Kanye West Needs to Log Off
S1: When someone comes up and says something like, I am a God.
S2: Everybody says, who does he think he is? I just told
S1: you I thought I was a God. Hi, I’m Rachel Hampton and I’m Madison Malone Kircher. You’re listening to I.S.. Why am I in
S2: case you missed it?
S1: Slate’s podcast about internet culture.
S2: What’s going on with you, Madison?
S1: Well, today we have a main character we simply must address here on ice. Why am I
S2: yet another main character? And this one’s not just the main character of the day. He is perhaps the main character of the decade.
S1: We are, of course, talking about one Kanye West,
S2: the West, as he is now known. Oh, we know it’s just the apology.
S1: It’s just, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Apologies.
S2: I regret
S1: out. Apologies accepted. I’m actually a spokesperson you didn’t know.
S2: I have some questions for you after the show about that, but beforehand we’re going to be discussing the new documentary genius on Netflix. It’s spelled J E and Y You H.S., and it’s all about Kanye. We’ll also be talking about Kanye is decades long history as an internet main character and how our conversations about him have changed over the years as his struggles with his mental health have come to light.
S1: That’s a lot to cover, Rachel.
S2: Yeah, so we’re going to speed some of this up. So first up, we’ve got a high speed download.
S1: I truly think that’s the only way we’re going to be able to get into the meat of this week’s installment of the Kanye story is to talk as fast as we humanly can about previous chapters. After the break, we’ll be back with a download about Kanye is constant Instagram posting over the past week posts about his daughter, his ex-wife, you know who are her new boyfriend and most confusingly, Captain America Civil War. Also pretend all of those posts were in all capital letters and you’re you’re getting the sense of the energy reviving with.
S2: And we’re back with Kanye, not the artist, just the legacy and a high speed download. In case is your first time with us, high speed downloads or segment where Madison and I have exactly 60 seconds to explain a trend meme or a topic on the internet. In case you don’t like listening to people talk really, really, really fast. Maybe slow your podcast playback settings like point seventy five x, otherwise we sound inebriated. Madison, what do you have for us? What what saga in the Kanye West tone? Are you giving us today?
S1: The best I could describe it as? You’re about to get a primer on the last, let’s say, two ish weeks in Kanye world.
S2: The thing is, that’s a short amount of time. And yet there’s a lot there. So godspeed. You have 60 seconds on the clock. Are you ready?
S1: Absolutely not.
S2: Great. Let’s go. Three, two one go.
S1: On February four, Kanye West posted a photo of his daughter on Instagram with the caption, Since this is my first divorce, I need to know what I should do about my daughter being put on Tik Tok against my will. OK, that’s busy because Kim Kardashian has had more than one divorce, which Kanye knows we all know. He was responding to the TikTok account, but Kim and North share together putting Kim on blast for putting North on TikTok without his permission, which tbh, I think a mother daughter TikTok account is very cute. Wholesome Kim shoots back on Instagram, saying Kanye’s constant attacks on me in interviews and on social media is actually way more hurtful than any TikTok North might create. And then she notes, You know, like, Hello, I am the parental supervision here. So the kids are now off the table for the fight. So Kanye pivots to Kim’s new boyfriend, Pete Davidson, who he calls skeet skinny Pete. Also, skeet means like, you know, you know, objectively, I’m sorry, this is a really funny and good insult this past Monday, can you post a photo of Kim and Skeet and tells his followers that he didn’t real life scream at the loser at the top of your lungs and say, Kim you forever. He also posted a Photoshop poster of Captain America Civil War, where he was Captain America Drake, Travis Scott Future and his now ex girlfriend fling both in 10 seconds. Kim Kardashian Kim started texting him to stop harassing Pete because literally this could get Pete Davidson hurt. Kanye then post those text messages on Instagram Pete also, text Kanye being like, Hey dude, your kids, your kids. I’m not trying to get involved. Can you post that to get it?
S2: Look, I’m a be honest, you ended that with, damn it, but I really feel like that belongs in the Hall of high speed download fame. You did phenomenal. That was a lot of information. You read Instagram post, you said like five different people’s names
S1: and they all contain the letter K. I’m mostly frustrated because I was so close to like completion. I truly I only need one more sentence because there was only one more thing I wanted to say.
S2: Well, along with being inducted into the high speed download Hall of Fame, you do also get one more sentence. What is it?
