Thoughts on YE: Superpowers, Controversy, & Antifragility
For the past few months, Kanye West has arguably been the most talked about person on the planet. Prior to his recent album release, his fans were surprised to see his Twitter account revived. Perhaps even more surprising were Kanye’s tweets, as he briefly delved into the realm of insightful twitter, spouting tweets such as “art is the threat to authority,” “energy is contagious,” and “stop thinking about things for a long time without saying what you think.” The very last tweet in particular is the essence of what I believe Kanye’s new album is all about. In this post, I will offer my perspective on what I believe is Kanye’s primary conceptual idea of his new album, which in my opinion, was calculated well before the release. I am not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with any of Kanye’s decisions, but instead providing my insights concerning why Kanye chose to make his controversial moves in the first place.
West’s insightful tweets were frequently “liked” by many, but as any follower of his over the years knows, ensued controversy is often waiting to happen. Kanye’s Twitter liking took a turn for the worse when he professed his respect for current U.S. President Donald Trump, but most of the outrage largely stemmed from Yeezy posting a picture of himself in a ‘MAGA’ hat despite the caption ironically saying “we got love.” Reasons for outrage varied from liberal/conservative debate and hypocritical shock, as many were stunned that Kanye, the one repping Trump’s merchandise, was the same individual that once claimed that George Bush doesn’t care about black people, the same person that once said “I’m so appalled, spalding ball, balding Donald Trump taking dollars from y’all” (West). But that’s not even close to the end of the rabbit hole.
Once matters finally seemed to settle, West sparked the mob further with an even greater fire when he appeared on TMZ and stated that “400 years of slavery sounds like a choice.” After enormous backlash, Kanye attempted to offer an explanation for his comments by reasoning that he was simply presenting ‘new ideas,’ but it is self-evident that such attempts were unsuccessful. During the remainder of Kanye’s album waiting period, a portion of Kanye’s once loyal fans no longer proclaimed themselves to be fans as a result of his antics, some of whom shared that they’d boycott his new album. Others simply ignored, forgave, or dismissed his comments and stated that they’d listen regardless. Conversely, those that were likely not fans of Kanye prior to his conservative outlook became fans, shifting the paradigm of his artistic appreciators.
If you are still reading, the remaining portion of this thought essay is all opinionated, rather than summary, of what transpired. Revisiting Kanye’s insightful Twitter post “stop thinking about things for a long time without saying what you think,” I believe that each and every single controversial moment prior to his album release was intentional to reflect that tweet itself. To support my claims, let’s have a look at some lyrics from his new album. The first track, “I Thought About Killing You,” provides an introspective, eerie, ominous sound with echoing background hums, where Kanye speaks on his mental health struggles and coping mechanisms. It is also worth a mention that the album art contains the text “I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome.” Mirroring the tweet above, West’s proposed solution in overcoming mental health struggles lies in the individual’s ability to speak his/her mind without restraint: “People say “don’t say this, don’t say that.” Just say it out loud, just to see how it feels. Weigh all the options, nothing’s off the table” (West). Moreover, the track “Yikes” dismisses the common perception that bipolarity is a mental illness: That’s my bipolar sh*t, ni*** what? That’s my superpower, ni*** ain’t no disability” (West).
West’s calling for individuals to not be afraid of societal pressures and express what they truly desire is a double-edged sword. I’m all for freedom of speech, self-acceptance aka calling yourself a superhero, and allowance to speak your mind, but due to Kanye’s controversial slavery comments, the message unfortunately could be misconstrued. The message can be applied in a positive light toward society gradually accepting differentiating points of view. Personally, although I found it very strange and perhaps hypocritical, who am I to say that Kanye West should not support Donald Trump or any other political candidate for that matter? One does not necessarily have to vote for their political party in an election, nor does one have to identity themselves with a party to begin with. Humans are complicated creatures with complex behavior; reasons for why we support x and why we condemn y are often unclear, with several interrelated circumstances that cannot be thoroughly explained without enforcing a narrative fallacy. I agree with Kanye in the sense that humans should be able to make decisions that reflect their true nature without fear of damaging their reputation and interpersonal relationships. Outrage culture largely stems from when an individual presents an idea that does not align with the the societal norm of a particular tribe. I would even theorize that those who claim to be outraged are at times jealous that the rebel has enabled himself to profess his beliefs absent any fear of neglect.
