.

    • Negro Libre

      Eh, I don’t think the diagnosis is psychosis.

      • miss t-lee

        Thing is…they don’t just keep you in the psych ward.

        • Negro Libre

          You’d be surprised lol…ijs

          I’ve seen a whole lot of non-crazies in the psych ward before.

          • miss t-lee

            There’s also much touring money that was lost. So, I’m thinking it has to be something serious because that’s how most artists make their bread and butter.

            • QueenRaven23

              I thought he had insurance to keep him from losing money

              • miss t-lee

                I’m not exactly sure.

              • He did marry a Kardashian…

                • Val

                  Which also might be a sign of mental illness.

                • Cheech

                  Which reminds me, how’s Swaggy P these days?

                  • The Lake show is playing .500 ball. He can’t be doing that bad.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      I think he is injured.

            • Negro Libre

              I mean I agree, but all that could be happening and it’s still not a serious mental disorder. It could be, just need to wait more and hear what they were able to diagnose and why.

              • miss t-lee

                Again, IDK. I’m just saying…you can’t be flippant about that being a possible diagnosis.

                • Negro Libre

                  Psychosis is a pretty hardcore diagnosis though.

                  • miss t-lee

                    I’m aware.

          • Not rich ones, though.

          • Are we talking 72 hour holds or long term stays? With the former, I’ve seen that. With the latter, you usually have to have something major wrong.

            • miss t-lee

              It started out as 72, and then it was extended.

            • Negro Libre

              A good lawyer or a bad judge depending on circumstances can get you in a psych ward quite easily. We had a kid once who was pretty much a kid who got caught up in gangs, who ended up with us for 90 days beating up staff and putting them in the hospital like clockwork. Got out after 90 days; a couple weeks later stabbed a guy to death and got put in jail for 7+ years I think.

              That’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to narrow in what’s going on with Ye, he’s a celebrity, so it’s a lot harder to separate fact from fiction.

              • I know about the 72 hour hold movement from personal experience. The sane “crazies” were the ones that let me know who was really a danger and who to look out for. Things like weird meds issues to crying too hard in the wrong spot can land you a 72 hour hold. Now the long term guests were an interesting bunch, and I spent my early VSB days hanging around them. Kinda why I ended up frequenting the comments so much. LOL

                • Negro Libre

                  Yeah, the real crazies are something else. But yeah, pretty much once you’re in a mental health institution, the head psychiatrist, pretty much controls your destiny.

      • BeautifulSunshine

        Is it me ? But it seems as if most people are looking for a reason to give Kanye a pass.

        • Psych ward isn’t a good reason?

          • BeautifulSunshine

            Nope. Even before it came to that, there is always some reason for his actions. And he is not a dummy, I am sure he knows how to game the system.

        • Negro Libre

          I think it’s mostly people are hoping that such things can be used to have conversations about mental illness and how they have black folks. I come from the other side where i’ve worked and seen with people who are over-diagnosed when it comes to mental illness.

          I once remember reading a paper by a psychiatrist once, and how a lot of times, psychiatrists are more prone to categorize black clients as schizophrenic (poor) and white clients as bipolar (middle class and above), because a lot of times, they don’t know what they’re doing, and there’s enough similarities in the DSM that they can get away with it.

          • Now that I do know. Plus looking at the genetics, it’s clear that if not bipolar and schizophrenia being the same disease, they definitely have common biological roots. Also, social environment has a major impact on mental illness, with the individualistic environment in Western societies making mental illness worse.

            • Negro Libre

              One of the reasons I left the mental health field for psych, was that I realized the industry (outside of being very subsidized by the government) still had a major problem of differentiating what was a cultural contribution vs. a scientific contribution to a mental illness, or how it was perceived, and that existed both in Academia and in the actual practice, where the approach was psychotherapy or behaviorist.

              It also seems psychologists and psychiatrists, even on the highest levels are part of an industry, that is highly prone to unchallenged rationalizations. And it seems even laymen talk about the field is way closer to how the professionals talk about it, which to me, signaled that a lot of those PsyDs and PhDs had no clue what they were doing, outside of reveling in the American public’s love for appeal to authority on almost all issues having to deal with science.

              • BeautifulSunshine

                Reminded me of cracked’s pod cast for this week, which questioned a lot of psychological studies and the implicit biases which they carry.

              • FeeFee

                Psychology is one of the scientific fields were junk science still persist. Differentiating between “cultural contribution vs. scientific contribution” is a big factor in that.

                • HoneyRose

                  No more than any other social science endeavor. Psychology is just one of the few fields that non-psychologists without formal training like to come in and criticize without a full understanding.

                  • FeeFee

                    “No more than any other social science endeavor.”–And there’s a reason for that.

                    “Psychology is just one of the few fields that non-psychologists without formal training like to come in and criticize without a full understanding.”–And the reason being the cultural contribution vs. scientific contribution is the crux of that.

              • Well said. I think the real revolutions in psychology are going to come from outside of the field, with neurological researchers coming from one end, and sociologists coming from the other. Psychology will be at its peak when there’s no more psychology, and that’s both promising and a sign of how much psychology has built its castles on sand.

