Illustration by DeAndra Hodge
*In the original version of this article it was stated that the “Ye” released in Summer of 2019, but it was actually released in Summer of 2018. It has been updated to reflect that.
Kanye West’s “Jesus Is King” album was released on Oct. 25. The conversation about his character and morality is being brought up again. While this topic is nowhere near new in pop culture and the music community, it seems like the mental health aspect of his character is becoming more exploited over time to fit one’s perspective and opinion.
Kanye’s last album cycle took place in summer of 2018. It not only consisted of him promoting his new self-titled album, “Ye,” it included him promoting and producing four other artists’ albums that summer.
“I hate being bi-polar its awesome” was the tagline for the new record, and most of the lyrical themes were centered around his mental health. This wasn’t the first time he got personal with his music, Kanye’s been writing about spirituality and family since his first album. This era of his was a landmark for his vulnerability, but it was also a major time for media and public attention on his mental health.
As an audience of art, no one should be required to pay attention or take care of celebrity’s mental health, but to have a fully educated opinion one needs to understand what bipolar disorder is and how it affects him and his actions.
There are two major parts to bipolar disorder, involving a manic and then depressive episode. While our culture is used to understanding what depression is, mania realistically doesn’t boil down to a stereotype of craziness. Manic episodes consist of great bursts of creativity, confidence and an intense feeling of being overwhelmed.
My problem when the argument of Kanye’s validity comes up is that no one seems to truly understand how uncontrollable these urges can be, especially when it pertains to rich celebrities that are already disconnected from the average man.
A defining characteristic of his most recent projects was the delayed amount of time between announcement and release. He has several unreleased albums under his belt, and he is now infamous for putting together albums in a short amount of time.
As of now, Kanye has announced nine albums since 2016, while only releasing four of those. It was reported in a 2018 New York Times podcast that Kanye planned on making and releasing “52 albums in 52 days.”
The impulsiveness of his decisions and creativity obviously draw from his disorder, but that is not where his criticism is drawing from. Kanye is infamously known for spouting ridiculous or spontaneous ideas, whether it pertains to spirituality, race politics or being famous.
The timing of when he releases art and shares opinions have a direct correlation to his mental disorder. His Taylor Swift controversy was right in between his fourth and fifth studio releases, and his absurd “Slavery was a choice” quote was right before his most recent record was released. Some people tie that down to album promotion or trying to gain attention, but I think the clear connection is his mental health.
Another aspect to bipolar is the manifestation of reliance and gullibility regarding other people. Constantly shifting from high confidence to low energy depression can make someone super impressionable, as seen in Kanye. A lot of Kanye’s conservative opinions in 2018 were attributed to Candace Owens, a popular right-wing activist, influencing him to share ideals that he says he never believed in.
His current mentor is Adam Tyson, a preacher from Los Angeles. Kanye currently shares that his preacher convinced him to no longer make secular music, and to remove all cursing from his new songs. This almost led to Kanye leaving rap because he found it to be the “devil’s music”. His beliefs in spirituality are not too out of the way from what he normally talks about, but ideas this radical are clearly connected to his mental disorder.
Kanye’s mental disorder shouldn’t completely rule his social persecution, he should be held accountable to his actions. Completely ignoring or excusing his actions is dangerous, and just allows for more damage to happen to his mental state.
On the other hand, people that criticize him don’t understand how severe the mental disorder can be. Blindly supporting or hating any artist can lead to trouble, especially when important social topics like mental health are at play.