With Family Back at the Center of His Life, Kanye Is Finally Calm
"Kanye West is an insult to music fans all over the world. We spend hundreds of pounds to attend glasto, and by doing so, expect a certain level of entertainment.
Kanye has been very outspoken on his views on music….he should listen to his own advice and pass his headline slot on to someone deserving!
Lets prevent this musical injustice now!"
So begins the fan petition to prevent Kanye West from headlining Glastonbury in June. As of now, it has over 120,000 signatures, and it's easy to see where these protestors are coming from. Kanye's unpredictable, but there’s been contradictory evidence as of late about who he is as it stands right now.
It seemed for a minute like he calmed down and humbled himself after his heartfelt appearance on Ellen and debut of the video for “Only One,” but then he near-crashed Beck at the Grammys. That incident seemed like an innocent joke, like another attempt at humility from Kanye, then he backpedalled on the lightheartedness of his gesture: “So I didn't want anything to take away from his screen time. So I just walked back down because, you know, it was kind of a joke, like the Grammys themselves,” he told Ryan Seacrest, also saying, “This is our Super Bowl, and someone's gotta be mad that Marshawn [Lynch] didn't get the ball,” in reference to the infamous mishandling of Super Bowl XLIX by the Seattle Seahawks.
Despite how in love he is with himself, family has always been Kanye’s priority.
There are certain types of opulence and self-puffery that come off as distinctly Kanye, yet he’s unpredictable and what it means to be Kanye is consistently in flux, especially recently. The public and Kanye himself still seem to be figuring out who Yeezy is, but it’s becoming increasingly important to remember that, despite how in love he is with himself, family has always been Kanye’s priority.
As the foundation of Kanye’s sense of family was shaken, so too was his identity. It started on Nov. 10, 2007, when paramedics transported Donda West to Centinela Freeman Hospital in Marina del Rey, California.
The day before, Kanye’s mother underwent cosmetic surgery under the care of Dr. Jan Adams, the third doctor she consulted after two other surgeons determined she would be at risk for a heart attack and refused to operate. After nearly six hours of surgery, Donda West walked out of the clinic, heavily bandaged and “opted to return to her home for care even though she was advised that she receive post-operative care at another facility,” according to the coroner’s report.
Donda West received outpatient care in her home. She took Vicodin to deal with the pain, slept through the night without issue and felt better in the morning. The next day, she felt increased soreness in her throat and tightness in her chest. She collapsed. A friend called 911. At 8:29PM on Nov. 10, 2007, Donda West was pronounced dead in the emergency room at 58 years old.
Donda West didn’t ride Kanye’s coattails to her Hollywood lifestyle. She was her son’s manager and helped guide him to the point where he could afford coattails. She was driven and intelligent, previously on the faculty of the Chicago State University’s English department for over 20 years.
Kanye is an only child. His mother passed away, survived by his father Ray West. Kanye lost half his family that day. The hole in Kanye that had been filled by family was empty for the first time.
Kanye had just released Graduation two months earlier and was already one of the best rappers in the game, and was emerging as a star, a global pillar of culture. Astronomically, Kanye was a red giant, at his biggest but most vulnerable. Then he withdrew into himself; a black hole. He went to work. With all the trauma and newfound lack of direction, Kanye exploded, a Big Bang creation of a new universe, initially characterized by lament and loss.
808s and Heartbreaks came out in late 2008. It was painfully personal, those themes contrasted by robotic production and electronic instrumentation.
“And there is no Gepetto to guide me / No one right beside me / The only one was behind me / I can’t find her no more, I can’t follow no more / I can’t …,” Kanye raps on “Pinocchio Story,” the album’s final track. A puppet master controls his puppet’s moves, pulling the strings to indicate how it should act, but Kanye’s Gepetto was gone, and it was at this point that the wooden boy became animate.
“Perspective, and wise man say / One day, you’ll find your way,” Kanye continues. Whatever day Kanye was going to find his way on, it wasn’t coming up soon. At some point between 808s and Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye became Kanye.
“I am Warhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney, Nike, Google,” he actually said on air.
Kanye was losing himself and responding by making himself bigger, at least in his own eyes.
