“Is he okay?” is the question much of the Internet is asking when they talk about Kanye West.
Both casual and invested observers of debt-ridden rapper Kanye West are speculating over the celebrity’s mental health. Is it depression? Or could it be bipolar disorder? Or is he just a regular sociopathic, ego-maniac?
Granted, defending Bill Cosby and repeatedly stating that your album is the greatest of all time doesn’t exactly do wonders for your public image, nor is it a good idea to communicate that to more than 20 million Twitter followers. However, in this case, mental illness is likely too heavy an albatross to hang around West’s neck.
Simply put: it cheapens mental health discourse. The attempts to rationalize his behaviour as abnormal end up being part of the duopoly of online commentary.
Kanye West is an intuitive, often brilliant curator of talent and a cultural giant with a sizable footprint in pop music. Running parallel to a reputation for innovativeness is an unsavory track record of general callousness and male chauvinism. For every progressive, left-field beat choice or cutting lyric Kanye comes up with, there is a tossed-off couplet about sexual conquests or dismissing a woman’s choices.
This misogynistic streak has manifested itself most recently in a (possibly manufactured) spat with Taylor Swift rooted in his song, “Famous”; West says that she owes him sex in exchange for the fame she has gained off their 2009 MTV Awards scandal.
Even though West claimed Swift gave him the go-ahead for the line, her impassioned acceptance speech at the Grammys suggested otherwise.
In addition to his issues with Swift, he brewed a Twitter feud with Wiz Khalifa, wherein West took the opportunity to lash out at his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose. Both incidents show West going out of his way to attack prominent women.
Attributing West’s blatant sexism to the culture of hip-hop doesn’t cut it. That’s just racist. So why would it be acceptable to attribute his bad behavior to mental illness?
It’s best to hold West accountable, sans the uncouth and insensitive string of excuses including mental health, when he crosses the line.
He is a supremely gifted artist whose work has had a decade-long influence on popular music and his dedication to defying expectations after such a long time is admirable. He’s responsible for moving rap away from its gangsta default, allowing a wider range of performers to participate. His latest album, The Life of Pablo sounds like little else in the mainstream.
So why did he feel the need to sabotage it with lines about having sex with random models? Kanye can make good art without falling back on lazy tropes. And yes, it is lazy to feature women as nameless objects in songs, not to mention boring. It’s even lazier of the public to give him the excuse of mental illness for what is really just plain, bad behaviour.
Stop trying to save Kanye West, just keep him in check!