Controversy has surrounded Kanye West for decades, constantly following the billionaire’s outlandish comments and bizarre antics. In the wake of his rivalry with Skeet Davidson and divorce from Kim Kardashian, Ye has made waves with two new incidents: his White Lives Matter shirt and anti-semitic Deathcon 3 remarks.
Is Kanye West Crazy?
Then media’s biggest moron, Tucker Carlson, trotted Ye out to the question, “Is Kanye Crazy?” in an effort to support his own political agenda.
The topic of Kanye’s mental health has long been explored, with many warning not to dismiss his outbursts as bipolar fits or attention-grabbing stunts. What few have done is look for answers where Kanye is peak Kanye: in his music.
How It All Started…
It’s now been 20 years since Kanye West’s famous car crash, inspiring his first hit single, “The Wire”, catapulting the producer’s rap career and igniting his first studio album, The College Dropout.
On the last track of that first album you’ll find a 12 minute, 40 second track named “Last Call” that includes an autobiographical account of Ye’s improbable rise to fame. He tells the story of biting Dr. Dre’s style, meeting Jay-Z for the first time, getting evicted, scoring his first hit single (H to the Izzo), and getting a deal with Roc-a-Fella records.
It’s a fascinating look inside the rapper’s mind at a time when his fame and money were relatively new and sober. Take a listen:
While his artistic talent is undeniable, Kanye’s rise can also be attributed to a relentless confidence in himself. How else could someone inspire mainstream radio stations to play a rap song about walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ?
Ye would release 2 more albums over the next 3 years (Late Registration, Graduation), solidifying his place as a global music sensation. His formula worked: believe in yourself, create something genius, ignore the critics, repeat.
As Kanye applied that formula to his entire life, it became difficult to understand where the performance stopped and the person began. This was uncomfortably evident in 2005 when Kanye infamously declared “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” during a live TV fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Similar show-stopping Kanye moments were better received, like his 2007 interruption of the band “Justice” during the European Music Awards.
Many recall that as being Kanye’s most hilarious moment. He stormed the stage in exasperated disbelief, exclaiming “Oh hell naw! This video cost a million dollars fam. I had Pam Anderson, I’m going jumpin’ off canyons and shit!”
Then in 2009, Kanye infamously crashed Taylor Swift’s AMA acceptance speech, declaring “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you and I’ma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all-time!”
Despite its astronomical level of inappropriateness, some found it fitting to defend Kanye, complimenting his loyalty for standing up for his good friend- however miscalculated it may have been socially.
Others weren’t as amused: 50 Cent said if Kanye interrupted his award, he’d get a black eye.
Whatever your opinion of Kanye, you probably had one. The Taylor Swift moment officially kicked off the “Kanye is crazy,” debate and there was no turning back.
You Can’t Tell Kanye Nothing
By the late 2000s it seemed Kanye’s golden age had begun. His music was everywhere. What once seemed like a rap producer on the brink of delusion had become an international celebrity for his same delusional ideas.
With success rooted in ignoring opposing opinions, Kanye forged ahead relentlessly, and nothing foreshadowed his future better than the 2007 hit, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”:
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny
And what I do? Act more stupidly
Bought more jewelry, more Louis V
My mama couldn’t get through to me
The drama, people suing me
I’m on TV talkin’ like it’s just you and me
Wait ’til I get my money right
Then you can’t tell me nothing, right?
Excuse me- was you saying something?
Uh uh, you can’t tell me nothing
Ha ha, you can’t tell me nothing
Uh uh, you can’t tell me nothing
If you think we shouldn’t be reading into Kanye’s lyrics because “it’s just a song”, listen in to Kanye’s own words as he explains the lyrics of another song on the same album- “Barry Bonds”- to Tim Westwood:
The tirade Kanye goes on is reminiscent of Mike Tyson in his prime, when he was an unstoppable beast fueled by only God knows what. Let’s take a tally of Kanye’s killer comments:
“I’m doing pretty good as far as geniuses go”
“Nobody can say shit about me”
“I’m like a machine, a robot. You cannot offend a robot.”