“When someone comes up and says something like, ‘I am a god,’ everybody says, ‘Who does he think he is?’ I just told you who I thought I was. A god. I just told you. That’s who I think I am,” Kanye told BBC’s Zane Lowe. Kanye was losing himself and responding by making himself bigger, at least in his own eyes.
The problem with refuting these statements is that they weren’t really that ridiculous. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was … beautiful. Six-plus-minute tracks like “Monster,” “Runaway” and “Blame Game” were genius. No matter the level of obnoxious hubris, Kanye’s output on his records was matching the output of his mouth. Kanye was the only person who could stop Kanye, but why end the reign of a god on purpose?
Megalomania had set in. The distance Kanye created between himself and the rest of humanity turned him into a caricature. He would say things like, “Come on now! How could you be me and want to be someone else?,” to no reaction beyond a head shake and “That’s Kanye. What a fool.”
His disillusion was only exacerbated with Yeezus, his latest album and most polarizing release. Critics ate it up, but early on, fans weren’t so sure. Maybe the relatively sparse, industrial-style Rick Rubin production turned them off. Maybe they were tired of being talked down to. You’re not a god, Kanye. Shut up.
“I am a god / Even though I’m a man of God / My whole life in the hand of God / So y’all better quit playin’ with God,” Kanye refutes in “I Am a God.” Kanye thinks he’s Jesus Christ: God, but also just a man doing the work of God. Jesus Christ.
There’s little room for recovery from visions of this much grandeur, but possibly the only thing that could reverse Kanye’s pretension happened: He became a dad.
Paparazzi photos of Kanye and Kim Kardashian surfaced when they began dating in April 2012, but the relationship proved to be more than a meeting of the brands. North West, Kanye’s first child, was born in June 2013. He later married Kardashian, in Italy in May 2014.
Fatherhood changes people; even Kanye isn’t immune to that transformation. It alters sleep schedules, empathy and priorities. The world had forgotten that Kanye was human. Kanye may have even gotten lost in the him he created, but after his most recent Ellen appearance, maybe now he’s less Yeezy and more Kanye Omari West, the name his mother gave him.
He debuted a shortened music video for his single with Paul McCartney, “Only One,” a surprisingly low-key clip directed by Spike Jonze featuring Kanye and his daughter in a foggy field embracing and basking in each other’s company. In his conversation with Ellen, Kanye, for the first time in years, comes off as a real live mammal, a human person even. The robotic stoicism and attention-grabbing self-aggrandizement don’t seem to be part of Kanye anymore.
The defining quote from Kanye, the husband and father: “I’ve learned how to shut up more. I think I’m a better human being because of [Kim Kardashian] and because of my daughter. And I have always someone to think about going home to, something for me to … not only be brave for what I want to do for humanity, but also to be more protective of myself for my family.” After going through what he called his “version of the terrible twos,” Kanye sees the cartoon that he was and doesn’t seem to care for it anymore.
“You guys last year, two years ago, three years ago, whatever, you guys were seeing someone being suffocated by perception ... the definition of crazy is trying to do the same thing and expecting a different result. So I tried something different over the past couple years, and I actually got some really good results from it, too,” he told Ellen before the audience cheered and Kanye laughed awkwardly and apprehensively. He’s still getting the hang of his newfound personhood, but like Ellen said, his emotions are more “grounded in a way that they come out in, what you said, protection and love.”
Maybe that’s why Kanye stopped at the Grammys. For the first time in a long time, Kanye’s actions have consequences that affect people other than himself, people he cares about more than himself. He hasn’t quite mastered how to shut up yet, but he’s learning.
Or maybe it actually was a joke the whole time, and self-deprecation is now acceptable for ’Ye. But then there’s the Marshawn Lynch comments ... he’s still learning.
This might be the gradual death of outrageous Kanye. It was a wild time and it made for entertaining press, but the West family, and the world, will be better off with genuine Kanye, who said the only regret of his life is that his mother never met his daughter.
He might even play Glastonbury and not cause a scene. Such is the new, recovering person, Kanye Omari West. Donda would have loved to meet him.