The other day, I listened to Kanye West’s new project, Ye. I haven’t fully digested it, but this is because I’ve only listened to it once. Unfortunately, this may mean that there weren’t too many songs that “grabbed” me and made me want to listen to them again, something that didn’t happen with Black Thought’s new project, Streams of Thought, Volume 1. But I’m getting off topic.
There was one track on the album that immediately resonated with me. Yikes appealed to the therapist in me, as it’s one of the first times I’ve heard Kanye allude to having bipolar disorder. Although I couldn’t diagnose anyone without meeting with them, I’ve always felt that Kanye exhibited behavior that was consistent with bipolar disorder.
Years ago, when I heard that he stayed in a room for 3 days and made 30 beats (I might be exaggerating a bit), people described him as “a beast” or “being focused.” I said, to myself, “Naw… that sound like mania to me.” The other day I heard Pusha T in an interview say that Kanye was releasing a Kanye West album, a Pusha T album, a Nas album, a collaboration with Cudi, and Teyana’s album in 30 days. He added that even though most of the projects had only seven tracks on them, Kanye was doing all the production. When I heard this, I thought to myself that only a person on a manic episode could have the energy and creativity to pull off such a feat. I thought, “Kanye on his bipolar jawn again.”
“I hate being Bi-Polar, it’s awesome” is a statement that’s on the album cover of Ye. This statement could speak to how a person with bipolar feels about the extreme mood swings of the disorder – hating the feelings of depression but loving the experience of mania.
When a person with bipolar disorder experiences mania, they can be irritable, or they can be confident, creative, funny, energetic, and super productive. Mania makes a person feel like “it’s the best day of their life,” and some people refuse treatment because they like this feeling and don’t want to give it up. During a manic episode, a person can have increased energy levels and a decreased need for sleep, but they can also be so impulsive that they make decisions without considering the consequences.
Unfortunately, these extreme highs are followed by extreme lows. When a person with bipolar disorder experiences depression, it can be so debilitating that the person is unable to function. The depression can be so deep that a person won’t get out of bed, come out of their room, or even bathe. Sometimes, people get so depressed, they cry uncontrollably, they feel worthless, and they feel so hopeless that they have thoughts to harm or kill themselves.
“Shit could get menacin’, frightening, find help
sometimes I scare myself, myself”
The chorus in Yikes appears to discuss themes associated with having a mental health challenge. It appears to detail how when Kanye is manic, he loses control and behaves in ways so troubling that the thought of what he could do, or say, frightens himself sometimes. He alludes to being unable to manage these experiences without help, and the help that he talks about finding may be professional help, as in a mental health professional or psychiatrist.
“You see? You see?
That’s what I’m talkin’ bout
That’s why I fuck with Ye
See that’s my third person
That’s my bipolar shit, Nigga what?
That’s my superpower, Nigga ain’t no disability
I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero! Aggghhh!
In these lyrics, Kanye admits to having bipolar disorder. Now I don’t know if he’s being honest or just saying this for shock value. You never know with Mr. Kanye “Making America Great Again” West. He did refer to his tendency to be manic as a strength and not a weakness. In “that’s my superpower, Nigga ain’t no disability,” Kanye is acknowledging that when he’s manic, he can tap into the creative genius that’s allowed him to set trends in music, fashion, and footwear.
I’ve heard mixed reviews about Ye, and I was surprised at how many people disliked it, especially people I thought were loyal Kanye fans. I am noticing that my friends who are teachers and counselors seemed to appreciate the album. This may be because Kanye’s attempt at letting his music reflect his current life experiences may be resonating with the helper in them.
The therapist in me felt that Kanye discussing his experience of mental health challenges was refreshing, and this catharsis may even be beneficial to his recovery. It’s definitely in line with the movement in hip hop culture where rap artists such as Jay – Z, Vic Mensa, Eminem, Pharoahe Monch, Logic, Kid Cudi, and Isaiah Rashad are rapping about their experiences of mental health challenges and the need for therapy. Because of this, I’ll give Ye another listen, but this won’t happen until I stop listening to Black Thought’s Streams of Thought, Volume 1.
Ronald Crawford is a mental health professional who integrates hip hop culture and evidenced based clinical interventions to engage those who don’t buy into traditional therapy. He’s the author of Who’s the Best Rapper? Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas, a book where he uses an analysis of rap lyrics to teach social skills. Crawford has a book coming out in the Fall of 2018 titled Hip Hop Ain’t Die…It’s Been Traumatized and another one coming out in 2019 titled Hip Hop Ain’t Die…It’s Just Fatherless. Connect with him on facebook, on Instagram, or at [email protected]