UPDATE: Following the release of Ye last week, the seven-track album has reached over 100 million streams in just three days.
Here’s Ye broken down in numbers
- No. 1 iTunes Album in 63 countries, including South Africa
- No. 1 Spotify global peak position
- Five tracks in the Top 10 Spotify Global Top 50
- Top seven tracks on Spotify in the US
- No. 1 Apple Music album In 83 Countries
- Top seven tracks on Apple Music
This post was updated on 2018/06/06
It’s been a lit week in the world of hip-hop.
Between rappers Pusha T and Drake exchanging social media blows and AKA grappling for the attention of ex Bonang, it seems all the beef inspired album drops for a number of artists last week. Not one to be put on the bench for too long, Kanye West has once again thrust himself into the limelight with his surprise eight solo album, Ye.
If you were wondering where Kanye has been since his last controversies of reducing thousands of years of slavery as a choice, aligning himself with possibly the most hated man in America (who coincidentally, is also the President) and revealing his declining mental health stems from opioid addiction, he’s apparently been making an album nobody knew about.
Staying on brand, the album cover for Ye is a landscape of Wyoming, USA with the Snapchat caption scrawled over it reading ‘I hate being Bi-Polar, its awesome’ a condition he calls his ‘superpower.’ If you thought the album title is an obvious reference to himself, it’s actually a reference to how we’re all actually Kanye. Or is Kanye actually all of us? Confused? Yup, so are we. Either way, he wants us to know we’re connected…somehow.
Ye gives us the drama we want…but why do we want it?
‘I believe ‘ye’ is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible it means ‘you,'” Kanye said in an interview at the album’s listening party. ‘So I’m you, I’m us, it’s us. It went from Kanye, which means the only one, to just Ye — just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything. The album is more of a reflection of who we are.’
As someone that suffers from Bipolar Disorder, I’m hurt by the fact that some of you are glamorising the illness because of Kanye. I’m hurt by the fact that Kim said he doesn’t suffer from mental illness but there he goes using it on his album. You can’t just use these words.
— honey (@romachaka) June 2, 2018
We can’t say that countless artists before Kanye West haven’t used their turmoil as a source material for their art. But there’s something dangerous about equating inspiration and creativity with depression, anxiety and mood disorders. There is the romanticising of the tortured artist and an expectation that to hone your craft and create is to slip down a rabbit hole.
We consume Kanye’s spectacle because we’re morbidly curious to see just how far his limits will stretch. We take entertainment from watching the ‘show’ unfold, with all sorts of drama to keep us begging for more, and he indulges us with content sparked by the wreckage he leaves behind.
‘Sometimes I think bad things. Really, really, really bad things’
Ye features Easter eggs of his past escapades, including the track Wouldn’t Leave that references his wife Kim Kardashian’s response to his claims on TMZ. The lyrics delve into Kim’s pleas for an attention-deprived Kanye to stop his shit and focus on building their empire and a testament to how, just like his fans, Kanye knew ‘you wouldn’t leave me.’
Y’all really out here listening to Kanye’s album… pic.twitter.com/jcYSbSGr0D
— Jai. (@littlebadu_) June 4, 2018
The rest of the album is punctuated with references of his most famous breakdowns (HOW SWAY?!) with his struggles with mental health playing a central role with monologues including lines like ‘Sometimes I think bad things. Really, really, really bad things’ Basically, Kanye wants us to empathise with him and his turbulent life of opulence, without the burden of giving it in return.
Not even a month ago, the Internet criticised Kanye for perpetuating harmful myths about slavery and being seemingly unbothered by the personal politics of the company he keeps. It was agreed: Ye was cancelled. If he wasn’t cancelled for defending Bill Cosby’s reign of sexual violence or for using naked, realistic mannequins of celebs without their consent, then he sure as hell was cancelled a few weeks ago after a Twitter spiral that ended in that TMZ interview.
We need to stop making a spectacle of celeb mental health
Like a self-proclaimed fallen Messiah, Kanye is an example of a man refusing to take accountability for his actions and instead using his flaws as fuel to stay relevant. Kanye is arguably the spokesperson for narcissism veiled as enlightenment but also a case study on how we treat mental health in pop culture, and just how damaging that can be.
We ask whether he’s doing all of this as a man who just likes to see the world burn for fun or whether it’s the only cry for help he knows. The same fate was sealed for Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and countless celebrities whose mental health was used as fodder for pop culture.
Our continued support of Kanye despite his clear need to take several seats is also indicative of how we stan for men, no matter how trash, as long as they give us what we want – in this case, fire beats and features from artists you actually like. It’s the same reason Chris Brown, R.Kelly and the men who are given the social license to be violent in so many shapes and forms are still celebrated without consequences for their actions.
It looks like Ye isn’t cancelled just yet
Kanye: slavery is a choice
Y’all: YOU CANCELLED
Kanye: here’s my new alb…
— . (@DDotOmen) June 3, 2018
Like a puppeteer, Kanye knows how to work a crowd hungry for a scandal, even at the expense of those around him. Ye merchandise sold over six million Rand in half an hour and reached number one on iTunes. We can trace his story through a narrative he’s created for himself as an artistic genius of our times, a misunderstood activist and the maker of his own rules/religion.
Perhaps Kanye is aware of his ‘master plan’ to take over the world, starting with being as provocative without a cause as possible or maybe he truly is in the Sunken Place and we’re just tagging along for the ride. With Kanye, only Yeezus knows.
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