image from Billboard.com
Dear Mr. West,
I love you. My love for you is not fangirl love. It’s not a love of your work or your music, which I also have for you, but that is a different, more conditional type of love. The love I have for you is a heart-rending love, a love I have for everyone despite whether or not I like them, despite their actions. It is a love that does not abandon, even when the person I love loses themselves.
I worry about you. I know you’ve never been the same since the death of your mother in 2007. I know about the stigma of therapy and counseling in the Black community. I know you struggle with substances. I know that your wealth provides you with the kind of fame and power that allows you to behave unchecked. I see what’s happening to you. I bet you wouldn’t appreciate being diagnosed, but I think you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I see how it’s affecting you. Maybe it developed from such a fierce self-love, a love that you needed to survive because you weren’t getting it from anywhere else. A love so strong that it fed every single ambition of a Black man in America. I respect that, Mr. West.
I have a friend who suffers from NPD. He thinks everything he does is right and just. He doesn’t have many friends because if others don’t agree with him, he pushes them away. He is resistant to seeking help because he doesn’t see that anything is wrong. He speaks in superlatives. He has been financially successful. He is confused at his disgruntledness. He is not famous though and that is a huge advantage, for his struggle is a private one. This is a luxury you do not have and will probably never have. NPD and fame do not mix well.
I see you on the trajectory that has affected many others plagued with fame and fortune. It is the trajectory that led OJ Simpson to his Vegas arrest. It is the forces of celebrity that magnified the genius and madness in Nina Simone. As Ta-nehisi Coates reflects in a recent article on his own experience with fame, a mere fraction of yours, he writes, “I would walk into a room, knowing that some facsimile of me, some mix of interviews, book clubs, and private assessment, had preceded me.” Once we know your name, once we are familiar with your work, we think we know you. We don’t.
At some point, we asked you to give yourself up to us, the masses, the public. At some point we asked you to step into your Yeezus bodysuit full-time. No human being is meant to have to do that. But we made you do that under the guise that you are a true artist because you give zero fucks about what others think. We eat your shit up without stepping in because that’s how entertainment works. America doesn’t care about mental health, or work-life balance. Let’s watch and see how far off the rails he goes. It doesn’t take much to see beyond the thin veil of your bravado through to your pain. You have lost yourself to Kanye West and I don’t blame you, I blame us.
I love you and I’m not talking about the commodified you. The product of you. The Yeezus bodysuit. The amalgamation of tracks and tweets, soundbites and Youtube interview clips by which others define you. I love the man in there that strived for success, who believed in himself, and who made something of himself when the odds were against him. You didn’t do this to you. America did this to you. The media, TMZ, reality TV are simply following America’s long-standing tradition of turning you into a minstrel, a servant disguised as an entertainer. They made you into a Netflix show and we binge-watched you and then on to the next one. We are responsible for harvesting a sickness in you. That’s how Ameridoes. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.
You never got a chance to form the tight knit, trustworthy community that one needs in order to maintain sanity throughout fame. You bought your Spaceship and flew past the sky, unaffected by the gravity that holds the rest of us down, the weight that helps us connect and struggle with one another and make sense of this country, this world.
I see what has happened to you. I didn’t until recently. I was angry with you. I’m not any more. I apologize. I wish the best for you, Mr. West. I wish you gravity. I wish for someone to come into your life who has the character and the bravery to check you, the way a parent checks a child when that child acts out. We both know you need it, whether or not you want it.
I love you and I’m deeply concerned about you. I pray for you.