Kanye West, or Ye, is one of the biggest stars of our generation, as he himself has said. However throughout his career he has been the center of many controversies and problems. The rapper is a clear example of how mental illness has been wrongly portrayed in the media, and why it’s so important to conscientise the public about them.
Kanye Omari West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8th, 1977, to father Ray, an activist for the Black Panthers, and mother Donda, an english professor at Chicago State University. At the age of 3, West’s parents divorced amicably, but his father was not very present in his life from then on, leaving his mother to raise him by herself. At 11 he began to join the hip-hop scene in Chicago and an interest in the rap genre emerged. He started off as a producer, and what threw him into the spotlight was his work in Jay-Z’s song, “This Can’t Be Life”, which he produced. He went on to produce for Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Ludacris. In 2002, Kanye went through a traumatic car accident where had to have his jaw wired shut. Notably, during this time he created some of his best songs. His biggest dream was to be a rapper and create music, and after a long battle to gain a place in the “Roc-a-fella” label, he released his first album, “College Dropout'' in 2004. The album was a huge success selling 2.6 million copies, sending him into stardom since he broke the stereotype of ‘gangsta’ rap.
Everything had been going great for Ye, with the release of his second album in 2005, “Late Registration”. In September of the same year, the rapper appeared on NBC to raise funds and aid the rescue after hurricane Katrina. West brought up relevant arguments about racism during the show, where he pointed out that the media would speak differently about black families, calling them looters, and white families were seen as victims. Quickly the show took a turn when he blurted out the infamous line “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. This caused a major media storm where the rapper was put into the spotlight of his first controversy. Here it is possible to identify that the artist has had reckless tendencies, speaking his mind without hesitation.
In 2007, the artist was thriving, especially with the release of his album “Graduation”. Kanye became the rapper to break the stereotype of rapping solely about money, drugs, etc., with some of his music focusing on religion and consumerism. Unfortunately, his mother Donda, who Kanye was extremely close to, passed away in November of that year after heart complications post cosmetic surgery. This had an enormous effect on West, and has still continued to affect his life, including his music. To heal, West turned to music and submerged himself in religion, specifically christianity and believing in Jesus. In 2008, only a year after his mother’s passing, Kanye broke off his engagement and decided to quit rapping, with his next album “808s and Heartbreak” being sung entirely through an auto-tune processor. It is likely that West entered a depressive state as he lost motivation to create music, which was once his biggest passion.
Soon after the tragedy that struck the musician’s life, he attended the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, where his mental state was brought into question. The artist who won the “Best Music Video'' award that year was upcoming singer Taylor Swift, who was only 19 at the time. While Swift was receiving her award, Ye abruptly jumped onto the stage uncalled for, asked for her microphone and confidently blurted out that “Beyoncé has one of the best music videos of all time”, alluding to the fact she should’ve won instead. The media was immediately against West, all supporting Taylor, who was completely surprised after his breakout. A few weeks later, Kanye took accountability and apologized to Swift. However in a 2013 New York Times interview he took back his apology, but everything seemed fine between the two. Once again, Kanye’s reckless and inconsiderate behavior (especially towards women) can be shown by this outburst at the VMA’s. In 2015, the singers exchanged nice words and Ye sent Taylor flowers, but by 2016 things fell apart between them again. In that year, West released a song called “Famous” where in one line he was misogynistic towards Swift and overtly sexual, and in essence claiming he made her ‘famous’. That was a reference to the 2009 incident at the VMA’s. Kim Kardashian at the time released illegaly recorded phone calls where it appeared that Swift agreed to having the lyrics included in the song, but when Taylor was receiving an award the same year she advised young women to not let men take responsibility for their accomplishments. These incidents with Swift show that Ye has a recurring pattern of speaking his mind regardless of others or consequences.
2015 was a turbulent year for Kanye as he publicly argued with Jimmy Kimmel after the talk show host mocked West’s interview with BBC. Child actors were hired by Kimmel to reenact the more controversial lines the rapper had said in his interview. To clear the air, Kanye appeared on the show to talk things out with the host and their conversation ranged from all of the producer’s conspiracies about Steve Jobs, the paparazzi, and his beliefs in Jesus. The interview with BBC was not the first or last time Kanye West would sound paranoid and narcissistic, he even sounded similarly in his sixth album “Yeezus”. The name is a combination of his nickname “Yeezy” and Jesus. The singer even included a song named “I am a God'', and has publicly declared many times that he believes himself to be a God or “Shakespeare in the flesh”. Evidently, Kanye has admitted that he has an exaggerated sense of self love and confidence, which are symptoms of bipolar disorder, specifically the mania stage.
Ye has spoken honestly about his bipolar disorder during a concert in his “Life of Pablo'' album tour. He went on a nervous and frantic rant about Donald Trump and Barack Obama, MTV, and his conscipiracies about Jay-Z and Beyoncé controlling the ‘illuminati’. He was then hospitalized for 8 days and cancelled the remainder of his tour dates for reasons of exhaustion. Only a few weeks after this, West went on his first twitter rant, where he announced that he’d be releasing two albums, one after the other, but then quickly shifted his speech into defending Donald Trump. He then fell back into scandal after an extremely controversial and insensitive line, in which he said that the history of enslavement and slavery of African Americans was a ‘choice’, and claimed Harriet Tubman didn’t actually free the slaves. Unfortunately, many times Kanye says things without thinking twice or processing his thoughts, sending him into more and more scandals.