S1: All of those posts I just talked about breathlessly have since been deleted. Kanye West wiped his Instagram account clean earlier this month and posted a much more zen seeming lowercase, letters filled missive about how he is learning and taking accountability. The picture is him standing on a stage, but also staring off into some pink and white and blue mist.
S2: Wow, a lot to interpret there.
S1: So that is to the fastest of my abilities. What’s going on right now? Biracial? How the hell did we get here?
S2: Oh, thank you for asking me an impossible question.
S1: I had to ask you before you asked me,
S2: Oh, I hate when we play this game well. So it’s an impossible question because as we said at the top, Kanye has been one of the internet’s main characters for a long time. I would say since about two thousand five, I’m sure you know what moment I’m about to bring up.
S1: Oh, you mean the moment where the artist, formerly known as the Dixie Chicks and Kanye West, become one of those handshake memes?
S2: Mm hmm. Yeah. Yes. So during a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert broadcast, Kanye was stood up with Mike Myers, and he said
S1: George Bush doesn’t care
S2: about black people. And at the time, people white people were shocked that somebody would say something like that about the current political situation. George Bush himself called it one of the most disgusting moments of his presidency, and I have a lot of questions for you, Mr. Bush. That’s one of the most disgusting ones. Did we not enter a forever war on your watch? But we’re not here to talk about that. We are here to talk about Kanye, who in that moment was not wrong at all in any way, shape or form. The handling of Hurricane Katrina afterwards was very much anti-black and terrible.
S1: I think that’s a really good starting point for the trickiness that is Kanye West, both the person and the persona on the internet. Because from one perspective, that might have seemed like a really bombastic statement deployed for shock value. That perspective being George W. Bush’s and from another perspective, Kanye West was just a man who had a microphone and a platform and said the thing everyone was thinking
S2: kind of every step of the way with Kanye. Specifically, Kanye is internet present. We’re constantly asking ourselves, what exactly is a performance and what’s genuine. And that question only gets thornier when we’re talking about a man who is out politely, I’ll say, concerned with controlling his public image. And I think that’s part of why certain segments of the internet spent a lot of years, decades, a decade not really taking his actions all too seriously, kind of looking at Kanye’s life as more entertainment than anything else. A performance by a performance artist formerly known as Kanye.
S1: When we talk about a performance by performance artist Kanye West, I think you can’t have that conversation without talking about the 2008 VMAs.
S2: Yes. Mm hmm. A night that is impossible to forget. And features one of your favorite main characters.
S1: It’s true. So obviously, we are alluding to the night Kanye West crashes the stage at the VMAs. Now, Taylor, I’m really happy for you. I’m let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. That video being single ladies parentheses put a ring on it.
S2: The thing about that moment is that he again, Kanye kind of wasn’t wrong. And importantly, that moment does become a meme along with the moment from 2005 during that that benefit the still of Kanye and Mike Myers is just ingrained in my brain and the phrase I’ma let you finish. It’s just you don’t even have to finish it for people who don’t know what you’re saying.
S1: Were there perhaps more appropriate venues to say, Taylor Swift, your video shouldn’t have one.
S2: Yeah, and he admitted that later he did. And the thing is, at the beginning of his career, his career as a rapper, as a producer, as the internet main character, as an auteur, as a provocateur, a lot of names for, yeah, Mr. West. He gained a reputation as a truth teller willing to speak back to mostly white music establishment where there was appropriate or not, which only made his later MAGA turn so much more disconcerting to watch. But before we get there, we have to talk about what is perhaps the biggest moment in his internet career.
S1: The sentient BBL herself,
S2: who will never admit she has a BBL Kim Kardashian baby, she enters the pictures and things take off rockets of the goddamn moon.
S1: I think it’s hard to overstate how powerful this union was. Pop culturally,
S1: In 2012, when these two start dating, you combine Kanye West’s calling it a rising star seems wrong at this point. He’s an incredibly established artist. His rising star with Kim Kardashian like influencer 1.0 proto like, invented the genre of influencing as we now know it. He captures this much broader audience of the internet because there’s nothing that a Kardashian or a Jenner does that is it fodder for a viral internet news cycle? And that’s that’s by design. Thank you, mommy. But now Kanye is a part of that.
S2: Yes. And he. To be clear, is fully aware of the power that he is creating by merging his fame with Kim’s he. He was obsessed with Kim for years before they actually got together.
S1: Totally. It really does feel almost. Med. like Royal, in the way that these families combine their or marriage. Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah.
