Music Opinions

Kanye West’s Mental Breakdown isn’t Funny

"But truly the travesty, you've been robbed of your empathy. Replaced it with apathy." - Killer Mike

Well, it finally happened. Kanye West‘s bipolar disorder has taken a dark turn and he’s in the midst of a public mental breakdown.

As one of the most divisive figures in pop culture, his absurdly narcissistic proclamations made his fans love him and everybody else hate him. He was the king of talking shit but he always, always backed it up with his talent and his work ethic. He changed the face of hip-hop at least 4 times and brought music kicking and screaming into the future.

His success partly comes from his mythical ego which was a manifestation of his mental illness. He’s the lovable anti-hero that stole Taylor Swift’s microphone, told us “I am a God” and made an entire rap about how he misses the old version of himself.

Being bipolar gave him the mindset and unrelenting drive that catapulted him to superstardom. He embraced his reputation as the most obnoxious and arrogant man on Earth and recently started embracing his disorder with the brilliant Kid Cudi collaboration Kids See Ghosts and even more intimately on Ye where he calls his disorder his “superpower”. He owned it, like he always does, and embraced his mental illness that seemed to be worsening.

His music was a positive outlet, his public appearances were not. The MAGA hat Trump endorsement, his random Twitter outbursts, his newly found devotion to God, and the presidential campaign all seem like half-baked ideas from somebody having a manic episode.

This wasn’t 2016’s The Life of Pablo where Kanye pulled back the curtain on his creative process and embraced the culture of fame. That was a calculated move. These moves seem less controlled and more impulsive, like he’s not in control of his mind anymore.

Most non-Kanye fans will celebrate his downfall. “cancel” him and dismiss him as “crazy” without fully appreciating the gravity of the situation. This is a man screaming out for help as he loses grip on reality.

Mental health awareness is a trendy topic these days but when it affects somebody this famous we all cease to care. The public does what it always does, mocks them and laughs. Why deal with the uncomfortable truth when you can just put it in the “crazy” pile and move on with your life?

These latest outbursts are shocking but not surprising. Given the volatility of his mental state recently, an episode like this was inevitable. The next one will be even worse if he doesn’t get help soon.

The Kanye West 2020 Campaign Rally Disaster

The first indication that this wasn’t a “hilarious goofy” Kanye episode but more of a “oh my God please get him help” Kanye episode was the disastrous campaign rally in Charleston, SC.

The entire presidential run has been disturbing to watch. The “Birthday Party” the “West Wing”, all of the puns were pretty funny, but when you listen to Kanye speak about it he was dead serious. These were not jokes. People have called him delusional in the past and have been proven wrong (see: YEEZY sneakers and clothing). But these aren’t delusions of grandeur, they are straight up delusions.

At the rally, he didn’t talk about his platform or plans. He rambled incoherently about several deeply personal subjects and said a number of upsetting things that would have ruined a less famous person’s career.

The quote that’s been covered by every news outlet “Harriet Tubman never freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people.” is patently false and also irrelevant to anything that he was talking about. The crowd is audibly shocked and upset at most of the things he is saying.

He also revealed that he and wife Kim were thinking about aborting their daughter North West as he spoke on the issue of abortion.

It was an unmitigated disaster that showcased a man going through a full-blown mental breakdown.

The Tweetstorm Follow Up

This evening (July 20) Kanye jumped on Twitter and doubled down on his campaign rally with even more bombastic, nonsensical thoughts. In a series of (mostly) now deleted tweets, Kanye seems unhinged and unstable.

He starts out with a classic Kanye tweet that almost makes you think he’s back to normal. “Everybody knows the movie get out is about me” is pure gold. It has everything, the narcissism, the comedy, the complete seriousness that only Mr. West could pull off. Then things fly off the rails.

I put my life on my God that Norths mom would never photograph her doing playboy and that’s on God I’m at the ranch … come and get me

— ye (@kanyewest) July 21, 2020

I love my wife My family must live next to me It’s not up to E or NBC anymore

— ye (@kanyewest) July 21, 2020

He had several tweets about this. I’m not sure if Kim wanted to photograph North in Playboy or where this idea came from but he seems to be convinced that it’s a plot.

His paranoia continues when he says he may get “locked up like Mandela” and that “Ya’ll will know why” like it’s obvious when not a single soul on Earth knows why.

He says NBC is responsible for locking up Bill Cosby, he says NBC and E are keeping him and his family apart, and he said that Kim was trying to get a doctor to “lock him up” because of what he said about North at the campaign rally.

NBC locked up Bill Cosby

— ye (@kanyewest) July 21, 2020

He ends his second bizarre public outburst in as many days with a calm, collected assertion. “Ima focus on the music now” he says before posting the finished track list to his recently announced album Donda. The last thing he should be doing is working, he needs help, now, and he needs it before things get worse.

As a Kanye fan, I’d rather him get treatment than drop another album. I love his music more than any other artist of the past 15 years but it’s not worth losing him.

Stop Gawking and Start Helping

People love to support mental health when it’s the cause du jour but mock it when it rears its ugly head. Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, they manifest differently in each individual and instead of staring at the Kanye car crash and enabling it, we should use it as an opportunity to teach and bring awareness to people who need help.

Social media is horrible, memes are going to happen and it’s impossible to ignore Kanye’s outbursts but Jesus Christ can we take a step back and have a bit of empathy for the man? He gave us The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he produced the soundtrack of the past 15 years that we’ve all lived our lives too and we collectively laugh when he’s in legitimate trouble?

The culture is so used to dunking on celebrities and celebrating the downfall of our icons that we’ve lost our empathy and forgotten these are human beings. We’re turning Kanye’s legitimate struggle into entertainment, an opportunity to get more likes and say shitty things instead of trying to enlighten people. It trivializes his disorder and marginalizes the people suffering from it.

Shame on his team, the Kardashians, and his celebrity friends for allowing this trainwreck to continue. For enabling his manic episodes without getting him the help he needs. This presidential campaign should never have happened, the campaign rally either, and the fact that they let him continue to ramble after some of his comments is gross. He needs somebody to be a voice of reason and level with him. He’s not stronger than bipolar disorder because he’s Kanye, he needs help just like everybody else.

Yeezy has become the poster child for mental health awareness in America. He’s been one of the only celebrities with the confidence to speak openly and honestly about his issues and bring awareness to the matter. A shining example of “so what?” You can live with your disease and overcome it. You can be as successful as you want despite your brain telling you the exact opposite.

What we should be doing is supporting Kanye, sending positive messages, imploring him to get help. The same thing we would do if a family member was suffering with Bipolar disorder. Trying to remove the stigma around mental health and who it affects.

What truly hurts my heart is I don’t see the Kanye West story having a happy ending. The pressure on him is only going to intensify and his overall mental health has been on a steady, public decline since 2017. I pray he isn’t surrounded by only “yes” men and sycophants and has people who love him that will convince him to get the help he so clearly needs before something terrible happens.

I can’t help Kanye personally, you can’t either, but what we can do is use this as an opportunity to check in on a friend you haven’t heard from in a while or somebody you know who struggles with mental health issues. Sometimes these disorders make you avoid the things you need the most. There were many times I self-isolated when I desperately needed somebody.

Use Kanye as a reminder to call your friend, don’t let them fight this on their own. Show some empathy for him and everybody else going through something similar.

UPDATE: Dave Chappelle flew to Wyoming to Help

Dave Chappelle dropped everything to go check on his friend. Be more like Dave Chappelle.

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