I want to personally apologize for how callous the “Kanye West Should Kill Himself” headline reads. My editor talked me into it, and she signs my paychecks.
[I don’t actually have an editor, but man is my imagination progressive. A girl editor!]
The truth of the matter is that I love Kanye West – the musician, not the public figure – and I do also believe that he should kill himself. And not in the hyperbolic, colloquial way that people my age say ‘kill yourself’ when they really mean ‘that sucks.’ No, when I say that Kanye West should kill himself, I fully grasp the intensity of that suggestion. But it descends from a place of love! And admiration! Not just for Mr. West as an artist with-a-legacy-to-leave-behind, but also for Yeezy as a concept.
You see, when you’re an artist – or sometimes, merely a celebrity – it is in your best interest, professionally speaking, to die, so that your reputation as an artist, can skyrocket. And if we want to talk ideal circumstances, you should die while at your artistic peak AND have it happen via drug overdose, or by your own hands, or just anything along-and-between that murky spectrum. History will be very kind to you; she may even call you a ‘genius.’
I was not alive for the overdose deaths of Jimi Hendrix or John Belushi, but I have mourned Chris Farley, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and contrary to current wisdom, they were not unilaterally considered ‘geniuses’ while they were living. All outstanding and talented performers, with many accomplishments, not the least of which includes dying before the world was ready.
But hey, do you know what presently-living artist does get called a Genius? Like, all the time? No, definitely not Banksy- but you’re close. It’s Kanye West!
I Know I Know he’s just the WORST, and a total cartoon asshole of himself, but- the man was literally introduced to us as a Genius. Just listen to “Lucifer,” a track Kanye produced, on Jay-Z’s The Black Album in 2003. In the beginning (0:15 in) of that song, Jay screams ‘Kan-yeezy you did it again, you a genius n-word!’ And if you can’t trust Beyoncé’s husband, who can you trust, really?
I have no interest in debating whether or not he is, in fact, a musical Genius, or what that even requires. We all understand that he’s extremely important. All of his albums (five solo + Watch the Throne) are regarded as some of the best of the 21st century, especially his last two (#1 and #8, according to Pitchfork). So we can at least agree that if mainstream music is allowed to have a Genius, Kanye’s a damn good candidate, not to mention one ostensibly at the peak of those powers. We can also agree, and this circles us back to my more central point, that if Kanye West was found dead in a hotel room in Hong Kong tomorrow, it would be 2016 before you stopped hearing what a freaking Genius he was.
Now consider, for a moment, what your reaction might be upon hearing ‘Kanye West died.’ I would be stunned, nauseous, and so ready for more details. WHAT? No! Wait- HOW? … was it … uhh… did he … it wasn’t drugs, was it?
Because even though we know (and hate) an awful lot about Kanye, drug abuse is nowhere near that radar. Isn’t that strange? I mean- I’m sure he’s dabbled, possibly right before going on live television, but he strikes me as the type of dude who goes out and cares more about the perception that he ‘still gets fucked up’ than he does the reality. I’m sure, in his younger days, he tried every ratio imaginable of the champagne/cocaine/molly Neapolitan, but at this point it’s a combination that ‘bores him,’ and as far as painkillers or heroin is concerned, he lacks the discretion and, dare I say, humility, that a debilitating opiate habit necessitates.
So if Yeezy’s found dead, and it’s not drugs, and he wasn’t swallowed whole by his own ego, what would be your next guess? You could briefly imagine he was murdered, which is to say ‘caught up in a violent situation where shit happened,’ but again, I don’t buy it. His entourage is the Kardashian family, not Suge Knight.
This leaves us with the most fascinating thought experiment of all: suicide.
- It’s a far more exclusive club. He’d join the list of supposed geniuses like Kurt Cobain (shotgun), Ernest Hemingway (shotgun), Virginia Woolf (drowned), Elliott Smith (stabbed), and most recently, David Foster Wallace (hanged).
- As the above parentheses prove, the way you commit suicide is often just as compelling as the act itself. It’s one last performance, and given Kanye’s penchant for showmanship and creative control, I reckon he’d at least enjoy, on some level, designing every element of the production.
I will now open the floor for rebuttals.
Looking at the list from #1, your first thought may be that Kanye doesn’t satisfy the typical requirements for ‘tortured artist’ that the others did. But that’s flawed logic, because committing suicide is precisely what earns you that label. What if Eddie Vedder was the one who shot himself instead of Kurt Cobain? Instead of lionizing Nirvana and making documentaries about Cobain’s grade-school artwork, we would be still talking about Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’ video where the kid shoots himself in class. Do you think Eddie was telling us something back then? Was it a cry for help?
We use very simplified hindsight reasoning when we diagnose an artist as ‘tortured,’ or for that matter, someone who abuses drugs or opens fire in a movie theater. We wait until something happens, then we go back and look for the confirming evidence.
In that spirit, check out the chorus for “Runaway,” one of Kanye’s most beloved songs:
And I always find, yeah I always find something wrong……You been putting up with my shit for way too long…… I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most…… so i think it’s time for us to have a toast……let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes…
For a guy who’s made a lot of music you can dance to, Kanye sure does pack in a lot of negativity and self-loathing in the subtext! You could argue, and I have, that this is what makes him such a singular force in pop music. Kanye’s a living, breathing contradiction, strutting on the thin ice of his own self-awareness, always one misstep removed from full-blown narcissistic abyss.
I mean, does Kanye West seem happy? He’s greedy, and he’s intelligent, which are both antithetical to the concept. He also married Kim Kardashian, who – despite her intellectual flaws – is the most beautiful member of America’s royal family. So in addition to all the professional success and accolades, dude married a princess, and he’s still paranoid that Everyone’s against him.
The second, and more interesting, rebuttal is this: “Kanye would never commit suicide because he loves himself too much.”
And you’re right! He’s not just conceited, he’s the type of the prick whose arrogance grows the more you poke it. He wants you to notice his ego. All we have to do is put a microphone near his face and he’ll gladly say anything just to cause a spectacle and be the center of attention. But enough about Trump!
Kanye West loves himself, and to an extent few can fathom, but since when is that mutually exclusive to killing yourself? Do you realize how lonely competitive self-importance is? Who are his friends? Jay-Z? Kanye probably spent the entire Watch the Throne tour keeping track of whose entrance got the bigger ovation. Who is Kanye’s family? He’s the only child of a single parent who’s now deceased, and he married a woman whose value is strictly sexual and therefore depreciating each day. He also has,
I’m told, an infant daughter, but no one likes a rich kid, not even a rich father.
My point is that Kanye West believes he has no equal. And if he ever stops to consider that there’s very little difference to being peerless and being completely alone in this world, it could lead to a total psychological breakdown. It’s up to him, at that point, to decide if he wants to funnel that spiritual crisis into whatever new album he’s working on, or if he wants to just…tap out, so to speak.
If he chose the latter, and committed suicide, it would give the whole Kanye West narrative a completely unexpected exclamation point. He’d have his twist ending, which I do think is something Kanye cares about. Across the world there would be candles lit and front-page tributes about an underappreciated, misunderstood Genius. Better yet, it would compel the millions of people who currently despise Kanye West to permanently conceal their criticism and just respect the art, if not also the artist.
In other words, we’d all have a Toast for the Douchebag.