S2: They’re going to answer very, York, very warm roses. No, I see. Well, you chose the perfect reference for me. And you know it. I give you a brief rundown of the war of roses of our era. There’s the bound to video he released starring topless Kim. There’s the the the wedding in 2014. There’s the Vogue cover from the same year. And then there’s the portmanteau Kim, and I don’t really know how much else you need to say beyond that.
S1: OK, but I do think anecdotally, we must talk about the time that Kanye West trapped Kenny G. Curly hair Kenny G in a room full of roses for Valentine’s Day as a gift. And also the time that they had a kid and named her North West and the internet just lost its mind.
S2: I feel like more people cared about the name of Kim and Kanye’s first child than they did about the royal babies. Is that inaccurate?
S1: Maybe not more than, but certainly. To tie back to the earlier comparison, we were drawing the same amount of fervor that one feels for a baby that potentially could become a freaking monarch.
S2: One of the biggest moments of their relationship was when Kim was robbed in Paris.
S1: This was not quite 10 years ago, but in October of 2016. Kim Kardashian, then Kim Kardashian West, was robbed at gunpoint in her hotel room during Paris Fashion Week, which by all accounts, including her own, was absolutely just harrowing and traumatic and really impacted their entire family, which is completely understandable. Of course,
S2: the month after Kim was robbed at gunpoint, Kanye ended a concert quite abruptly. But right beforehand, he said, Jay-Z, call me, you still called me Jay-Z. I know you got killers. Please don’t send them in my head. Just call me, talk to me like a man. And the next day, he was hospitalized. And it was. I think the first time most of the public started to see that he wasn’t just this kind of grandiose provocateur whose every move was a bid to get attention. But a man struggling with something.
S1: I think it actually is the moment to bring up the old Kanye here, do you think?
S2: I think so. I think so. Yeah.
S1: So obviously the phrase I miss the old Kanye, the lyric hints by Kanye himself at a break in this public persona that many of his followers at the time attributed to the death of his mother, Donda West, who died in 2007 from complications due to a botched cosmetic surgery that Kanye had actually paid for.
S2: So even before he officially in, I believe, 2019 reveals that he has bipolar disorder. They’re part of his kind of internet imprint is bound up with this idea that Kanye is experiencing some shit, whether it’s grief or exhaustion or something else. Everyone kind of knows there’s something going on, but. In the 2016 era, I think most people chalked it up to stress over what happened in Kim,
S1: which totally fair. However, after that episode, he. Totally, understandably, takes this break from public life for a few months, but as we all know where this story is going, Kanye West is a person who cannot stay away from the the call of the internet and its attentions.
S2: After the break, we’ll be back to talk about his 2020 presidential run. Everything that has happened since. Oh, is that all a lie? Yeah, we bit off a lot for this episode, and we’ll be talking about why it’s so tricky to talk about public figures that struggle with their mental health.
S1: All of that after a quick break.
S2: Welcome new listeners, if this is your first time listening to the show, thank you so much for being here. In case you missed it, we come out twice a week, so please go back and listen to our episode on Wednesday, where I and our Ed Alegria talked all about my favorite genre of content, which is scammer tainment. We talked about Netflix’s new show on and Adobe. We talked about that Tinder swindler. We hit on a lot of scammers. Go check it out.
S1: All right. We are back, and Rachel, I made a decision, an executive decision. It’s a little presidential humor for you.
S2: Exactly. Well, well.
S1: Well, during the break, I made an executive decision that in the interest of time and also because it’s only fair, divided when you have to, you have to do Kanye is presidential run as a high speed download.
S2: Oh my god, Madison. All right. Let’s only because it’s in the interest of time and because I love you all listeners and we don’t have time for 35 minute episode.
S1: You got 60 seconds on the clock. Are you ready? No. Great. Three, two one. Go.
S2: OK. On July four, 2020, Kanye West announced he was running for president. He said his idea of running goes all the way back to 2015, when he announced he run the VMAs, the VMA as his campaign staffers kind of thing on July 16. That was when he’d already missed the ballot deadline for six states. He only qualified to appear on the ballot in 12 states, which I don’t think that’s enough to win a campaign. But what do I know? His campaign advisers were Kim Kardashian Elon Musk. We don’t have time for that. His running mate was a Christian pizza from Wyoming. A lot of the work of campaign did was just to try and get enough signatures on states to make sure he was added. Those ballots didn’t work. His campaign, though, his campaign, his campaign, was to bring faith back to America by getting to soprano school. No anti-abortion. What the fuck propose giving women who doesn’t know where to find like financial center? He was also against welfare, but he was pro the arts. And you know what? A broken clock. Twice a day when news of his campaign started to circulate, a journalist in little time in the L.A. Times had the Kanye campaign might be an effort to target Black voters away from Biden. And I just have something to say to you. The L.A. Times, which is that black people are not idiotic enough to vote for Kanye just because he’s black. That’s fucking racist.
