After the immense success of his last album, “The Life of Pablo,” in 2016, Kanye West did not disappoint when he dropped his latest groundbreaking album “ye” in June. Lasting a mere 23 minutes, “ye” is his shortest album yet, but arguably his most telling. In a genre that rarely discusses mental health, Kanye opens up about his own struggles with mental illness.
The first track on the album, “I Thought About Killing You,” sets us into a frenzy of disturbing and raw thoughts that echo the suicidal tendencies that are all too common in bipolar disorder, Kanye’s alluded mental illness diagnosis:
“The most beautiful thoughts are always beside the darkest / Today I seriously thought about killing you / I contemplated, premeditated murder / And I think about killing myself / And I love myself way more than I love you … You’d only care enough to kill somebody you love”
With these as the opening lines to this album along with the scribbled cover text: “I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome,” the album is shockingly blunt and open about the struggles of dealing with a mental illness. This discussion comes after his numerous scandals in the media, such as his controversial support of Donald Trump and comments that “slavery was a choice.” Kanye reveals that these actions are a lot deeper than the careless, erratic behavior that the media makes it out to be, and rather, part of the manic-depressive cycle that comes with bipolar disorder.
In his song “Wouldn’t Leave,” he discusses these moments saying, “Just imagine if they caught me on a wild day / Now I’m on fifty blogs gettin’ fifty calls / My wife callin’, screamin’, say we ‘bout to lose it all,” referring to his now infamous appearance on TMZ. This verse gives insight into how hard it is to have total control while in a manic state and how quickly the situation got out of hand. Kanye later explains how grateful he feels to be in his position:
“Think about somebody that does exactly what I did at TMZ and they just do that at work right? But then Tuesday morning, they come in and they lost their job and they can’t go back and make that. That’s why God put that on me at age 40.”
Not only is the album honest and real, it’s unapologetic — Kanye doesn’t hide anything with the self-aware verse, “I think this is the part where I’m supposed say something good / To compensate it so it doesn’t come off bad / But sometimes I think really bad things / Really, really, really bad things.”
Kanye isn’t ashamed of his diagnosis either, as he shouts, “That’s my superpower … Ain’t no disability / I’m a superhero,” at the end of his song “Yikes,” Kanye does not feel any less empowered after his diagnosis at 39, and he even believes it is what fuels him to keep creating and expressing himself.
Being this famous and having such an influential platform makes this album extremely important, and it helps continue to pave the way for the discussion of mental health and eliminating the stigma behind it. In an interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Kanye explains, “I wanna change the stigma of mental health, period. Best believe I’m gonna take the stigma off the word ‘crazy,’” and he goes on to say he wants to “create music that’s therapeutic.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, please visit Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for resources such as group and individual counseling, crisis intervention, and psychological and psychiatric evaluations available to undergraduate and graduate students. If you are experiencing a crisis, call the 24/7 Penn State Crisis Line at 877-229-6400 or text “LIONS” to 741741.