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Kanye West is Bipolar: An Examination of How an Artist Processes a Mental Health Condition

in All Posts/Black Thought by

Ye is a very strange little album. Half acknowledgment of the broken, manic depressive, narcissism that is Kanye West’s psyche and half dedication to the love he seems to feel for his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and their children, particularly their daughters.

In an untidy package, this collection of songs is wrapped up in the strangling bow of bipolarism, a mental disorder West was diagnosed with at age 39.

Here’s the thing. Somebody, who is not Kanye West, yet who is bipolar, or living within the mental confines of some other un/diagnosed manic-depressive illness, will listen to Ye.

That person will fully identify with the admission of abusive behavior to -self and to others, the type of behavior that has deadly consequences. Without speculating too much about the pain that led to the recent tragic suicides of Kate Space and Anthony Bourdain, there is a real mental health component at play here that is pushing people to the max.

We urge people to be transparent about their pain in hopes that it will prevent a suicide or murder. And as tragic or perplexing as it is, someone will understand how relatable Kanye’s level of transparency is and, perhaps, think, “I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

That person will see that it’s a struggle to remain in this destructive way of existing, but what conclusions they draw after that epiphany are the real question. Will they actually seek out psychological therapy? Will they actually call a suicide prevention hotline? We can only surmise. And that is the reason why you might find value in this eighth studio album by Kanye West.

There’s a certain logic that a person struggling on the edge of the unthinkable may actually hear how Kanye is processing his own violent and hurtful emotions (the kind that can likely lead to violent and hurtful actions against loved ones or -self).

kanye west

Then, after vibing with how deeply dark his drama and dilemmas are, may themselves decide to seek out help or support in their own struggle. The likelihood of that happening is entirely debatable. However, this is the only value I find in the album Ye. Because, Kanye himself, is too far gone for my personal sensibilities, and a whole lot of others, for that matter.

He’s gone so far off the deep end that I’m not even sure who his core audience is anymore. He’s pissed off Black folks, many of whom feel he represents the worst parts of misogynoir and arrogant ignorance. He’s disappointed hip hop fans across the board.

His comments about slavery being a choice for the enslaved Blacks, and the decisions he made to exploit the now infamous photo of Whitney Houston’s drug-strewn bathroom for Pusha T’s most recent album cover are cross-the-line crazy to most who once supported him.

And despite the red hat, I can’t imagine that any MAGA supporters are really checking for Yeezy in actuality. Like, really, he’s become the headline news troll that raises your blood pressure before you even know what he’s done next, and would rather ignore altogether.

But I decided to give Ye a listen, regardless of what I feel personally about Kanye. And what I heard out the gate completely alarmed me for two reasons. For the person who truly internalizes the lyrics of an artist, and identifies with the message of a particular song, you wonder how certain lyrics influence behaviors of listeners.

Take, for instance, the opening lyrics of the album: “Today, I seriously thought about killing you. I contemplated premeditated murder. And I’ve thought about killing myself, and I love myself way more than I love you, so… Today, I thought about killing you… You’d only care enough to kill somebody you love.”

This is a far cry from “Jesus walk with me…” Kanye is very clear and deliberate with his word choice in this song. You understand what his intentions are in writing it, and you understand his intentions for recording it for public consumption.

Is he talking about Dr. Jan Adams, the doctor who was responsible for his mother’s death in 2007, or is he talking about his wife or some other family member with whom familial matters are complicated? Whoever it is, even in the vein of self-expression and free speech, those are some pretty heavy and revealing lyrics. The type that cause red flags if a loved one were to say them to you outright, for any reason.

The type of lyrics that indicate that you’d be a fool to not separate yourself from someone who felt this way about you. Period. Surprisingly enough, ‘Ye reveals later in the album that Kim Kardashian has made a conscious choice to remain loyal and stick with him despite this toxic, bipolar illness coupled with the embarrassments that have taken over his persona. Even though he willfully acknowledges that the gravest consequences of collateral damage are on the table, as far as he is concerned, she won’t leave him.

And that’s the alarming part. The poet Maya Angelou is noted for saying, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Over these last few years, Kanye West continues to show us, for better or for worse, who he is, and we’re finally starting to believe it. And he’s taking that “for worse” clause to the max.

Yet, he’s managed to put out a twenty-three minute album with themes of questionable accountability, enabling toxic relationships, embracing fatherhood and wanting to protect daughters post toxic-masculinity-disorder, thoughts of homicide/suicide, and medicating it all away.

After listening, if I wasn’t convinced before now, I truly believe that Kanye should be recognized as an individual struggling with a clinical mental disorder that I hope is being treated regularly by a team of mental health professionals. Otherwise, he becomes an actual threat to the people in his life, and to himself.

What happens after we all come to grips with that, I don’t know. But my prayer is that the person listening to Ye on the wrong day, when the wrong set of circumstances trigger the same type of emotions that are on this album, gets help instead of pulling the trigger.

(COVER PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST)

 

– Contributed by Mai Perkins

Mai Perkins, aka FlyMai, is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world with global bon vivant flair and the passport stamps to prove it. She currently works in Edtech, and is the author of several blogs including Uberlicious.nyc and MaiOnTheMove.com and is a columnist for the music publication Pop-Mag.com.

With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in International Affairs from The New School Milano, she reps her beloved alma mater Howard University every chance she gets. As a poet and a creative non-fiction writer, she looks forward to soon publishing her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending.

Insta: @flymai16

Twitter: @flymai on Twitter

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