On Tuesday night, Kanye West made history and performed a surprise show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. Yes, I’m bitter I wasn’t there, but it’s all good though — I’m in decent company (right, Taio Cruz? We homies).
After recreating his fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy live in its entirety with a handful of guest stars like Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and Janis Joplin (she was there!) for an audience of 500, Yeezy ranted for nine minutes about I’mma-Gate and George Vs. The Black People (new topic addition: Matt Lauer, who is apparently, like a child abuser). These incidents involve three of the most non-threatening people in the world right now. One is a teenage girl/country singer who excels at feigning surprise, the other is a puppy-faced ex-President with a legacy so stinky, it’s practically a dirty diaper, and the latest addition has probably only one enemy ever and it’s Tom Cruise.
Yet in a month when Kanye West has released an album so strong it warranted a meeting of the Music Journalist Council in which all declared their undying love and appreciation for My Dark Twisted Fantasy, the rapper is still talking about two incidents involving the former and one meta-incident involving the two incidents with the latter, as if they should still be important topics of conversation. Rather than celebrate a magical night and a wondrous new album, West harps on fading drama, prefab gossip fodder, and self-perpetuating controversy. It’s a truly sad sight to behold (even though, technically I didn’t). One of the most talented men in the world incapable of finding solace and peace in his own brilliance. And this is what worries me. In fact, Kanye reminds me a bit of Kurt Cobain.
I’m not saying that Kanye West will kill himself, nor, to satisfy the conspiracy theorists, am I saying that Courtney Love will kill Kanye West, but like Cobain, West has a very fractured relationship with the media, in the way that he inexplicably cooperates with it yet never quite trusts it.
West may hate Rolling Stone just as Cobain did, but he will most likely appear on the cover in a few weeks. He may say the media doesn’t get him, but will tell that to the media itself. And like Cobain, Kanye is also an abnormal talent, a generational spokesperson, and man given too much credibility too soon and thus carries the burden of being wanted by everyone. Unlike Cobain, his apparent pain – laid bare in 808’s and Heartbreak and now with confessional tracks like “My Dark Fantasy” and “Runaway”- isn’t stomach related, but it’s obvious that the rapper is still very much tortured inside.
After a recent screening of his over-indulgent, good intentioned film Runaway in Los Angeles, West admitted to have contemplated suicide at one point. At the culmination of the song “Power,” Dwele, the guest vocalist on the song channels Kanye’s sentiment that “it would be a beautiful death/ jumping out of the window/ letting everything go.” Yeezy has reassured the media that he currently has too much to live for but can we all agree on the fact that this man is struggling with a serious chemical imbalance of some kind?
One need only to follow Kanye’s Twitter feed to see his manic patterns from extreme highs and a love for life to real lows culminating into a cocktail of paranoia, defensiveness, and anger. Would it shock me if in the likeliness that West lives a long life, he will become certifiably bananas? No. His 140 charactered unfiltered stream of consciousness more than hints to an unfurling craziness. And that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? (At the time of writing this, it’s been nearly ten days since West’s last tweet. It can be that he’s just super busy promoting the new album, but ten days seems like a long time for a guy who averaged four tweets an hour).
In an interview with the wonderful Vulture blog, Jay-Z talks about his thoughts of Kanye following a week of his protege’s uncomfortably insincere apologies:
- Have you talked about your different stances? Yeah. Kanye is Kanye. I’m Jay-Z. He’s his own person. I don’t try to make him believe what I believe. I actually tell him things and then I leave it alone. He comes to his own decisions on his own. He’s a grown man. He’s a very intelligent young man as well. So we are who we are.
Jay-Z, who has developed into the level-headed elder, a rap mogul with wisdom to share, is working on the assumption that West is functioning mentally as a grown man. This is very not true. West has ostensibly progressed, or reverted, rather, to a childlike narcissism seeking audience from anyone who will give him a moment’s worth. If Jigga realized the crucial importance of a man on the verge of a mental implosion, he may realize that “tell[ing] him things” and then “leav[ing] it alone” may not be an effective strategy. If someone really cares about this exceptional human being, one of our brightest and biggest talents our time, which Jay purports to do, then he needs some intervention and direction (Lord knows this is not a man who takes direction easily–in fact, just the other week, West proved that he hires advisers to only ignore them).
Granted my clinical assessment is presumptuous but the lyrics themselves hint to its accuracy. In the electric single “Power,” he shouts “no one man should have all this power” as if having it were a burden, not a blessing.