“There’s not anything anyone can say or do to me to stop”
“At the end of the day the talent will overcome anything”
“I have the right to talk about what I want, I have the right to give my opinion, because I back everything up.”
“Y’all thought I was talking shit when I first came out, now y’all see I back everything up. Back to back to back to back.”
“So basically, shut the fuck up.”
“Stop talking to me.”
Kanye’s Hierarchy of Needs
Propelled by self-confidence and motivated by critics, Kanye’s massive string of success served only to escalate his expectations. He explained it himself in an interview turned motivational video with Winning Mentality:
The definition of success according to Kanye was based on God setting new stages in his game of life:
- 14 years old: doing a beat for a local dope rapper
- 19 years old: doing a beat for anyone famous
- 24 years old: being able to put out his own music
That begs the question: what stage is Kanye on now?
Soldier of Culture
By the time Kanye infamously interrupted Taylor Swift, his focus had shifted from music to… everything. As he explained to Ellen in a 2010 interview, he was a “Soldier of Culture” doing God’s work.
It’s around this time that Kanye launched the Yeezy brand, first partnering with Nike (and later Adidas). While he continued to drop award-winning music and sell-out concert tours, the Yeezy brand was doing what most thought it couldn’t: become a global success, making Kanye a billionaire.
Kanye’s winning streak made it dangerous to bet against him, but that’s exactly what people did. Each outburst drawing the ire of more critics. Every tirade attracting more claims of insanity.
But Kanye has proved himself over and over again, so basically, shut the fuck up and don’t talk to him. Kanye will do what he wants and prove you wrong.
Kanye’s Idols: Power & Money
At this point, Kanye’s snowballing success is undeniable. Constantly trying to grow, he found role models in two of the richest, most opinionated, controversial, and unconventional “geniuses” he could find: Donald Trump and Elon Musk.
Donald Trump was a pop culture icon long before Kanye West hit the scene. In fact, dozens of rap songs referenced Trump in the 80s and 90s, including hits from the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, and Jay-Z. But Kanye’s infatuation with Trump didn’t begin until he was President Donald Trump, the most powerful man on earth during his time in office.
It all started when the two met face to face in the oval office and the rapper wore Trump’s iconic red “Make America Great Again” hat. Some would say things spiraled out of control: Kanye took his support of Trump to SNL, Pete Davidson revealed a “Make Kanye 2006 Again” hat…
… kissed Kanye’s wife (Kim Kardashian) on an SNL episode soon after,
and then proceeded to start dating her in real life.
Floundering in divorce and family drama that could render any man crazy, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for Ye. It’s also not a reach to think — like most of Ye’s drama — he brings it upon himself.
More recently, Kanye has evoked the name of Elon Musk, suggesting governments should tap into their collective genius to improve the well-being of humanity.
It seems Kanye’s interest in Trump and Musk is more about chasing the next level of success than anything else, which may explain why Kanye purchased social media site Parler (following in the footsteps of Trump’s Truth Social and Musk’s bid to takeover Twitter).
If it seems unclear why Kanye feels entitled to lead humanity in a moral or political sense, his interview with Piers Morgan provides some clues.
As the two begin to squabble about “growth”, Kanye interjects: “Piers, how much money are you worth? Exactly, so take my advice, maybe you’ll get richer.”
In that same interview with Piers Morgan, Kanye recalls Tupac Shakur telling him back in the day, “You had to get your money right, and then you go to war, so… I’m going to war.”
That’s Kanye: a soldier of culture going to war for God.
Kanye didn’t get this advice from Tupac directly. He’s referencing the song “Against All Odds” which appeared on 2pac’s posthumous album: Makaveli. The final words of that track are Pac uttering the words, “You said don’t go to war unless I got my money right. I got my money right now, now I want war.”
If it seems like coincidence that Tupac’s album cover features the rapper nailed to the cross as if he’s Jesus Christ- it is not. Kanye is desperately seeking the “next level” of stardom, taking queues only from those who have reached it, and blaming the path of destruction on the pursuit of religious principles.
