Kanye West Is A Goddamn Unholy Mess Right Now
You wanna know how I know Kanye is wrong when he says the media treats him unfairly? They are not killing him at the moment.
Let’s take a look at the past few weeks in the life and times of Yeezus: He got into a heated Twitter spat with Wiz Khalifa over a misunderstood reference to ‘KK’ in which he claimed to “own” Wiz’s ex and child. He proclaimed Bill Cosby’s innocence. He said The Life of Pablo was going to be released on a certain day, then didn’t release it, then released it two days later, then unreleased it, on the tire-fire music service TIDAL nonetheless. One of the songs on the new album makes pointed derogatory statements about America’s #2 female pop star (Beyonce is #1. We’ll get back to her in a moment). Then he said that he got her permission for the diss, which her management swiftly refuted. He claimed to be $53 million in debt. Oh yeah, and he publicly begged Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion.
This is bizarre behavior. At the very fucking least.
The counter to that statement is that Kanye has always been bizarre, prone to outlandish statements and extended rants that defy the standards society typically places on artists, particularly black artists.
I would argue that this feels like something different. There’s a desperation that feels new to me. He seems out of control of his message and output in a way that he never has been before.
The Life of Pablo is already the subject of much critical acclaim, which, frankly, I don’t understand. It’s not that I think the album is particularly low quality or problematic, it’s that publications that have a history of dissecting culture for instances of oppressive language seem to have given Kanye a pass.
The fact that the Taylor Swift line, as well as other instances of blatant sexism and misogyny, haven’t launched a thousand thinkpieces examining the recurring denigration of women in Kanye West’s work is unbelievable to me. Even Slate gave it a glowing review. Slate. This is an album that includes the line, “Now if I fuck this model/And she just bleached her asshole/And I get bleach on my T-shirt/I’mma feel like an asshole,” and Slate called it “miraculous”.
Despite this nascent album’s initial critical success, its content hasn’t managed to make the sort of seismic impact that is usually associated with new Kanye releases. There are no Jesus Walks, no Gold Diggers, no Heartlesses, no Powers, no Black Skinheads that seem primed to achieve any sort of cultural ubiquity, no new fire tracks to underscore movie trailers and athlete entrances, no songs to get everybody in the club dancing, singing along, banging their heads to the beat. The conversation still seems mostly focused on Kanye’s conduct.
Which is a strange paradox, that although Kanye’s antics have outshined his art and the conversation seems more focused at the moment on his latest tweets than on his music, there seems to be no substantial media engagement with that fact. These incidents are reported piecemeal, one at a time, as if they are happening in a vacuum and have no relationship to what came before it. There seems to be no entertainment media outlet that have taken the past few weeks in aggregate, stepped back, and asked, “What the hell is going on with Kanye?”
Kanye has seemed to attain this singular position in the press landscape in which his behavior and rhetoric exists beyond the intense scrutiny that typically comes with being a public person in 2016. Maybe this is, as I mentioned above, that most media outlets have determined that this isn’t anything new for him, that this is just “Kanye being Kanye.” That type of intense scrutiny is usually unfair and devoid of context and nuance, but at least it’s equal opportunity.
It’s far beyond my knowledge and expertise to even begin to try to piece together why Kanye is such a mess right now. I don’t know him personally, nor do I exist in any sort of media circle that has any kind of exclusive look at what’s going on inside his head. But my theory is that something is wrong, amiss if you will, and he needs to figure it out.
I guess the predictable answer is his marriage into the Kardashian Klan, and that may very well be it, but to speculate feels too much like falling into the “It’s the woman’s fault” trope, and without any sort of evidence that suggests what, if any, influence his wife and her family have on his creative process (beyond the “Bound 2” video, of course), it’s wrong to go down that road.
Maybe he’s spread too thin between his obligations to his fashion line, music, and young family. Maybe making this album was hard because he had writer’s block, so he’s trying to overcompensate by exuding confidence in the new material. Maybe he really is $53 million in debt and is pulling out all the stops. I have no idea.
But I want him to figure it out. Kanye is, at his best, brilliant. His worst moments are those when he allows his personal insecurities and anxieties to overwhelm his art, and that seems to be what’s happening at the moment.