A recently released sneak peak of David Letterman’s Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction reveals Kanye West opening up about his mental health struggles. In the interview, the rapper candidly narrates his personal experiences being bipolar and coping with the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Speaking about how bipolar has affected him, he tells Letterman, “You have this moment [where] you feel everyone wants to kill you. You pretty much don’t trust anyone…When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything, everyone.
“This is my experience, other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you’re being recorded. You feel all these things.”
Kanye West’s mental health journey
Concerns regarding Kanye West’s mental health first came to light in 2016, after the rapper was hospitalized at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center following, what was classified at the time, a psychiatric emergency. The hospitalisation was believed to the result of chronic sleep deprivation and subsequent mental exhaustion and occurred just hours after Kanye cancelled his remaining performances on his Saint Pablo Tour.
Two years after his November hospitalisation, Kanye discussed his bi-polar diagnosis through his album, Ye,which was released in June 2018. Debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, the album featured artists such as Ty Dolla Sign, Caroline Shaw, Benny Blanco, Irv Gotti and Che Pop.
The album’s name originates from the word “ye” in the Bible and touches upon the last two letters of Kanye’s name that also appear in his Twitter handle.
Bipolar is my ‘superpower’
In a video interview with Big Boy TV, Kanye gave during his picturesque listening party for the album in Wyoming, he discussed the origins of the album’s name in greater detail, “Ye” means “you”… It went from Kanye, which means “the only one,” to just Ye —just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything. The album is more of a reflection of who we are.”
The lyrics forming the album’s lead single, “Yikes,” directly confront his symptoms of bipolar disorder and expresses to the audience the importance of prioritizing getting help. Kanye wraps up the single’s chorus, “Yikes, shit can get menacin’, frightenin’, find help” and “Sometimes I scare myself, myself,” by titling his bipolar his ‘superpower’. “Yikes” seeks to absolve the stigma placed onto individuals with bipolar and mental illnesses, and Kanye emphasizes this by asserting that his bipolar disorder has turned him into a superhero.
Fighting the stigma around mental illness
The stigma of crazy attached to mental illness is a subject Kanye describes to David Lettermanas another way of society being able to “write you off.”
I am able to experience first hand how people who have mental health issues get written off by society. Don’t listen to him cause he’s crazy. He’s washed cause he’s crazy etc…
— ye (@kanyewest) December 15, 2018
He tells Letterman, “They love to cut your sentences off halfway. What you say doesn’t mean as much. Sometimes, for me, I think it’s a form of protection for me, because if I’m peeping something that people don’t want me to think about or know as a celebrity, ‘Oh, he’s just crazy,’ and then I go home. If they didn’t think I was crazy, it may be a problem.”
The full interview is set to be aired on May 31 on Netflix.