Angels & Demons
In that same Tucker Carlson interview, Kanye claims, “My power is through God…” explaining, “It’s funny- atheists love the term narcissist when you believe in yourself. They say that it’s narcissistic.”
He then makes an interesting observation: “Look at how quiet it is right now. God is of order. The devil is of chaos.”
It’s perhaps the most odd component of Kanye’s tangents and ramblings: he absolutely does not practice what he preaches. It seems, rather, that Kanye uses religion as a tool. It helps frame his motivation, serving as either bulletproof inspiration or a fully forgiven scapegoat.
Kanye invokes this defense many times with Piers, claiming “the things I say are on behalf of God. It’s not always God-ly because I’m a man, but God is definitely using me.”
News flash: God is not the one using you.
It doesn’t take a religious scholar to recall that Jesus declared, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” yet Kanye is obsessed with wealth and constantly uses it as a measuring stick for comparing human worth. He’s a self-professed “soldier of culture” in a “spiritual war” but Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
It’s one thing to be a Godly person making mortal mistakes and quite another to use God as a blanket statement to cover your ass.
Kanye’s demons are reminiscent of Jay-Z’s 2003 song “Lucifer”, which Ye himself produced, in which the artist raps: “when I perish, the meek shall inherit the earth / until that time it’s on and poppin’- church”.
Although Kanye’s fame and wealth have eclipsed that of Jay-Z, at one point he seemed like the only person who could reel Kanye back in. The Taylor Swift moment caused a rift between the two that would grow, eventually leading to a complete public meltdown at one of Kanye’s shows.
Kanye’s respect for Jay-Z had been well documented, eternalized in a song dedicated to him: “Big Brother”.
It seems Jay-Z would be of little help now: Kanye claims the rapper has fallen from grace since his song “Death of Autotune” failed to kill autotune.
The Truth About Kanye
Kanye West is like a childhood friend that will always be your friend no matter how dissimilar you grow over time. The only thing more consistent than your friendship is the ridiculous and embarrassing antics, but they get a free pass, because you know that deep down they mean well. At least you think they do. They’re just a bit… different. Misguided. Whatever.
That being said, everyone has a breaking point which Ye is dangerously approaching with many fans. How many people have their hand hovering over Kanye’s “unfollow” button? At what point do you feel complicit? At what point are you co-signing? At what point does listening to “Stronger” by Kanye give you “Ignition” by R. Kelly vibes?
Seeing Kanye plugging his ears and shouting “la la la” when he demands to be heard, calling President Biden “retarded”, aggressively demeaning his interviewer as “boy”- we’ve seen all of this before. It’s Kanye being Kanye. Just as he is free to act like a grade schooler while declaring himself one of the 5 most important writers in the history of humanity, we are free to laugh and dismiss his genius. He is free to throw his wealth in our face, and we are free to note that money can’t buy everything, like a loving relationship and stable family.
Unfortunately, Kanye doesn’t take constructive criticism well. He seems at war with the world, feeling undervalued and constantly fighting to prove he is worth more, but it seems to be an internal battle and failure to define “worth”. Nobody else really cares.
At this point, Kanye’s antics seem destined to follow one of four paths:
- Kanye continues being Kanye and nothing ever changes
- Kanye goes Trump and gets progressively more extreme
- Kanye gets Zuckerberg-style interview coaching and becomes a world leader
- Kanye pulls a Mike Tyson, and over time, becomes more soft-spoken and humble
Although Ye plans to run for President in 2024 (after receiving only 60,000 votes in 2020), it’s still unclear if the genius brilliant business mogul believes he can win or simply wants the publicity. In some ways, he can’t lose.
You can call him crazy. Claim he went off the deep end. Suggest he should stick to rapping and fashion. Complain that he’s nothing more than a media whore. But the fact remains: Kanye is a billionaire and you are not.
So say what you want. Kanye doesn’t care. He got his money right and now you can’t tell him nothin.
It’s on and poppin.