You used to give us words that meant things. The honesty used to pulse through your records in ways that were almost tangible.
What happened, Ye?
You reminded us that talking about Jesus was cooler than Louis Vuitton backpacks, pink polos and designer clothing we couldn’t pronounce. You gave us samples that gave us a better appreciation for the music our parents and grandparents kept in the crates behind their record and tape players. You walked us through emotions and feelings our community hadn’t spent enough time dissecting, like the gritty conversations surrounding the impact insecurity and self-esteem has on us.
I promise, she’s so self-conscious, she has no idea what she doing in college . . .
I promise, I’m so self-conscious. That’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches.
You told us you use your arrogance as the steam to power your dreams, and we were inspired. You were an unapologetic Black man with a love for the community and our music. Someone who was so sonically gifted that he could bend samples, beats and chords to his will, while telling our stories in the Blackest ways. We believed in your dreams, but we never thought your dreams would take you away from us.
Did we not love you enough? Didn’t we hang on to your every word? Didn’t we watch the College Dropout make it through Late Registration? Didn’t we attend your Graduation? We felt for you, and some of us cried with you listening to 808’s tell stories of Heartbreak that we could barely process. We indulged in your Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy like fiends, not sure if we were preparing for a nightmare or a lucid daydream, but trusting you enough to guide us through it. We opened our minds to Yeezus, and when you celebrated the Life of Saint Pablo, we flocked without hesitation.
We’re still on an Ultralight Beam, but it doesn’t seem like you’re still here with us.
We’ve been here for the ride, celebrating your milestones. So why did you leave us? This isn’t just anger about a Trump hat. This is pain. We put our faith in you and your words and you abandoned us. We trusted you, and you sold us out. Not because you believed in the white supremist rhetoric that Donda would never have approved of, but because you wanted to drum up a social experiment that is reckless and dangerous at best.
And you did it at our expense.
How are Black people supposed to Survive in America if one of the very men who helped shape the rhetoric we use to describe what it means to be young, gifted and Black in the 21st century will toss us to the wolves on a whim. You’re a giant to us, Ye. A titan and musical genius who we supported even when we didn’t agree with all of your decisions and approaches. But maybe that’s it. Maybe we overlooked your arrogance because of everything else you gave us.
And as I sit here writing a letter I don’t know will reach you—because even if the internet helps it find its way to you there’s no guarantee that it will connect to the rational part of you I pray still exists somewhere—I’m running through your music wondering how the same man that gave us everything except a good ass job could switch up on us like this. Did you change your mind in Calabasas? How could you tell us “And for that paper, look how low you would stoop . . .”
And then stoop so low?
As I recall, I know you like to show off, but I never thought that you would take it this far. What do I know?
Unless these words were never meant to be warnings. As we were taking your work and musical contributions as social commentary, were you actually telling us what to expect from you this whole time? That arrogance you’ve been using as the steam to power your dreams, was it also masking the fact that we weren’t as dear to you as you’ve been to us? Or were you using it to overcompensate for insecurities that are too easily manipulated and can take on a life of their own if not addressed?
Are extreme insecurity and extreme arrogance just two sides of the same coin? But why are you still overcompensating? After all these years you didn’t feel the assurance of your place in the game and in our hearts? More importantly, you think you aren’t a nigga in a coupe to that reality show family who will exploit each other for an extra 15 seconds of fame? They do that to their blood, my nigga, so what won’t they do to you?
Your smile ain’t reached your eyes in so long, Ye. I heard a poet named Jasmine Mans say that it seemed like they weren’t feeding you well. I think she was right. Five star meals in couture fashion houses doesn’t seem to give you the nourishment you need. Your spirit seems like it ain’t been full in years, Ye, what happened to your soul food? Did you trade it in for them?
Why are you so paranoid, Ye? I watched your interview with Charlamagne. It was painful to see you like that. But every so often I saw the old you come through, and it made me smile. The College Dropout. The Louis Vuitton Don. A glimpse to let us know a part of you is still in there somewhere. But he’s having to wade through a substance-heavy, Calabasas haze to be seen.