The paranoid and obsessive rants that Kanye has gone through both on stage, and on public social media platforms, have a lot to do with his Bipolar disorder struggles. In essence, the disorder entails extreme mood swings, ranging from emotional peaks, the mania or hypomania, and the low, depressive episodes. The common symptoms of the mania phase include feeling euphoric, energy filled, unusually irritable or talkative, exaggerated sense of self-esteem, and poor decision making. During the depressive stages, feelings include extreme sadness, hopelessness, loneliness and losing pleasure from daily activity or passions.
In his 2019 interview with David Letterman, West admitted that during his episodes, most likely of mania, everything began to feel like conscipiracies. The singer admitted that he believed the government placed chips in his mind. He later said that he believes the word “crazy” will not be used frequently to describe people with Bipolar or other mental illnesses. The star once stated that he got liposuction surgery because he didn’t want people to think he was ‘fat’, which was likely caused by the medication. This cosmetic procedure led him to a subconscious addiction to opioids. The International Bipolar Foundation even highlighted that Kanye's excessive spendings, at times, can classify as a common symptom of the disorder. More recently, the billionaire stated that he will be releasing a three part documentary called “Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy'', where he spoke openly about the medication he was taking. The most common type is antipsychotic medication that helps control the mood swings, but Ye stated that the medication made him gain weight instead, and that bipolarity is his ‘superpower’, as it fuels his creativity. The common side effects of the medication can be weight gain, but it is not recommended to abruptly stop taking the prescribed quantities or decreasing them, because it can generate withdrawal symptoms and lead to even stronger episodes.
Unfortunately, controversies and episodes didn’t stop there, as 2020 might have been one of the most hectic years for Kanye West. On July 4th, 2020, he announced that he would be running for president, and the media went into a storm. His first rally, and also the most infamous, happened on July 19th of that year, where Kanye became agitated and spoke for over an hour about topics such as racism, repeatedly bringing up the arguments he previosuly had, on racism, marijuana, and Planned Parenthood. Against his current wife’s permission, he revealed to the public that they had considered an abortion when they discovered the pregnancy of their first daughter, North West. He screamed frantically that he almost killed his daughter and then threatened to pull out of a recently signed 10 year contract with GAP, sending the stock-markets plunging. He then proceeded to, again, rant on twitter in July, where he said in currently deleted tweets that the Kardashian family sent two doctors to his Wyoming ranch to place him in a 51/50 emergency psychiatric hold. Ye went as far as to compare his past mother-in-law Kris Jenner to the North Korean dictator. Some speculated that it had recently been the date of his late mother’s birthday, July 12th, and that it could’ve triggered his episodes. After another twitter spiral, this time about Universal and his contract, his account was locked after he released a person’s phone number.
The most recent scandal Kanye has been involved in, was his dovorce from Kimberly Kardashian. The pair began dating in April of 2012 and were engaged by October of 2013. They married in an Italian city on May 24th, 2014, and had four kids, North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm. Kim has always been outspoken about her support for West, but as of recently he began travelling and residing more frequently at his Wyoming ranches, whereas Kim was staying at their Los Angeles home with their 4 children. In February of 2021, it was reported that Kardashian filed for divorce citing ‘irreconcilable differences’, but the pair were amicable. Kanye went on to date several models after their separation, but recently in October of 2021, Kim began dating Pete Davidson, SNL comedian. This led the rapper to have many outbursts on his Instagram account where he lifted conspiracies that Pete Davidson and Hillary Clinton were having an affair and reposted montages of the “Civil War” marvel movie. Those montages entailed him and Davidson having their own teams on the opposite side of the poster, similar to the Captain America vs. Iron Man. West has also gone as far as to accuse his ex-wife of kidnapping their daughter, 4 year old Chicago. The rampage has not stopped but Ye has been posting and deleting for over a month, he usually captions his posts with all caps coming off as very aggressive and angry. On Valentine’s day, this year, he posted a photo of a car filled with red roses and a caption saying his vision is “Krystal Klear'', clearly making reference to his ex-wife. Their legal battle for the divorce is on-going, and only rceently has Kanye apologized and taken responsibility for his harassment of Kardashian, but the posts continue.
Kanye West is a perfect example of someone who suffers deeply from a condition that continues to be stigmatized, with many articles and posts referring to him as ‘crazy’. Calling him such is invalidating to him, as referring to those with mental illnesses as crazy or insane is in a way limiting their feelings and the existence of their disorder. Unfortunately, Ye’s hyper-sense of self and his inconsiderate speeches make it hard for those in the public to feel sympathy for him as he doesn’t seem to be regretful of what he says. The media should be more conscious of the mentall illnesses that affect people’s decision making skills and judgement, instead of portraying those as insane and irredeemable but instead as someone who is struggling with a very serious disorder. As even Kim Kardashian has asked herself, the public should encourage Kanye to go back into proper treatment and take care of himself, relying on his support system to preserve his mental health and image.