The Great Swell


In lieu of completing one of the half-written, obsessively-researched, and semi-thought-out blog posts in my Google Drive, I’m opting to post a spur-of-the-moment write-up on Kanye West.

Ever since 2005 and his massively off-script “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” Kanye has been the subject of countless controversies. From 2009’s infamous “I’mma let you finish” to his “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS” outburst, there has been no shortage of discussions, memes, or attention surrounding Kanye West. His 2012 relationship and eventual marriage to Kim Kardashian brought him exponentially more media attention and cemented him as one of the most watched (and hated) men in America.

I believe that Kanye West is an unbridled force for good in this universe.

Kanye is controversial, sure, but is that enough reason to hate him? You know what else happened in 2005? He appeared on Oprah and debuted a song dedicated to his mother. You know what else happened in 2009? His mother passed. (Just to bring it full circle, he played this heartbreaking version of that Oprah song after her passing). Kanye isn’t the monster that the media likes to paint him as. People blindly hate Kanye because they only see the unscripted viral moments and pass judgment with those videos as their sole evidence. They know his attachment to the Kardashians (another source of unfounded hatred) and end up disliking him with zero research.

Kanye isn’t a monster. He’s manic.

Kanye has openly talked about Lexapro in songs and even quietly released a song called “I Feel Like That” which is the most open, frank, and honest discussion of mental health that I’ve ever heard in a song.

Do you feel tempered outbursts, that you cannot control?

Feeling lonely, even when you are with people, feeling blocked.

Feeling blue, sad, feeling disinterested in things, feeling fearful.

Are your feelings easily hurt?

Feeling that people are unfriendly, or do you feel like people dislike you?

I feel like that

I feel like that

I feel like that

I feel like that all the time

This weekend Kanye controversy reached a fever pitch as he found himself at the center of a series of increasingly bad decisions. We were watching him spiral out of control on a national stage in real time. I was driven to write this because the public at large handled his actions with as much tact as you would expect.

Friday 11/18 - Kanye sparked a new wave of controversy with a “pro-Trump” rant at an Inglewood concert. The media (and general public) ran with the headline of “Kanye Supports Trump” when in reality his words were much more bipartisan:

West elaborated throughout the show. He stated that while he admired Trump’s debating style – saying that it was “genius” because it “worked” – his true reason for backing the Republican was that his win would inspire racists to reveal themselves. “This is the beginning,” West said, according to one attendee, adding: “Neither candidate would fix racism in this country.

Saturday 11/19 - After several turbulent weeks of publicly fighting, Kanye reunited with frequent collaborator Kid Cudi for a concert in Sacramento. After three songs, the concert was abruptly stopped and concluded with another more jumbled out lash of a rant. The show was less than 25 minutes.

Sunday 11/20 - Kanye inexplicably flooded his Instagram with grainy photos from a vintage Margiela lookbook, making posts minutes (or sometimes seconds) apart. By the end of the night, Kanye announced that he was canceling the remainder of the concert dates on his tour and issuing refunds to ticket holders (including Saturday’s botched show).

I started this post at 9:23 AM on Monday the 21st. It is now 1:20 AM on Tuesday, and within the last few hours Kanye West was taken to the UCLA Medical Center and hospitalized “for his own health and safety.”

Kanye is surrounded by stress. Kim Kardashian’s robbery in October made the possibility of losing his wife a frightening reality. His recent fights with close friends Kid Cudi and Jay-Z have worn on him. The pressure from constant touring and travel has cracked his surface. He’s sleep deprived, exhausted, and had literal public breakdowns within the last 48 hours.

I started writing this before his admission to the hospital, and I still see people making jokes about the recent news online, all because the media told them it was okay and South Park gave them ammunition 7 years ago.

Kanye West is publicly dealing with mental health issues, and for a country that claims to care about that issue any time there’s a hot new shooting, America sure seems content to sit back and write this off “because it’s Kanye.” Because people only seen the bad stuff they assume he’s a thuggish, rude, arrogant asshole. He may be some of those things, but he’s also more than that.

