The Kanye Effect: A Timeline Of Creativity to Psychosis
“Sometimes you have to get rid of everything” —Kanye West
Ye… Yeezy… Yeezus… Kanye To Tha West… “Is Mr. West in the building?”… to MAGA hat wearing Trump supporter… and possibly the most hated celebrity living right now.
This year has been an interesting one for the hip-hop legend. It’s almost safe to say that he’s been all but disowned by the Black community, along with every other ethnicity and marginalized group for his seemingly tone-deaf statements. He left little to the imagination about who he is—the veil of ignorance that separated who he was as an artist versus his public persona that protected him for a long time. However, as time passed, the veil slowly lifted to reveal the monster brewing within him; the one that has triggered most of America since spring of this year.
For the most part, all of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 had been quiet on the West front since his very public breakdown during his Saint Pablo tour. His daughter, Chicago, was born via surrogate in January, and most of his sightings were with his wife, Kim Kardashian, their children or the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Media outlets simply reported that he was in the studio recording or gearing up for the launch of his Yeezy Season 7 line, which was growing at a colossal rate (reportedly being valued at $1.5 billion in September). In March, he even made an appearance with Kim at the March for Our Lives Protest in response to the Parkland school shooting.
Then, it all started…
He returned to Twitter after a long hiatus on April 15th. This moment marked the beginning of the end—when s**t started to go all the way left. What started with thoughtful quips about creativity and love, soon spiraled into one of the most bizarre public meltdowns to date.
By April 17th, reports surfaced that he had fired his manager and his legal team in which he Tweeted a response about getting rid of everything.
Sometimes you have to get rid of everything
— ye (@kanyewest) April 17, 2018
Not even a week later, he posted a photo rocking a MAGA hat, while cheesing in a photo with President Trump (a photo that has since been deleted).
You don't have to agree with trump but the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.
— ye (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
Obama was in office for eight years and nothing in Chicago changed.
— ye (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
Thank you Kanye, very cool! https://t.co/vRIC87M21X
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2018
Celebrities, including John Legend, reached out to him personally and shared their thoughts on social media in hopes to save him from himself. Kanye, of course, agreed to disagree.
The defining trait of Trump's campaign and political profile was his embrace of white supremacy. He made it clear every time he spoke. Some serious cognitive dissonance to ignore that for the other x% you might find appealing. I guess I agree with >1% of anyone's thoughts though
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 25, 2018
I tweeted the John text to show that there are people around me that disagree with me and voice their opinion. I respect everyone's opinion but I stand my ground.
— ye (@kanyewest) April 26, 2018
Next, came the hot mess that might forever be apart of his tattered and uneven legacy.
After a seemingly redemptive interview with Charlamagne Tha God of the radio show, The Breakfast Club, Kanye stopped by TMZ and unraveled all the good that was done by stating that “slavery was a choice.” He also shared he was addicted to opioids, as well as liposuction in order to keep up his public appeal.
Kanye West stirs up the TMZ newsroom over TRUMP, SLAVERY and FREE THOUGHT. There's A LOT more that went down … and the fireworks are exploding on @TMZLive today. Check your local listings for show times. pic.twitter.com/jwVsJCMPiq
— TMZ (@TMZ) May 1, 2018
This was on the heels of Kanye announcing that he would be releasing five albums consecutively throughout June. They were all produced by Ye himself, including a solo project and a new collaboration with Kid Cudi called Kids See Ghosts. The releases were mostly underwhelming, and they were marred with rumors of Kanye scrapping finished albums and mastering them up until the night of the release.
Oh, just when we thought the crazy was over… Now, it was going to be about the music. In September, Ye went on a pro-Trump rant after performing in the season-opening episode for Saturday Night Live.
“It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’ Well, if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago,” — Kanye West, Saturday Night Live, 2018
KANYE SNL TALK THAT GOT CUT OFF FREEDOM OF SPEECH SHOULD HAVE EXTENDED pic.twitter.com/IpULoEJxsN
— MIKE DEAN! #MWA (@therealmikedean) September 30, 2018
Not to mention, he played a new song with a hook: “You’re such a fuckin’ ho, I love it.” All the while, he was dressed up like a Perrier bottle.