                • Negro Libre

                  Funny enough, I think most of the problems with psychology both come from the two biggest names, historically in the field: Freud and the field of psychotherapy, with a mostly rationalist approach to the mind; and Skinner in the field of behaviorism, with a mostly empirical approach to the mind. Both fields have sworn that they have evolved in this regard, but the simple fact is that they’re original errors are still predominant. The mind is integrated with both emotion and reason; nature and nurture; experience and thought; mind and body. To treat the mind and focus on one side, without understanding the interdependence on the other, is guaranteed to lead wrong conclusions.

                  • HoneyRose

                    Research psychologists widely recognize Freud’s work as flawed. Even few counselors use psychotherapy in the same way Freud designed it.

                    Also, many research psychologists understand and study the tied nature of mind and body/ nature and nurture. Ask your average neuropsychologist and they’ll tell you.

                    • Negro Libre

                      Eh, I’m not so sure.

                      I do know some people who do research in the field of psychology as do I know neuropsychologists, I do think in the long run, it’s the neurology side that are going to make the field more scientific. However, my overall point is that the problem in the field isn’t so much methodology: it’s philosophy.

          • BeautifulSunshine

            That I can see, but it seems to me that people are somehow more forgiving of him than other persons. It should however be noted that I respect the fact that us in the black community do not like to confront mental illness and that more of us need care and self care. But somehow for Kanye, it seems as if we were quick to throw that diagnosis at him for a long time even before it came to this.

          • Blueberry01

            Inappropriate diagnoses occur across the board in medicine, unfortunately.

        • T.Q. Fuego

          No, it’s not just you at all. They ain’t saying this sh*t for Azalea Banks or anybody else who consistently says bold and reckless sh*t. They just don’t wanna not like Kanye. He gets a pass for pretty much everything wit this demographic.

          • Negro Libre

            From the shadows lol

            • T.Q. Fuego

              Lmao! Whatup Negro Libre. Yeah, it’s been a while, but a few weeks ago when he came out in support of Trump I immediately said “I wonder what excuse the VSB cohort will make for him now”, they used all the predictable ones. So no surprise there. How u been tho man?

              • Negro Libre

                Been good man…fighting the good fight

                • T.Q. Fuego

                  Haha, respect. You have the patient of a saint who teachers kindergarten…Then again doesn’t seem like people throw hissy fits about your opinions and try to fight you anymore. Why do you think that is? Have you softened your tone? Are you becoming a warm-hearted father figure with age or what? lol

                  • Negro Libre

                    Haha, I think I lost my edge a bit.

                    I’m probably like Jordan in the Wizards, who can go for the occasional 40 if he gets left open too much.

                    • T.Q. Fuego

                      Lol @ the metaphor. Yeah, father time is indiscriminate. I think you just adjusted your approach so your ideas didn’t fall on deaf defensive ears. Wise adjustment tbh

              • Val

                Hiya, TQ!

                *waves*

                • T.Q. Fuego

                  Sup Val, hope everything’s been good. Been a while

          • BeautifulSunshine

            In all fairness I have heard people question Azalea’s mental health.

            • T.Q. Fuego

              True, but it’s almost universally assumed that the batsh*t comments Kanye makes are due to mental health. Azalea gets no such pass. No one forgives her for her sh*t because they don’t like her music or wanna like her as much

              • Epsilonicus

                What music?

            • Val

              Me too. Lots of times.

          • L8Comer

            I’ve long said Azaelia Banks seems to be suffering from some mental illness. But, I recognize the consensus is that she’s a bitter black beyotch…

  • Remember that one time I pitched this I dea and VSB didn’t answer my email because they were all talking to Oprah and whatnot? NOBODY DOES…*sad face*

    Kidding. I’m on the same page as Dustin. Yeezy is clearly messed up. I’m just not sure how he can come back from any of this. Not even sure his wife (or family) has the fortitude to deal with any of this aside from taking him shopping.

    • Thinz

      lollll @ Kim’s retail therapy dig.

    • A.G.

      Haha you know Kim n’em are overwhelmed.

      • pls

        I honestly think they are the ones encouraging this, he’s never been this bad before. I mean, how hard would it be to drive a crazy person like kanye over the edge?

  • PinkRose

    I suspect that overall interest in mental health issues will be reflected in the number of comments on this post. And I hope I’m wrong in assuming that number will be low.

    • Nope, not wrong.

      • Kas

        Not wrong. Where OG?

        • BeautifulSunshine

          Hahaha, he is no longer on the island. I think he is trying to contact the MIB to get their mind eraser thingy to use it on us, so that we can forget he was a stan.

    • I’m definitely interested in mental health. That said, he hasn’t projected something that screams schizophrenia or bipolar or the big personality disorders yet. He’s a celebrity, but we still have to show some caution.

  • HoobaStankyLeg

    I just don’t see it for Kanye. I haven’t really cared for him or his behavior ever. I’m pretty sure he’s a different person than what we see in public. But even before his mom passing, he irked me. I don’t want him to be unwell. I wish him no ill will, I just can’t with him.

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