However, my concern lies in the reverse potentiality where I envision violent hate groups i.e racists, misogynists, and any other misconstrued listener of this album perceiving the album’s message as rationalization for their nefarious worldviews and actions. For instance in the aforementioned song “I Thought About Killing You,” the title alone is controversial, but the lyrics “Today I seriously thought about killing you/I contemplated, premeditated murder” could be terribly misinterpreted, justifying terrifyingly harmful behavior. Moreover, West’s song “Ghost Town” can be perceived as a beautifully constructed track that empathizes with those dealing with (or that have dealt with) depression and self-harm. Lyrics such as I put my hand on a stove, to see if I still bleed/Yeah, and nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free,” however, could unfortunately also influence others to harm themselves, as they search for the release of freedom that Kanye raps about.
With that being said, if this article even receives more than 100 readers, I hope that no one takes these thoughts seriously, given my assumptions could be entirely inaccurate. These are merely my immediate reactions after listening to the album that I decided to share. Personally, I enjoyed the album and I consider it to be another successful work of art to Kanye’s already impressive artistry. Although I did not agree with Kanye’s comments on slavery, I do not believe that his music should be boycotted. Kanye does not strike me as the type whose intentions are to be a detriment the world with his actions and opinions, but rather he aims to challenge the status quo by disseminating new ideas. I appreciate Kanye’s mysteriousness when it comes to his creative outlook, but when you make controversial (and quite frankly asinine) statements such as this, a greater explanation to the public is deserved. Kanye has the mindset of a fierce entrepreneur: he is not afraid of failure nor controversial backlash. For better or worse, West has always, and will always, be wiling to cross the boundaries of what is considered normal to deliver his ideas to as many people as possible. But like everyone else, artists and celebrities should absolutely be held accountable for their actions and prone to critique when necessary. Therefore, I had no issue of the brutal fact checking that ensued after Kanye’s outlandish slavery comments. In case you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that everyone checks out the video of Lupe Fiasco’s Instagram Live response to Kanye’s comments, as it outlines a perfect example of what I consider proper judgment.
Of course, at times I wish the ‘old’ Kanye would resurface, but then I remember that he is HUMAN. It is more outrageous, in my opinion, to expect an artist to continually make the same type of music that he/she made during their early stages of their career (Unless maybe you are Pusha T). Similarly, ask yourself: Are you the same person that you were 10 years ago? I would even argue that you aren’t the same person that you were yesterday. If this is the case, for instance, why is it an anomaly for an individual to vote for a political candidate that doesn’t align with one‘s political party and be allowed to reassess their point of view? Like Kanye suggests, “if you feel something don’t let peer pressure manipulate you.” As long as that feeling is not harmful to others, why not state your opinion? What is unpopular is not necessarily illegitimate and vice-versa. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching…
Other relevant thoughts/ideas of others that are noteworthy:
“ The most powerful phrases are the most restricted in their use. Examples: “I love you.” “Go fu** yourself.” — Very interesting how one is a great compliment, the other a supreme insult, yet both are equally restrictive in usage. I would even argue that the insult is more widely used than the compliment these nowadays.
Very similar to the idea above, here is another one of Kanye’s tweets from when he turned into a philosopher: “Though hate is a similar emotion to love. Hate is not the answer. Love is.”
YouTube video: Scott Adams tells you how Kanye showed way to the Golden Age — I wrote a Twitter thread after watching this video . Never would I ever imagine writing about Kanye West, Scott Adams, and Candace Owens in the same sentence to say the least…
Excerpt from an exceptional blog Post by Florent Crivello: “Nobody Cares” “When I find myself engaging in too much self-censorship, I remember one of the most liberating facts I know: that nobody cares.” — This post perhaps resonates with Kanye’s way of thinking, as he knows that controversy not sells, but eventually passes over, as the next wave of outrage moves in.
Book Recommendation & excerpt: Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder — “ Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better” (Taleb). — Kanye West is a prime example of antifragility. Despite his controversial remarks, his new album has already reached #1 on the U.S. Itunes sales chart. Any press is good press…
Kanye West confirms he was diagnosed with a mental disorder at age 39 in interview with Big Boy — Notable quote that supports Kanye being antifragile: “That’s the reason that the world won’t let me go because I’m a just a family member, they might disagree with me on certain sh*t but I’m they family I’ve been here for 15 years, 18 years” Another notable quote: “Think about somebody that does exactly what I did at TMZ and they just do that at work but then Tuesday morning they come in and lost they job” — Not only does this reaffirm Kanye’s antifragility, but he speaks on how he feels his mental condition was put on to him by God, to create a new narrative that such conditions should not be considered disabilities, but superpowers.
Potential next blog post: How fandom is a blessing and a curse — To be an avid fan of anyone can be a beautiful thing as you cheer for them and watch them evolve amidst the ups and downs. The curse lies in the fans tendency to form unrealistic expectations of their idol(s), breeding potentially heartbreaking disappointment. Newsflash: our idols are humans too (excluding maybe Lionel Messi or LeBron James).
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