Here are the facts: Kanye West should be in a psychiatric hospital. Instead, he’s speaking his mind, or what’s left of it. For what it’s worth, Kanye West should not be tweeting or going on podcasts. Unlike the side effects of a prescription drug, the results don’t vary. No, the outcome is usually the same, in one form or another: career suicide. Kanye West’s artistic legacy is undergoing seppuku.
We’ve seen this movie before. Remember Roseanne? After a racist tweet in 2018, ABC immediately canceled her show (it was going to be her comeback). Hulu followed up by removing every season of Roseanne from their streaming service. Her reputation as the “domestic goddess,” a sharp-tongued feminist icon, had been reduced to the level of a disgraced ball-player forced to play out the remainder of his career in the cornfields of Iowa. A year after the tweet that ended her career, the Washington Post provided an update: “Roseanne Barr just can’t shut up.”
But Roseanne was mentally ill; dissociative identity disorder was just one of her ailments. That’s not to excuse what she said, but she shouldn’t have been tweeting for the same reason someone with narcolepsy should perhaps not be driving. Kanye West should not be rifling off his opinions to millions of people. Full stop, like a Candace Owens tweet. I’m not calling for censorship; I’m calling for someone to preserve Kanye’s West artistic legacy by getting him away from the fangs of Candace Owens, who has transformed Kanye into a Chappelle’s Show sketch.
Let’s examine the wreckage of what he’s done so far. CAA, the world’s most powerful talent agency, has dropped Kanye West, a man who also currently has no record company or publishing deal. On purely business terms, he’s fucked. His partnership with Adidas to produce Yeezy sneakers is dead. Adidas is also the “sole owner of all design rights,” which means they’ll likely continue to sell Yeezy designs without Kanye West.
“Should Kanye West’s Music Be Banned?” asks Variety. Legally, the decision is entirely up to Universal Music’s Def Jam label, which owns most of Kanye West’s copyrights. Rights holders can decide if an artist’s music will be available on streaming services, for example, but they won’t remove it (it would be unprecedented if they did). You can still stream R. Kelly and Phil Spector.
But setting to one his career — which is a radioactive dump — what about Kanye West’s legacy as an artist? It’s on life support.
Some may solely know Kanye West for his hideously futuristic sneakers, puffer jackets that look like stylish trash bags, self-immolation on Twitter, “White Lives Matter” T-shirts, MAGA hats, and Kim Kardashian. What a joke, right? But it would be a real tragedy if that was it.
As an artist, Kanye West has been one of the great producers of the past two decades. His early raps were self-aware, clever, authentic and vulnerable. His inventive sampling of soul records revolutionized the genre. He was telling stories with a shattered jaw, wired shut, which turned the track “Through the Wire” into a defining moment in his arc from struggling to speak to never being able to shut up! When Kanye West rapped about his mother, you felt it. She was his soul. It made you cry. The militaristic drums on “Jesus Walks” introduced a revolutionary figure still grounded by his faith. 2013’s Yeezus was pure shock-and-awe. It sounded like Malcolm McLaren’s “eight-bit punk” blended with “fuck the world”-era 2Pac. Nothing like this exists today. It may never happen again. The Yeezus-era gave us the fashionable assassin McLaren envisioned the Sex Pistols to be. It defied the sterile and PC karaoke culture that came after it. Yeezus was Kanye West at his zenith and nadir: an externalization of manic rage manifested into comic arrogance and braggadocio that defied all logic. Yeezus also forced us to ask several questions: Has Kanye West gone insane? Does he need help? Is he taking his pills?
It’s bizarre now to recall that Yeezus’s original title was Thank God for Drugs. If only he had taken them, right? If only someone had taken Twitter away from him like Roseanne’s children eventually did, as their mother just couldn’t shut up.
Let’s pray that Kanye West’s artistic legacy is separated from his mouth, which may need to be wired shut by a doctor for, I don’t know, a long time.