It’s crushing when you hit that ceiling, whatever your ceiling is. It hurts when you realize you’re not going to get to where you think you should be because of your lack of ability or your race or gender or disability or outsider identity.
I know I’ve given myself a few concussions, bashing my skull at times against my own ceiling. But I don’t tend to live-tweet my misery. West does. I don’t tend to let the world know I’m an open wound that needs a hug. West does. I don’t tweet that I could be “this generation’s Ida B. Wells or Stephen King” because that would be preposterous—and, to paraphrase a famous line from a King film, they would all laugh at me.
But West does things like this all the time, on social media, in interviews. He blurts out his subconscious consciously like a nervous tick, obscuring the brilliance of his musical works with his disjointed, jarring words. You can’t listen to West’s new album, The Life of Pablo, without remembering the unhinged subtext West is offering up, a subtext of irrationality and delusion, of narcissism and pain.
“I promise I’m going to make the world dope … all I do is make [s–t] dope,” West tweeted in his cry for help from the tech titans, who tweeted nothing in return.
I don’t know what issues West does or doesn’t have; nor do I pretend to know. But I do know that he drops verses about Lexapro and Xanax on his new album, two drugs I’m more than familiar with in my own journey from bipolarity to stability. He raps about his demons, his fears. But during Yeezy Season 3, in the photos, it’s all smiles.
A fan on Twitter asked rap artist Rhymefest why he doesn’t collaborate with West anymore, and Rhymefest tweeted: “My brother needs help, in the form of counseling. Spiritual & mental. He should step away from the public & yesmen & heal.”
You can be incredibly successful, you can have everything and you can still be desperately unhappy. And West, who is still capable of putting on a show and appearing to have a good time, always seems a moment away from having the mask slip completely and falling into the abyss, whatever his personal abyss may be.
Because it doesn’t matter that West is rich. Or that he has the beautiful wife he has always claimed to want. It’s not about having his two healthy, lovely children or a successful career. It’s about having all the ideas in the world but not the temperament to explain them. It’s about being deeply talented but profoundly insecure. His screaming about awards and his lamenting over being outside a lily-white “in” crowd that he’s never getting into are evidence that he wants the kind of white acceptance no one can or will ever give him, no matter how many times he lets them rap along to his songs using the n-word.
Something in the Yeezy ain’t clean. But it’s not funny. It’s sad. Make your jokes, but know that they come at the expense of someone too foolish to realize that it’s pointless to gain all the luxuries in the world if you’re just going to go and lose your mind.