The next day, he went on Twitter to expand on his “Trump bromance” to let the world know his opinion about abolishing the 13th amendment.
this represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love pic.twitter.com/a15WqI8zgu
— ye (@kanyewest) September 30, 2018
It’s easy to build a case against 2018 Kanye—one riddled with Tweets, photos, mediocre music, and all the Trump stuff. Statements that say the rapper is “crazy” and that he’s “unraveling” because of his own doing. (It’s important to note that he told Harvey Levin of TMZ in a secondary interview that he is no longer taking his bipolar medication.)
Hold on. Wait. How did Kanye even get to this point? Wasn’t he once worshipped by hypebeasts, and college, inner city and suburban kids alike? Is this just a case of a superstar flying too close to the sun, or is there more here?
Let’s take a step back into the history of Ye.
“Through the Wire”
“For years, people said I was depressed, and I actually didn’t know myself why I was so upset and why I would have these episodes of mania—what I now know is mania. Sometimes I felt invincible, and it was these moments when my mind would go all over the place. When you don’t know what’s happening, why you’re feeling certain ways, and you don’t have the answers yet, people tend to self-medicate, which is exactly what I did,”— Demi Lovato
Kanye has always been a bit of an outsider when it comes to the culture of rap. Getting his start as a whiz kid producer out of Chicago, Kanye was making beats for the biggest names in the industry. He was discovered by Damon Dash, who was then the CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records.
“Kanye wore a pink shirt with the collar sticking up and Gucci loafers. It was obvious we were not from the same place or cut from the same cloth.”—Damon Dash, Time Magazine
In the days when newcomer 50 Cent was having an infamous rap beef against Ja Rule, Jay -Z had “99 Problems” and Outkast liked “The Way You Move,” there wasn’t room for a trendsetter to change the look of hip-hop. The industry was about rapping about cash and girls; R&B had breakup songs; there was dance moves like the “Chicken Head;” twerking to “Get Low” by Ying Yang Twins; and learning how to “Slow Wind” to Sean Paul songs.
There wasn’t anyone who wanted to listen to a dude wearing a backpack and fitted designer jeans, who looked like he had never struggled a day in his life. However, in 2002, Dame Dash took the chance. Ye was signed, and the rest was history.
“It was a strike against me that I didn’t wear baggy jeans and jerseys and that I never hustled, never sold drugs. But for me to have the opportunity to stand in front of a bunch of executives and present myself, I had to hustle in my own way. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was that they didn’t get that. No joke—I’d leave meetings crying all the time.” — Kanye West, Time Magazine
Kanye came on-the-scene and shook up the sound. The artist released “Through the Wire” that he recorded after a major car accident that left him with his jaw wired shut. Despite the accident, he pushed through by mumbling his verses through the Chaka Khan sampled hit. People went crazy because everyone loved the sample of a soul/R&B hit—a move that would later become one of Kanye’s claim to fame.
It was this song that got Jay-Z’s stamp of approval, leading to a $30,000 investment in The College Dropout. Time and Rolling Stone magazines named the album one of the greatest of all time, and it earned Kanye a Grammy for Best Rap Album. His style, which was once joked about by execs, became the new look that attracted Black collegiates who resonated with the Chicago native’s middle-class background.
“Welcome to Heartbreak”
“I have bipolar disorder. I’ve never talked about that in an interview before. I never brought it up. A lot of people I work with probably don’t know it. I think this a good time to talk about it. It’s just like, I was diagnosed when I was 16 or 17. My mom has it, too. … I’m entitled to my emotions and, unfortunately, because of the circumstance that I deal with, it’s a little more than other people.” — Halsey, Elle Magazine, June 2015.
