Kanye Lost His Touchstone. Can He Find Another?

Like so many others, I have been reading about the downward out-of-control spiral Kanye West has embarked on.

What could cause him to willingly destroy everything he built during his young life? In the world of Hip-hop music, he was considered a genius for his innovative ways of incorporating string arrangements, gospel choirs, and well-mixed tracks. He was sought out as the producer to go to and, with tenacious determination, achieved his long-term goal of becoming a rapper in his own right.

As his career progressed, so did his other talents. He developed a clothing and sneaker line he parlayed into lucrative deals with Adidas, Foot Locker, Balenciaga, T.J. Maxx, and others.

At forty-five, he achieved what people dream about with record sales, a clothing line, and real estate investments. He entered the ranks of billionaire status. According to the latest Forbes report, he was worth $2.1 billion before getting stuck on stupid with his going Defcon-3 on the Jews’ diatribe. Now, he has fallen from the lofty ranks of billionaire status to being just another millionaire and a pariah in the Hip-Hop world.

The Roman Emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius wrote: “The speed with which all of them vanish — the objects in the world, and the memory of them in time. And the real nature of the things our senses experience, especially those that entice us with pleasure or frighten us with pain or are loudly trumpeted by pride.”

Losing his status as a billionaire did indeed vanish with speed. But $400,000,000 is nothing to sneer at. He is still wealthy. But he seems to have lost his way. His recent comments and actions are beyond problematic, suggesting this young man is hurting. His bipolar condition is not the reason for the antisemitic remarks, as pointed out in a recent Gizmodo article:

Several mental health experts that spoke to Gizmodo stressed that mental illness does not cause antisemitism or racism and should not be used as an excuse for such hateful behavior. Bedford Palmer, Ph.D., a Black psychologist in California and founder of Deeper Than Color, told Gizmodo that, in general, people with mental illnesses do far fewer negative things and are far less violent than people who don’t have a mental health disorder.

Racism and antisemitism are not caused by mental illness but are learned behaviors. Instead of blaming Kanye’s bipolar condition, perhaps James Baldwin’s essay In Negros Are Anti-Semitic Because They Are Anti-White can help.

He laid out what many would take as just cause for Blacks to hate Jews. The failure to take care of their property, charging high rent, their hatred for Blacks, and that Jews hated their own kind. Using the holocaust as proof, they couldn’t be bigoted because of what happened to them. Yes, Baldwin presented what some would conclude is a convincing case for righteous justification for Blacks to hate Jews.

Kanye may have read this essay, although it would be hard to know as he is on record saying he hated reading books. But, if we assume he did, it’s easy to see he might use this as justification for his rant. There is an interesting literary device Baldwin used, rhetorical misdirection. He wrote the following:

I also know that if today I refuse to hate Jews, or anybody else, it is because I know how I feels to be hated. I learned this from Christians, and I ceased to practice what the Christians practice.

The crisis taking place in the world, and in the minds and hearts of black men everywhere, is not produced by the star of David, but by the old, rugged Roman cross on which Christendom’s most celebrated Jew was murdered. And not by a Jew.

Baldwin realized the Christian religion he was brought up in was the progenitor of hatred for Blacks and Jews. Baldwin had the strength and ability to question the paradox he encountered. When Baldwin realized his religious beliefs were the basis of hate for Blacks and Jews, he dared to question his faith, even if it was his touchstone. His willingness to question his Christian beliefs about Jews enabled him to see that these beliefs were the source of Jewish hate among Black and Whites. That is what a touchstone does, providing a means to validate assumptions.

Kanye lost his touchstone when his mother died of surgery complications, and losing her, shattered him. It appears he started slowly spiraling out of control. His wife Kim may have filled that gap and stemmed the downward spiral, but their divorce has placed him back on a path of self-destruction. During their seven years of marriage, one can argue that he accomplished many things, including his concerts, record label, promotion of other artists, development of his clothing line, and property acquisition, all true.

Yet, he was still bereft of the advice he cherished from his mother. One cannot discount it was his mother, who schooled him and encouraged him, and would give him that look only mothers can, and spoke in a tone he would understand he was stuck on stupid and take the appropriate corrective action.

It is highly plausible Kim may have served as his touchstone. After all, both were essentially in the same line of business. On the surface, it would make sense they would work to support each other. Yet, I cannot shake the feeling Kim was using Kanye and vise-versa when the time came, discarded him as soon as she saw him manifesting the traits that are now on public display. Call me cynical, but their marriage seemed more like a business merger than an actual marriage.

When I first saw Kanye West, it was during the Katrina Hurricane and his comment about Bush not liking Black people. I was stunned he would say such a thing for millions of people to see, and I just chalked it to another ill-informed entertainer. But when I saw him in the Oval Office with Trump and read about him running in the 2020 election, I figured there was something really wrong with this individual. Recent events have confirmed my earlier suspicions.

The list of companies and people pulling away from his is growing daily. Apple has dropped Kanye’s music. Then his bonehead move of him showing up to the Sketchers headquarters unannounced, being escorted out after being told they were not interested in picking up his sneaker line. Footlocker, and Gap, dropped him, and MRC shelved his already-produced documentary. All of this is because he failed to ensure his brain was engaged before running his mouth.

Kanye is spiraling out of control and needs to find a new touchstone, but the questions of paramount importance are whether he wants to and who is willing to step up and take on that role?

I am not, nor ever been, a fan. But he has talent, and it would be a shame to see another talented Black man lose his way again. We have seen far, far too much of that happening to talented young Black men.

I hope there is someone who can and will reach out to him and be the touchstone he so desperately needs. But the question hangs in the air, would he take it if offered? I would hope so.