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Unraveling Kanye West

September 14, 2009

Let me say a few things up front.

I know, without a doubt that I’m going to take some heat for this post.  I’ve gone back and forth all day trying to decide if its something I really wanted to write or if I could just let it slide.  I can’t just let it slide.

Let me also say that while I am not going to beat up Kanye any more than he already is, I’m not excusing what he did to Taylor Swift at the MTV VMA’s.  That isht was so far outta pocket and I- like many of you, was pissed.  I was disgusted and even embarrassed, and I felt bad for the 17 year old girl who had her moment in the spot light blown out by Kanye’s rant.

A rant, by the way, which had absolutely nothing to do with videos, country music stars or Beyonce.

While I was mad at Ye for what he did, something has been nagging at me ever since.

I’ve been thinking about Kanye before his mother died, and comparing that talented man to the Kanye we’ve grown disgusted with since his mother’s passing.

For obvious reasons, they aren’t the same person.

Now, for those of you who are going to tell me that the death of Kanye’s mother is no excuse for what he did- save your key strokes.  I agree with you.

I’m not excusing the man, not by any means.

All I’m saying is…I understand.  I do.

A few years ago my youngest son died just short of his fourth birthday- a struggle I’ve written about here before.

When my son died, many things within me changed.  One of those, unfortunately, was my mouth.  I grew tired of bullshit.  I had zero patience for games, drama, gossip- the overall pettiness of every day life.  When I saw something I thought was wrong, I called it out and didn’t give a damn what anyone said, or what anyone thought.

I just let it all fly, and I didn’t care who my word hurt, or even what impact they ultimately had on me, my reputation and the relationships in my life.

People called me bitter.  They said my ego was out of control- “who does she think she is?” folks would whisper.

I didn’t care.

A few even called me crazy.

I’d let complete strangers have it- at the mall, in a restaurant or a public bathroom (long story).

I just let it all fly.

For some reason or another, saying whatever the fuck I wanted to, whenever the fuck I wanted to, made me feel better in the moment.  I was furious that, even though my life had seemingly stopped because of the loss I had experienced- the world kept turning.  Life went on for everyone else.  A good outburst was a way for me to validate within myself that things in life were horrible at the time.

What’s more-though I’m ashamed to admit it- I really thought I had the right to be that way, as if it were a duty.

It was just a part of my process- a process many quietly criticized me for.

I wasn’t mourning in a way that was comfortable for them.

I should go out more.

I should stay in more.

I should cry more.

I should cry less.

I should talk about my son.

I should never talk about my son.

Everyone had an opinion- none of them were right.

So when I saw Kanye jump on stage the other night- right away I could tell it wasn’t the same as when he pulled a similar stunt in 2006.

Kanye was different.  His energy was different.  It was an energy I know well, because I’ve been overcome by it at times.

What helped me shift were kind but honest words from those in my life I simply could not dismiss.  Slowly, I reapplied my filters- well, lol, some of them anyway.

You have to understand though, that a part of the very foundation of my life was gone in the loss of that child, thus everything I stood on was shaky and uncertain.

When I look at Kanye today, I believe that his foundation- hell, his compass, has been shattered by the death of his mother.  It is no secret that they were inseperable, that he loved her, counted on her, looked to her before anyone and anything else.

That is gone.

And as a part of his process, Kanye West has to find a way to mourn and recreate his foundation.  He has to decide what kind of a person he wants to be, which will impact the kind of person he is known for being.

Everyone and they mama has expressed their disappointment with Kanye West, including the POTUS, who called him a jack ass.

Tonight, however, may have come a turning point.  Just a day after hijacking the VMA stage, West appeared on Jay Leno’s new show, where Jay gently but firmly called him to the carpet for his behavior- and asked him flat out what Ye thought his mother would think of his behavior.

On twitter and fb, many were conflicted over whether it was appropriate for Leno to ask the question.  I say, yes.

(Were you not listening to what Leno was trying to communicate to Ye?  “Fool I knew ya muva- we talked, she told me all about your ass, and what was- and was not- acceptable as her son?  How you gon’ disrespect ya muva like that?  Should I slap the isht outta you for her, or are you gonna handle that your own? You betta straighten up and fly right!”)

