Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Make America Confused Again: Kanye West’s Identity Crisis

Kanye West is someone that I consider to be one of this generation’s most influential music artists. Unfortunately, West seems as though he is slowly becoming the antithesis of what he used to stand for.

Famous for his classic take that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” West’s unexpected support for President Trump and his Make America Great Again platform has upset fans who have grown to know him as a proponent of black rights and black culture. It remains unclear if this is just another one of the rapper’s various short-lived ideological shifts or if the old Kanye really is gone for good.

West’s last year and a half has been filled with mishaps that were as surprising as they were alarming. His sudden decision to cancel the rest of the stops on his “The Life of Pablo” tour near the end of 2016, a subsequent mysterious admission to a Los Angeles hospital due to exhaustion and a self-described “mental breakdown,” the deactivation of his Twitter account, and a drastic gain of weight were all red flags that something turbulent was going on behind the scenes.

In an interview with TMZ a few weeks ago, Kanye revealed that an opioid addiction played a large role in his recent crisis. His mother, Donda West, who had died in 2007 after complications with cosmetic surgery, was West’s role model and voice of reason. West feels as though he played an unintentional role in her death when he decided to have her recover at home, against the doctor’s orders, rather than in the hospital. Her caretakers did not regulate her pain medication correctly as her autopsy revealed that she had taken nearly 20 Vicodin throughout the day of her death.

In a Q Magazine interview, he said, “If I had never moved to L.A. she’d be alive. “

Almost a decade after her death, he turned to pills to battle his gnawing depression and anxiety. After a few months off of the grid, West claims that his days of abusing prescription drugs are behind him. He referenced the film “Get Out” when explaining that he was now “out of the sunken place,” even asserting that his breakdown was necessary to regain a better perspective on life.

Kanye fans, like myself, hoped that removing himself from the public eye would allow West time to seek professional help. Regardless of his fame and fortune, no amount of money and success can drown out something so traumatizing.

Furthermore, we anticipated a return to the roots that had made Kanye an international superstar in the first place. Donda West had been the chair of the English department at Chicago State. Kanye’s father, Ray West, was a member of the Black Panther party. Both of them raised West’s social awareness, which heavily influenced his music’s content. On his track “All Falls Down,” for example, his verse “we can buy our way out of jail but we can’t buy freedom” contends that African Americans are never truly free of prejudice. This sort of political activism within his songs is what makes West’s lyricism truly remarkable.

What we got when West returned, however, was a Kanye who had seemingly sunk even deeper into the sunken place. The anniversary of his beloved mother’s death felt as though it would mark a return to the foundational aspects of his life that that his parents helped cement. Instead, West revealed a newfound love for President Trump through a bevy of tweets that included a picture of a Make America Great Again hat signed by Trump himself. But it was not solely his support of Trump, who has repeatedly been accused of expressing racist opinions, that got Kanye on the hot seat, it was his inept historical perspective.

Kanye’s most recent evolution is a fundamental 180 from everything he has previously claimed to stand for, illustrated most clearly in the same TMZ interview when he said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years…That sounds like a choice.”

Some ‘Ye fans have defended his claims, highlighting how he was also talking about mental slavery with the intention of sparking a larger conversation. However, the ignorant way that he said it unsurprisingly offended many, alienating some of his fan base in the process.

West has always been characterized as a mad genius, using unconventional methods and saying unpopular things to push the boundaries of his music and social commentary. As his celebrity persona has grown to unprecedented heights, Kanye appears to have lost a large part of himself in the process.

In reinventing himself, it feels as though Kanye is trying to conquer the inner demons that have haunted him by distancing himself from his past and the beliefs he was raised on. Is this just another publicity stunt intended to boost the sales of his upcoming albums coincidentally arriving in June? Is Kanye really just crying out for help? I miss the old Kanye. That’s all I know for sure.

Jordan may be reached at
[email protected]

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