You created a musical legacy that will outlive us all. Your discography is the stuff of legends. This is the kind of impact artists and creatives dream about having. Music that holds up over time, without losing its relevance or the feeling you get when hearing it. But Kanye, how are we supposed to deal with the fact that your music is holding up, but you, the man, aren’t? That your work remained true, honest, authentic and present, but you?
We’re mourning the loss of you and you’re still in the land of the living. We’re mourning what you meant to us and who you were to us, and wondering if we ever really knew you in the first place. We should have never put you on that pedestal. People are never prepared to handle it well when our icons fall off of them.
Your actions are a reminder that someone who does not fully love themselves can never truly love us back. And maybe the reason you haven’t loved us well lately is because you just don’t know how. Your insecurities and pride are in the way.
There’s talk about throwing you away, but I think we need to pull you in closer. Your standing in the culture is surrounded by a whirlwind of hurt, pain, anger and frustration, but I believe that the culture has to do some reckoning of how we handle those members who wrong us. And if the culture didn’t care about you, didn’t really love you? No one would be bothered by your actions.
We don’t like to acknowledge the fact that the feeling of love opens the door for not only the euphoric emotions, but the painful ones too.
But loving you doesn’t mean we give you a pass because you’re troubled or hurting. It means that we have to hold you accountable. Your super power, and your weakness, is your drive to do all the things people said you couldn’t, so you flocked to a man who became president when the country said he wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) because you feel like you relate to the “underdog”. This isn’t about achievement anymore, Ye. This is about attention. You aren’t the first person to deal with insecurity, Mr. West. You’re feening for attention because it makes you feel good about yourself. Your reality show family and antics are a testament to this. You reach to seem enlightened because it makes you feel good to be seen as a mad genius, even when so much of the things you feel you’ve learned are wrong and ill informed.
And, as we saw during your time at TMZ, if the culture doesn’t call you on your foolishness, no one else will. Van Lathan loved you enough to be honest with you, even though it probably came at a risk. But you needed to hear it whether it stuck with you or not. Everyone isn’t going to take on the act of doing this with you (quite frankly, they don’t owe you that), but for those of us who are, I hope Van’s actions are the framework we use. Tough honesty, not just on where you messed up, but how it impacts us physically, financially and emotionally.
We used to beg you to “Come home, Ye”, but clearly you need something we can’t give you. We’re worried about you. The world can’t be your therapy. The world was using your music to help find healing. Get some help, Ye. You said you wanted to take the stigma off of “crazy”. Not getting help doesn’t accomplish that. Removing that stigma comes through encouraging people to seek help from trained professionals. By encouraging the culture to go into mental wellness-related fields. By encouraging these politicians and people pretending to love you to leverage their power and privilege to increase funding and access to this kind of treatment.
But instead you decided to wear a MAGA hat and talk about love. But only as an emotion. Not as an action that has inspired and anchored Black progressive movements throughout our history. You want to talk about love, Ye? Remember who’s loved you, and who suffers because you’re reaching for a fake sense enlightenment at our expense.
This is Family Business, Ye. Get some better people around you so you can have the support you need. Then maybe, hopefully, we can talk about you coming home again.
With love, in emotion and in action,
Author's Note: If you are in the Dallas area and interested in talking more about Kanye, the fellas over at Hip Hop Book Club will be hosting a town hall on Monday, May 7 at the Culture Club. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @hiphopbookclub.
Lauren Whiteman is from Dallas, she eats Rudy’s, it’s been a while since she’s been to Big T though. She has a couple of degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is now an educator in Dallas area. Lauren’s work focuses on advocacy, student development, and the miseducation of Black and African American students in higher education. She’s a TEDx presenter and hopes the next generation doesn’t ever forget what to do for the 99 and the 2000. For her twitter shenanigans, visit @itsmewhiteman.