The “Jesus Walks” rapper, who managed to create a gospel song that was worthy enough to earn radio play as a hip-hop record, went on to create two of his most acclaimed albums: Late Registration and Graduation. Just like its predecessor, both albums delivered radio hit after radio hit with songs like “Gold Digger,” “Touch The Sky,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” to “Stronger,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and a personal favorite, “Flashing Lights.” The songs made you feel good, but in a personal way. They also made you think, as well as inspired you. Instead of talking about the money he had, he addressed blood diamonds, and instead of rapping about “b*****s and h**s,” he talked about gold diggers. He gave an alternative perspective to rap that was being washed out by a lack of consciousness.
During Hurricane Katrina, we got a real taste of Kanye’s personality—shining brightly as ever during a telethon where he stood next to actor Mike Myers and delivered his first famous Kanye rant. He closed out his thoughts with the infamous statement:
“George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” — Kanye West
Then, it all came crashing down.
In 2007, Kanye’s mother, Donda West, passed away after a cosmetic procedure that led to her going into cardiac arrest. The moment was devastating for Kanye who was raised by his mother in a single household. She was his manager, his inspiration, and his best friend. She’s the reason he traveled at a young age (they moved to China where she taught English) and the motivator behind him going to college, as she was an English professor.
West never fully bounced back from the loss of Donda—often blaming his move to Los Angeles for the reason she died. It seemed as if the artist fell off the map for a while as he mourned her death, and also the heartbreak from his breakup with ex-fiancé, Alexis Phifer.
“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect not only on my personal life but also my work as well… I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.” — Prince Harry
After that, out of nowhere he appeared back on-the-scene in a relationship with Amber Rose and released a new album, 808s & Heartbreak. The album was the first time we were able to see his fully developed eccentric personality with an outcry of pain that was beautifully wrapped in this album. From the visuals to the lyrics, the album was revolutionary. Kanye created a shift in the rap and hip-hop sound by singing and rapping on each song, which is a norm now, but this shit was groundbreaking then.
The album introduced us to Kid Cudi, and emphasized the use of autotune to turn any rapper into a singer. Yet, Kanye’s personal life was beginning to suffer. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came on the heels of his breakup with Amber Rose, and his second infamous rant where he stormed the 2009 VMA stage to interrupt Taylor Swift’s award speech.
“Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” — Kanye West, 2009 VMA’s
His drunken response to the singer winning Music Video of the Year resulted in an embarrassed Beyonce, a crying Taylor Swift, and a large group of people questioning Yeezy’s sanity. He went into exile in Hawaii where he frantically spent several sleepless nights recording the album that addressed issues with power and pain.
Most of us figured he was still falling apart from the loss of Donda.
All Hail Yeezus
“I’ve been having a lot of problems. This whole year has been a f******g nightmare. This has been the worst year of my life, getting diagnosed with this and trying to figure out how to learn with this and live with this.” — Pete Davidson
Musicians have a long history of having mental and emotional spirals that turn into public fodder. The bigger the meltdown, the greater the chance that the whole world will see it and take to social media to comment. It seems that at the height of their success, these artists become more creatively profound, while mentally unraveling. We love when they are at their best, and join in unison to demonize them when they are at their worst.
Michael Jackson is probably the most famous example of this spiral that crosses generations. The Thriller world superstar is not the forever reigning King of Pop for no reason—with great responsibility comes…drama. Most of us already know that Jackson had a tumultuous childhood, being forced by his father to sacrifice being a kid to perform with his brothers in the group called The Jackson 5. It was shortly after the release of one of the best selling albums of all time, Thriller, that MJ’s life started to unfold, and his appearance (and skin) started to become questionable to the public. He was accused of molestation, and years later, before his untimely death, he dangled his newborn over the balcony for fans to witness.
The media ran Jackson’s name through the dirt. He was often considered a “weirdo” versus a troubled soul who was coping with the realities of superstardom.
Mariah Carey went through a similar unraveling at a pivotal time in her career. It was one year after the debut of her album, Rainbow, and just before the release of her album for the film Glitter. She had an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized. The singer cited emotional distress for her breakdown. Shortly after, Virgin Records released her from their $100 million dollar multi-album contract. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Mariah publically shared with People magazine that she has bipolar II disorder.
