It must be terribly frustrating for Kanye West to see a Supreme Court confirmation fight in Washington elbow his new album out of the national spotlight. But that’s show biz.
His latest wave of newsmaking appearances and tweets makes me wonder whether, at best, we’re watching a genius at work or, at worst, the slow, public disintegration of a man who revealed in a June radio interview that he has been diagnosed with a “mental condition.”
Or, as some have speculated, maybe he’s only using that suspicion to add a little more edge to his appeal in the always edge-hungry world of entertainment.
In recent days, he has:
— Announced on Twitter that he is changing his name. The “being formerly known as Kanye West” tweeted, “I am YE.” He also changed his Twitter display name to “ye,” although his handle remained “@kanyewest.”
— Announced while onstage with Chance the Rapper in Chicago, where they both grew up, that “I gotta let y’all know that I’m moving back to Chicago and I’m never leaving again.” Never mind TMZ’s reports that his reality TV-star wife, Kim Kardashian West, and their three children will remain in Los Angeles, where Ye owns several properties that he has no intention of selling. He will move the office of his company Yeezy to his new “home base.” When you make his kind of money, you can have more than one home base.
— While wearing a red Donald Trump campaign “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, ad-libbed a rambling speech from the “Saturday Night Live” stage after the show went off the air. His remarks touched on Trump, racism, Bill Cosby and liberal bullying.
But wait, there’s more. The next day he tweeted a photo of himself wearing his MAGA hat and a statement that appeared to call for repeal of the 13th Amendment that outlawed slavery. “This represents good and America becoming whole again,” he wrote. “We will no longer outsource to other countries. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.”
It also sparked widespread consternation and confusion. He apologetically clarified that he meant to say “amend” not “abolish” the 13th Amendment.
That’s why I’m not holding my breath waiting for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to accept Ye’s call this past week to meet with his pal President Trump and have “a dialogue not a diatribe.” That’s a nice thought, but Trump has leveraged too much appeal to his conservative base by fanning flames of outrage at Kaepernick and other NFL players who have knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
Still, sales of Kanye’s music and Yeezy shoes don’t appear to have suffered much. If anything, his controversies have only firmed up the old show business — or shoe business? — adage that any publicity is good publicity. That’s usually true, in my experience. But there’s another issue that the artist formerly known as Kanye could be uniquely well-suited to address: Mental health awareness.
No joke. Ye has the right to believe whatever he wants. But he also has the power to deliver important messages about mental health, which he sort of tries to do on his new album, “Ye.”
On the track “Yikes,” he raps that his “bipolar (barnyard epithet)” is “my superpower, ain’t no disability, I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero.” And the album cover has a photo of mountains in Wyoming behind the handwritten words “I hate being Bi-Polar it’s awesome.”
Ironically and coincidentally, the first full week of October happens to be Mental Illness Awareness Week, officially established by Congress. That makes this a particularly appropriate time for Ye, the great attention magnet, to show the world how mental illness is a very serious condition that, with good information and treatment, doesn’t have to stop anyone from being a superstar.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.