For his part, Kanye was stunned into silence, and among other things, said he was ashamed of himself- a reaction many are already attacking as “fake”.

I disagree for a few reasons.

The rich and famous aren’t used to being called on their shit.  It’s one thing to go on the Jay Leno show and joke, elbow and wink your way through an apology about a gaffe (or a straight jack-ass move), it’s another to have a mirror held up and be challenged to address the reflection therein.

Second, Kanye is aware of himself- even if we out here haven’t been.  He knows he is in pain, he said so on Leno’s set.  He allowed his pain to cause pain for someone else, something he’s never wanted to do with his life’s work, but in fact did very well- in front of everyone.

He knows it’s something he can’t take back.  He can’t give that young lady her moment back, he can’t reverse it.

So when people say “why would he do such a thing?!” the answer is, because he’s in pain, and he hasn’t been coping with it.  He’s used the stage, the mic, his persona to stay a step ahead of the emotional meltdown he probably needs to have in order to begin healing.

West commented that he may take some time off.

I really, really, really hope that he does.  I hope that he takes the time to surrender to the pain and anguish that death has brought to his life.

Maybe then he can pick up the pieces and return to some form of a man who actually likes himself- someone who learns to (truly) love life again…and someone we can respect.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 10:26 pm

    Wow, this is an interesting perspective I haven’t even considered. (Since I have no experience)

    I will definetly keep this in mind.

  2. September 14, 2009 10:47 pm

    I understand loss and how is challenges the very foundation of life, nothing prepares us death, the very fact one minute someone is breathing and the next minute they are not. My oldest pass into spirit in 2005 and my died when I was two, I have grown up loss and separations. It take awhile to be able function with a big hole in your heart. I know Kanye is still grieving his mother’s death. I pray that he will take some time to be with himself,and in the African tradition I pray someone goes and sit with him.

  3. Twanda Hill permalink
    September 15, 2009 8:28 am

    Having experienced more than my fair share of deaths in my family including the murder of my father, I can appreciate your perspective.

    I also think the problem is that we allow others opinions of us to determine our success. Years ago, when Oprah made Beloved, instead of allowing the critics to decide if she made a great movie, she asked groups of women to get together in cities all across the country to get together and view the movie and follow it up with discussion. Each discussion was video taped or recorded and sent back to her so she got feedback from real people.

    I think Kanye needs to learn that lesson so that he can release his disappointment in and industry that doesn’t ring his bell. Once he releases his expectation, it will allow him to enjoy life from a higher level.

    Continued outbursts like Sunday and before will lose him big support for good. I commend him for apologizing on Jay Leno and if he is sincere, he can make 1 or 2 phone calls to connect with Taylor and apologize in person.

    Through it all…You gotta love Beyonce! In the moment at the highest level…Always!

    peace and blessings to all!

  4. September 15, 2009 8:54 am

    I missed the Leno interview;I’m sure I’ll catch it on Youtube today.I could understand what you’re saying and how you approached this. I just think he was an ass before his mother died and her death has obviously affected him in ways we could only imagine. I think he is the type of guy (momma’s boy)who could be an asshole with the huge ego who needs his mother to bring him back to earth. Well, he doesn’t have that now and he’s just lost. That coupled with his horrible experimental music is a tell tale sign. But I could be wrong about all of what I just said. Hell, it could be that he thinks he can do whatever he wants because allegedly he has the baddest woman at his side wherever he goes. Nothing like a beautiful woman to further inflate the head of a Negro without any pride.

  5. September 15, 2009 4:08 pm

    I agree with you 100%.

    I behaved in the same way after my mother died; both my parents died too young, and I became such a busy body, very edgy and emotional
    on one hand, and withdrawn on the other.

    I had been talking about Kanye ever since mother died; knowing intuitively that he was going to spiral at some point. Seeing him reach in drastically different directions.
    Seeing him more in the public eye, but feeling that something was off.

    I too am a producer/artist and I believe that one can use their art to connect to those that have crossed over in a spiritual and energetic way, but it does take courage to be that vulnerable and rigorously honest.

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