I still know nearly all the words to Kanye West’s first three albums.
And I hate to be that ol’ “I miss the old so-and-so” type neighbor, but I think Kanye is worth such a melancholy sentiment. Because… I don’t think Kanye is well.
I’m pretty sure Kanye’s always been fairly indignant, but it always felt like he was an indignant in the same ways that I was. Unrelenting, when not given the chance to shine. Insistent upon my own genius. Awkwardly creative and just down to earth enough to say what most folks are already thinking.
“George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”
Surprised as I was then, I can’t argue with that now. And Beyonce is better than Taylor Swift in pretty much every imaginable way. Out of pocket, probably, but it was a small dose of chaos that got us to the truth.
And, maybe Kanye has always been elitist at heart, but it was palatable, for the most part. It was entertaining. But after years of validating Kanye West, it’s hard to watch him chase so hard after public affirmation and white approval, specifically. I’ve never seen anyone pander so thirstily after recognition that they confuse themselves.
It’s not funny anymore. In fact, it’s getting pretty concerning. His breakdowns are frequent and he spazzes quite often. Kanye’s visible and audible vexations have become predictable and, along with his inability to articulate what he really needs, it’s like a sand storm every time he speaks.
I think a few of us know a Kanye. We recognize the behavior; we see the signs even if we can’t put our finger on what exactly the issue is. Are these episodes manic interludes? There’s inconsistency everywhere: in ideas, behavior, allegiance. Everything he says and does contradicts something he’s said and done. You can’t tweet about lowering the price of textbooks and push an over-hyped and overpriced fashion line. You can’t keep pulling the Black card and beg to join the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club.
“I was sick about awards, couldn’t nobody cure me/ Only player that got robbed and kept all his jewelry.”
I miss when Ye was just talking about leaving us when he got his money right. I miss when he just fantasized about being a member of the elite class, before he had the money to actually get on and leave us and his old baes for this white girl. When he was just snobbish. Before he started taking every opportunity to whine about being accepted by the same industry Rihanna seems to be thriving in (“I feel like I got discriminated in fashion for not being gay”). Before… this:
“Racism and the focus on racism is a distraction to humanity. It would be like focusing on the cousin from your mom’s side versus the cousin on your dad’s side. We’re all cousins. We’re all the same race.”
I’m afraid that, since Yeezus, Kanye’s seen himself as just that: hip-hop’s messiah, come to revive and redefine the entire culture and having created, by default, several contradictory definitions for himself. He uses his Blackness when it suits him, but then claims that racism is a non-factor.
These days, I can’t tell if Kanye is fighting the power or fighting to become the power.
None of these things, however, can take away from what Kanye’s done. I can acknowledge the fact that he’s long gone and also acknowledge the fact that College Dropout did not leave my CD player throughout my entire 9th grade year. Kanye’s made Good Music in more ways than one. He fought his way to get here (wherever this is, for him), and he deserves to enjoy this part of his journey. I just wished it wasn’t at the expense of crying wolf over every industry he feels doesn’t accept his particular brand of “genius-level” talent. I with it wasn’t at the expense of him trying to impress the “beauty” of his Barbie wife upon us. I wish it wasn’t at the expense of portraying so many contradictory images of Blackness to his Black daughter and son.
But I don’t even make as much money as Kanye’s broke friend. I’m just a concerned citizen who still desperately wants to be a fan. So if Kirk can help him find peace, so be it. No matter how I feel about #TLOP (or Yeezus, for that matter) or how much I may disagree with the man’s day to day decisions, if this “trap gospel” album is Kanye finding his way to a stabilizing faith and solid mental health, then I’m with it.