Lets face it, hip-hop superstar Kanye West gives entertainment writers so much low-lying fruit nowadays that the ink is barely dry for one article about the rapper before media is circling like vultures for the next one.
Indeed, it’s especially easy these days for any entertainment or music industry blogger – or anyone else who’s watching – to jump on the whole “Kanye West is crazy” bandwagon following the news of a pretty bad weekend for the hip-hop superstar whose Saint Pablo concert tour ended abruptly in Sacramento, California Saturday night.
But this time West, more specifically his mental health, may actually be in trouble, following a bizarre rant and subsequent storming off stage during a truncated concert performance on November 20 where he – of all things – committed the ultimate music industry sin and blasted Beyoncé for allegedly politicizing a recent MTV Video Music Awards show, while in the process apparently turning on the very person he famously defended seven years earlier for essentially the same issue – video award show politics.
According to accounts, West later implored the singer’s husband, the iconic rapper and business mogul Jay Z, to “call” him so they could discuss (“like a man”) some of the issues Kanye apparently has with the couple, with whom he also happens to be contractually tied for Roc Nation’s Tidal Music streaming service, which Jay Z owns.
Placing aside for a moment the bizarre method in which the rapper decided to alienate his steadily declining fan base by pulling the plug on his show after a reported 90-minute delay and mere three-song performance, doesn’t Kanye of all people know by now that things don’t usually end well for music business insiders who criticize the industry’s most powerful couple. If not, here’s a reminder: there’s a reason that the Carters have been on top for so long, while offenders (Keyshia Cole, Keri Hilson anyone?) have been dispatched with ease.
We fans can criticize Beyoncé and Jay Z and go unscathed – save for the wrath of a few social media stings from Beyoncé’s eternally loyal Beyhive.
But other artists doing the unthinkable? Especially those whose success and continued livelihoods are partly tied to the power couple? Nothing good can come of it.
That aside, whether his accusation was true or not, that West chose to take it out on the very people who – despite his antics over the years – were willing to plop down big dollars to see him perform is, at best, simply bad decision-making and, at worst, a sign that the “Famous” rapper may no longer be in control of even his own actions.
With this latest episode, it seems to the naked eye that West is trying to outdo himself with each outing. Now even his rants have rants. With one incoherent 180-degree turn after another, he alternately defends, accuses, criticizes and apologizes – and often the targets of each type of rant are the same people…Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, record company execs and politicians.
Take, for instance, another Saint Pablo concert rant, in which West reportedly declared last week that he’s a Donald Trump supporter and would have voted for the controversial president-elect had he even voted this year, but only eleven years earlier chided then-President George W. Bush for “not caring about black people.”
Talk about a head scratcher.
But whether West, whose Life of Pablo album topped the charts earlier this year after a bizarre marketing strategy (which also alienated some fans), is bemoaning his financial status and asking for donations, or cutting short a show following a reported robbery attempt on his wife, Kim Kardashian, the singer is clearly – at least this time – crying out for even more attention than he already gets and, maybe even more seriously, some much-needed help.
The rapper has reportedly cancelled the remaining dates on his Saint Pablo concert tour following his ill-fated California “performance,” and checked himself into a Los Angeles hospital for psychiatric evaluation, a sign that even Kanye or the people around him are starting to realize that his could be a train wreck waiting to happen.
We’ve seen it play out with so many famous people time and again. Celebrities are elevated to such a high status by fans, media and – perhaps most damaging – the people they surround themselves with that they – and we – often feel they’re immune to the common mental health problems that often plague the rest of us.
We chalk up the bizarre behavior to “Kanye just being Kanye” – or you can fill in the blank with any other big name artist whose fall we’ve watched from the sidelines.
And as the wheels continue falling off of the train wreck that’s unfolding right before our eyes, we react with disbelief when the next bad thing happens that reaffirms our ill opinions about the celebrity’s failings.
We attribute the antics to one’s ignorance, arrogance, or even his deluded sense of self-worth, and we wonder aloud how the bad actor can possibly top himself, all the while believing his (or her) actions to be somehow calculated.
But when you really think about it, what recording artist in his right mind would sabotage his career and his legacy by intentionally ending shows, cancelling a whole tour, breaching contracts, putting hundreds of roadies out of work, alienating a large fan base, biting the Beyoncé/Jay Z hand that helps feed him, and potentially losing millions of dollars?
The answer may be simply that West is no longer in his right mind.
Kanye West – largely by his own doing and perhaps deservedly so – has been the target of negative character assessments for most of his career now and, here’s the sad part: he’s likely more known for that aspect of his life than he is for the many musical accomplishments that he masterminded so skillfully during the earlier stages of that career.
Despite his social standing, few can deny that he was and possibly still is an artistic genius whose music has influenced so many and is one of the things that have helped keep hip-hop relevant during the 21st century.
Indeed, Kanye West, who’ll be 40 on his next birthday, is a likely future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer given his phenomenal accomplishments in music over the past 13 years and his relative importance in the hip-hop game over that time. Under current RRHOF rules, he would be eligible for induction in the year 2028.
However – and this may be a stretch, but I’ll take the liberty to say it – if he wants to actually live to see that day happen, then maybe it’s time for him to right this ship before he or those close to him can no longer do it.
Perhaps the news of his checking into an L.A. hospital is the first step.
One thing is certain: it will likely continue to play out publicly for all our eyes to see.
Hopefully his very public story has a happy ending.