We all know Kanye West as the arrogant, headstrong musician with bold (often untasteful) takes that rival his music in reputation – From Kanye storming the stage at the 2009 Grammys in protest of Taylor Swift beating out Beyoncé for best music video, to proclaiming that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” in wake of Hurricane Katrina, to his political involvements with the Trump administration, eventually leading to Kanye’s own presidential campaign in 2020. Needless to say, Kanye has never shied away from the spotlight when it comes to expressing his beliefs, even when it lands him in murky waters in the eyes of the public. While many dislike Kanye for these reasons, it is a two sided coin. As Kanye himself put it, “If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me, you’re a fan of yourself.” West lives by his doctrine of self-value above all, which has served as a model of self assurance to our generation. It is important to understand that with his sometimes shocking and audacious takes that have given many a bad rub, Kanye is asserting his ideas because he thinks they will be helpful to the world, or even to just a small group of people, and that is worth it to him. While I, being a fan of his, cannot agree with all of his beliefs, and often question how he thinks up much of what he says, I understand that this is what makes Kanye Kanye, and he is the last person to stray from what he believes in.
What is further undervalued and misunderstood about West is his tremendous advocacy for mental health and mental disabilities. He is very outspoken of his diagnosed bipolar disorder, which he considers his “superpower” rather than a disability. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behavior. It varies significantly from person to person, but those affected experience depressive episodes during which they encounter these shifts in behavior. Episodes can last from a matter of hours to even days. Kanye considers the effects of his bipolarity as crucial to what makes him tick. His approach towards mental illness promotes an attitude of acceptance surrounding the issue. He treats his condition as an aspect of himself that should be accepted and respected, not simply pushed away.
What I believe needs to be addressed is the de-stigmatization of Kanye’s condition. In a world that is becoming more and more accepting of mental health conditions, namely anxiety and depression, Kanye’s bipolar disorder has frequently been used against him. It is important to understand that those suffering from bipolar disorder are not fully in control of their emotions and actions, and thus it is often unfair to entirely blame the individual. In a very unfortunately timed series of events, Kanye suffered from a depressive episode during the midst of his Presidential campaign and rumours of a divorce being filed by his wife, Kim Kardashian. Many individuals and news outlets took this as an opportunity to ridicule Kanye as a husband, father, and political figure. Kanye is far from perfect, and all of his wrongdoings are not to be dismissed for his bipolar disorder, but when it comes to actions he’s taken or words he’s said as an effect of his condition, he deserves more empathy and respect than the general public gives him. It is okay to think kanye is an a**hole, but to hold his condition against him isn’t.
Turning to the past couple years, Kanye is a changed man, coming out about how his role as a father of four changed his character for the better, and made him recognize important things in life. Despite his ongoing divorce with Kim Kardashian, she has maintained how the two are still on good terms, and has continued her defense of Kanye’s mental health and the de-stigmatization of it. All of Kanye’s recent albums have highlighted his newfound vulnerability and responsibility as a father figure, along with his continued support of mental health, best seen in “Ye” and “Kids See Ghosts”. His most recent album, “Jesus is King” demonstrated his reconnection with his faith, and further exemplified his newfound openness, confessing to his struggles of overcoming his many past wrongdoings when reconnecting with God.
Kanye is now expected to release his 10th studio album, entitled “Donda”, named after his late mother Donda West who died tragically in 2007 from surgery complications. We can expect another showing of vulnerable Kanye, given his extremely close relationship with his mother and the circumstances surrounding her death. I was fortunate enough to attend Kanye’s most recent album listening party in Atlanta, which was truly a special event. Should he ever choose to release the album (which has been delayed for 382 days), we can expect to see this emotionally sensitive Kanye, who you can hopefully see in a new light.
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