Kanye's Therapy In A Box

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

By John Ricker

Concerts are escapism. Whether that's consciously in concert-goers' heads, probably not. But it's very true. For a brief amount of time, individuals are stripped of their individualism and become one massive audience. You tune out of your everyday and you escape into what's happening on that stage for one night only. I question whether it's the same getaway for the audience as it is for the performer. Because to me it seemed like this past weekend at Camp Flognaw, Kanye West was yelling "stay strong" to himself just like all of Kid Cudi fans do when they listen to Kid Cudi Music. With some tears welling up in their eyes.

Kanye seemed very performative. Maybe it's more credit to him. Maybe he was just out of breath. But the world and I are a bit more fixated on Mr. West. Energies are palpable, and the energy Cudi gave off was a sort of go-lucky rapper trapped in a box mid-air. Kanye gave off an energy which made me doubt if he believed the "I feel free" lyrics he recited. It seemed like the personification of hyper-public Kanye in 2018. A public figure trying to convey his truths but trapped inside of a soapbox, judged by a sea of humanity while flashing lights and fires twinkle all around

A line that stuck out was Kanye saying, "All of you Marios, it's all a game." And just like all the other lines that resonated when Kanye spoke them, I had an inkling of a thought that he might really think that. There could be a delusion that sets in with uber-famous public figures, especially public figures who embed themselves in a performing art. They become the attraction that people gawk at. When they do a funny dance, the people are right there shouting with each move. When they're wilding out on Twitter, there's a response. They could think they're in control of the masses. A lot might agree. Even when there's a negative response, Kanye West alongside Kid Cudi is what thousands of people wanted to see. Kanye is still Kanye.

And it's hard to remember sometimes, but just as the audiences strip their expensive wristbands off their wrist and return to whatever normal is, so do those performers. Kanye West still has to be Kanye West when he's not trying to pull the strings of live audiences. Except for Kanye West, if his day-to-day life intersects with an audience member, his normality is someone else's escapism. And it has been that way for a while. "Y'all done specially invited guest'd me out."

I ­don't know Kanye West personally. But he is in the public eye, especially lately, and just like when he was floating on a stage at Flognaw, most of the time when people consume Kanye media, it's with an awkward taste. Chance the Rapper even said it on Joe Budden's podcast, he collaborated with Kanye because he thought he could steer him in a better direction musically. The Kid Cudi collaboration rung the same bell.

It's a sticky subject, making conjectures on famous people you don't know. Even if they're not celebrities, sometimes your impressions of people can be correct. Sometimes they're way off. But usually when someone's work resonates with an audience, it's from a genuine place of self-reflection. In the case of Kanye West at Camp Flognaw, he looked more invested in what Cudi was saying than his own lyrics. If there’s only one moment of catharsis for a rapper as big as Kanye West, that moment would probably be rapping in a box with an artist like Kid Cudi. An artist who feels like their music is hugging you. Except that Cudi actually did hug Kanye, trapped in a box, suspended above a stage, fire blazing behind.

Everybody sang along, Kanye included. "We're still the kids we used to be." But it sounded like Kanye wanted to be "reborn" just as much as Cudi and the now-grown-kids singing along in Dodgers stadium. Therapy in a floating box for the world to watch. The life of a public figure. Kanye West more so than others.

This piece is by John Ricker. Follow him on twitter @CollarJohn.

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