Personal history aside, he’s made some of the best music of the past decade. He’s set trends in music, fashion, and culture that are unparalleled by any nearly any artist outside of The Beatles. His art is beautiful, and it lights a flame in me that I rarely feel at any other time. It’s what pulled me up and inspired me to write this post. It’s what’s keeping me awake long after I should have gone to sleep. It’s what gives me a great swelling sensation that inspires me to create.

But my point is that Kanye is a person. Because of how the media, the internet, and popular culture work, he’s often painted in an unfair light. He’s dealing with real issues (especially right now) and he deserves a little compassion. It’s the least you could give. I’m not asking you to pray for him, or buy his discography, or even stop making fun of him. God know’s I’ll be right there creating memes with the rest of the fans when this is all over, but now’s not the time. This is a genuine issue of mental health, and in all this darkness, I’d love it if we as a culture could respect that. Kanye brings so much light and beauty into this world, I’d love it if just one person understood that after reading this.

West’s semi-recent outburst on Ellen is indicative of his recent behavior. In the midst of this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy West threw himself into a typically-off-script diatribe about a variety of topics ranging from race to the media. Though he doesn’t say it well, the 8-minute video is filled with some valid points, even if they are scatterbrained as fuck.

At 3:01 in the video, a particularly sentient Kanye addresses the in-studio audience directly:

You know, people never write: ‘Kanye’s pissing everybody off.’ They try to position that through the media in some way that I’m like —- whatever. Whatever your friends might say. You know – ‘I saw Kanye.’ ‘How was he? Did he … (do anything crazy)?’

I care about people. I care about – My dad lived in homeless shelters less than five years ago. My mom was the first black female chair of the English department at Chicago State University. I was raised to do something, to make a difference.”

He soon went on to discuss the human race as a whole:

We got 100 years here. We’re one race, the human race, one civilization. We’re a blip in the existence of the universe, and we constantly try to pull each other down. Not doing things to help each other. That’s my point. I’m shaking talking about it. I know it’s daytime TV, but I feel I can make a difference while I’m here. I feel that I can make things better through my skill set. Through my skills – I’m an artist.”

He’s literally pleading with the audience to hear his words. The Ellen crowd are women who know Kanye primarily through the above-mentioned controversies and People Magazine covers that solely discuss how bad of a father he is. He’s talking directly to that audience and asking them to place that put all that aside for a second and listen.

Soon after that quote, he goes on to earnestly talk about how he wants to lower the cost of his shoes so they’re more accessible to kids in inner-cities. Not for money, but because he wants to end bullying. Because where he’s from having a shitty pair of shoes is an indicator that you’re poor, and that’s good enough reason as any to beat the shit out of somebody. Sentiments like that are sprinkled throughout the video, yet every media site on the internet wrote this up as “Kanye West Goes Crazy on Ellen” and ran with the big takeaway quote “sorry for the realness daytime TV.” It’s frustrating to watch a clip like that (in which he’s trying so hard) be met with cries of “crazy!”

Kanye has a huge ego. Kanye is controversial. Kanye says things off-cuff and can hardly get a coherent thought out when he’s worked up enough. That’s all true. Does that make him an asshole?

As I write this, Kanye is sitting in a hospital in LA after being rushed there for medical treatment. The legacy he leaves will be monumental, but I’m worried that too many people won’t see that until he’s gone. All I’m asking is to be subjective. Listen to him. He may be hard to understand but listen. Give him a fair shot because there are two sides to every story, and more often than not, the negative one is the side that ends up being printed.

Let’s make efforts towards destigmatizing mental health. Let’s help each other and listen.

Kanye is a husband and a father.

Kanye loves God.

Kanye loves his mom.

Kanye is a person and he fucks up.

Give him a break.