When it all falls down: Kanye, Mental Health, and Communities of Color

On June 8th, a legend was born. Yes, it is officially #Yeezy season. People give me a few side glances when I talk about him, but I have always been a fan of Kanye and let’s be honest the state of Kanye’s mental health has been up for debate these past few years.

I was 14 when “The College Dropout” hit the scene, but I didn’t really appreciate the meaning of his first three albums until I went to college.  They  were everything I needed in my life. “Through the Wire” gave me the drive I needed to get through my hard days ( I know-life is so hard at 18, right?) ; “Family Business” reminded me that no matter how dysfunctional my family was they always had my back and “Roses” helped me appreciate their presence in my life.

My respect for his music came from the fact that each album imitated major parts of his journey. During his come up, he put out singles like “Jesus Walks” and “All Falls Down”. His socially conscious lyrics perfectly represented the black conflict between what is real and what is portrayed. His message promoted growth and a belief that his community could and would thrive. I was riding his wave of black power,  but a lot of that seemingly ended in 2007.

In November of that year, Donda West, tragically passed away. Like everyone else in the music world, I noticed the tone of his music became noticeably darker,dismissive, and depressive. With lyrics like “Wave your hands in the air if you don’t fucking care.” followed by “Everyone got their own course full of obstacles/Don't let your heart grow cold like a Popsicle”. It was looking like my favorite rapper, was becoming just that, cold.

Regardless of his ups and downs, I could empathize with him. He wasn’t perfect by any means--think back to “drunken red carpet stints”; “Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMA’s”; and “You don't have all the answers Sway?”-- and the world was far from forgiving.

 

The once  acclaimed “Jesus Walks” superstar slowly turned into the blasphemous Yeezus. His music reeked of loneliness and confusion and worse he had to experience these feelings in the public eye.

Do you know what is it really like to have millions of eyes watch you go through an extremely personal moment of pain; pain stemming from a death that you believe you inflicted on your own Mother?’

Nah, didn't think so.

In a 2015 interview he goes as far as saying, "If I had never moved to L.A. she'd be alive.I don't want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears."

Nine years later, and he still is coping. I couldn’t begin to imagine the pain.

Today, I am happy to say, we can see a brighter side with his latest album “The Life of Pablo”. Still a little disrespectful, but you can’t tell me you don’t feel a hint of the holy ghost when you hear “Ultralight Beam”

That all said, what does Kanye’s journey say about mental health in our community? To be blunt, we are ignorant and lack empathy. We don’t know the signs or feelings associated with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder so when something like this comes up all we can think is “damn, they must be crazy”. We don’t know how to help so all we can do is sit back and watch as a person helplessly battles their internal demons. We aren’t taught to properly deal with emotions. We are in a world that is quick to diagnose, but slow to understand the root of the problem.Because of this, we have  women and little girls who are fighting in the streets over petty things. We have men and young boys who are choosing to pick up a gun to fight rather than opening their mouths to initiate a deeper conversation.

Point blank. We all have some work to do. Let’s teach and support our future generations on the good, bad, and ugly side of mental health.


I am not sure he will ever read this post, but, for what it is worth, Happy Birthday to Mr. West. I respect you and  pray the universe grants you all the love and light you so deserve