Back in 2007, Brittany Spears also had an emotional downturn. Following the release of her third album, Britney, and starring in her first movie, Crossroads, she checked into a rehab facility in Malibu. On one random night out with friends, the singer was seen shaving off her hair, going completely bald. The incident was all over the media, showcasing the star’s first public meltdown. She married one of her dancers, Kevin Federline, was banned from the Oscars, lost custody of her kids, and was committed to a psychiatric ward right after the peak of her success.
Chris Brown is another infamous situation. Once considered R&B’s sweetheart spiraled at 19 years old after his debut album, Chris Brown, and starred in the movie Stomp the Yard. On the eve of the Grammys, Chris punched his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, in the face. That moment led to numerous arrests, and the artist eventually revealed that he suffers from bipolar disorder and PTSD.
The year of 2016 served as another pivotal year for Ye. In a bold move, he endorsed Trump and randomly shared that he was running for president in 2020. He dropped The Life of Pablo and announced he was over 50 million dollars in debt. The controversial famous video aired, and then boom…his wife, Kim Kardashian, was robbed in Paris at gunpoint that October.
A month later, Kanye was put on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.
“When I disclosed it to our manager at the time, bless his heart, he was like, ‘Y’all just signed a multimillion-dollar deal and you’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?’ So I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m just tired.'” — Michelle Williams, Destiny’s Child
Kanye took a much-needed break from the world after a tumultuous 2016, and went away for the rest of 2017 (reportedly suffering memory loss). By 2018, everyone was ready for him to drop some new music, which was another hopeful moment for his fans who yet again believed his hiatus would bring him back to his senses.
We didn’t get the heat we hoped for—instead we got lyrics that included “Poopy-di Scoop” and “Scoopty-whoop.” The song was more so another one of Ye’s shenanigans than something actually worth being apart of the artists’ musical canon. In an interview with Ebro of Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning, the host claimed that Kanye was living in a bubble for supporting Trump. Kanye responded by making an entire song to mock Ebro.
I'm going to drop a song with a verse that will bring Ebro the closure he's been seeking
The bars 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
It's called Lift Yourself
— ye (@kanyewest) April 27, 2018
He released another track titled “Ye vs. the People” featuring a dialogue with T.I. that addressed much of the year’s controversy, but the song was not a hit. By the summer, Kanye followed through on the anticipated music releases for his GOOD Music label artists, which included Pusha T’s critically acclaimed album, Daytona, and Teyana Taylor’s album, K.T.S.E, that had a couple of heavy hitters, like “Rose In Harlem” and “Gonna Love Me.”
In the midst of this, Kanye had reportedly forgiven the plastic surgeon who had performed his mother’s fatal procedure and even considered making him the cover of his Ye album. That didn’t pan out, and fans were frustrated awaiting the release of the eighth studio album.
In early June, he held a star-studded listening party at his ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming before finally dropping Ye. The album reportedly only took him eight days to create, which that short amount of time was also compared to the two hours that it took him to write half the songs on the Yeezus album in 2013. Unfortunately, none of the songs from the album really lived up to the expectation that his fans had of him musically. Those who listened to the album gave mixed reviews with a buzz that quickly fizzled a week after its release.
Today, the Kanye we are currently experiencing is night and day from the past few months. His Tweets have been a little tamer (he even said he’s taking a break from politics—whew!), and he’s not as vocal about his opinions with the media. His next album, Yandhi, that was due in September has yet to be released, which is possibly suggesting that he’s taking a much-needed break to work on himself.
“People think they know me but they don’t. Not really. Actually, I am one of the loneliest people on this earth. I cry sometimes because it hurts. It does. To be honest, I guess you could say that it hurts to be me.” — Michael Jackson
In an age where shock factor equals success, and good or bad media attention is still worthy of attention, this era of Ye feels like it’s headed for a fatal ending. What aspect is his mental health, and what is truly just his personality at the cost of fame? Where does empathy and frustration intersect?
— Charmaine Griffin
P.S. Reminiscing to “I Love Kanye,” while waiting patiently…