S1: Rachel, that High-Speed download was the most I’ve ever felt like, ah, we spent a lot of time together. That was very impressive. Thank you. In Time-Honored Times, we download, by law, tradition, yada yada, you have one more sentence, so anything you missed?
S2: Yes, it will be a compound sentence. He only got sixty thousand votes across 12 states, so suck it. L.A. Times. And he also said he would be running. He might be running again in 2024. So perhaps the joke is on all of us.
S1: So a lot of us obviously did not take this run seriously, considering it to be on par with like, let’s pick one of the many things Kanye West has done that we didn’t take seriously, like when he said he was writing a philosophy book which actually just turned out to be a Twitter thread or the time he said he was opening up a U.S. headquarters in Chicago. Or the time, you know. All right, we get it. We get it. A summit with the leaders in tech about, OK, yeah, this
S2: area we understand. Yes, he is said a lot of things. A few weeks after announcing his plans to run, Kim took to her Instagram Stories to basically ask people to show more compassion to her then husband because the reaction that me and Madison had to his presidential run is the reaction most people had, which is LOL, what the fuck? In part, this Instagram Story read. As many of you know, Kanye has bipolar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one of their life who does knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand. So just to give you a little bit of
S1: context for this Instagram statement from Kim at the same time, Kanye is tweeting about how he wants a divorce from Kim. He’s referring to her mother, Kris Jenner, as Kris Jong UN. Again, I’m not going to lie. The man’s pretty good with an insult. And up until fairly recently, though, there really hasn’t been a lot of sympathy to go around for the players in the The West family drama. Is public persona as Kanye meant a lot of his diehard fans were ready to just explain away his behaviors or accept them as as art stand alone?
S2: And we can’t not mention the racial dynamics here, which is that Kanye West is a black man. A very, very. Powerful, critically acclaimed black man and a lot of his fans feel very protective over his status as such, and we said it before the beginning, but a lot of his early, most provocative moments seem to be hitting back directly at a white establishment. And so a lot of fans were ready to read any of his current behaviors in that lineage, whether they matched up or not. And then you add in the Kim Kardashian of it all. And it makes sense as to why it took so long for, I would say, a majority of the internet to be on Kim side in this. We’ve we’ve discussed this and I see so many episodes. Kim has done a lot to earn the internet’s ire over the years since she launched onto the scene. And in a lot of ways, I’m not going to speak for other people. But for me, Kim felt like a couple tailor-made for each other, which meant that as the relationship fizzled, it just look like two famous people who deserved each other. Like that is how I felt. I was like, You know what? This makes sense to me. Good luck.
S1: And that’s, I think, why what has happened in the last two weeks feels so dramatically different because it isn’t for, I would say, the first time since they announced their split in 2021. It isn’t this like dramatic parting of two royal families who, you know, made their bed and didn’t want Alina anymore. There’s there’s no humor here. There’s no entertainment. There’s just a lot of brokenness.
S2: I think the moment most recently for me was that North West post. And that’s fucked up to bring your child into this on such a public platform when you know how big of an impact every single thing has because you’ve created that impact in some ways, you’ve created your legacy, you’ve created this audience as hungry for more, and then you’re going to offer up your child to that. Like, that’s just fucked up.
S1: And so he’s doing this not just with North, but also with Pete Davidson, who Kim is dating and also with Kim, who in the same breath as Kanye is posting these things that are objectively almost certainly making Kim’s life more difficult. He’s still saying all this sort of nonsense about how they’re going to get back together, and she’s still his wife and sending a dump truck of flowers for Valentine’s Day.
S2: I think this is the point at which most people begin to recognize the behavior of what it is, which is harassment abuse.
S1: I’ve been thinking a lot this week about why it took this long, and it took this many posts and signs for people, including us, including me, to to mentally swing that pendulum. And for me, I’ve been thinking about how it might have something to do with, like how controversial a figure Kim Kardashian is.
S2: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve made it a secret that I’m not a huge fan of her family and whether we like it or not. There’s this cultural belief that victims of abuse and harassment have to be flawless or perfect. And Kim Kardashian definitely is not. There’s this, I would say, underlying belief that Kim entered this situation with Kanye Kim with eyes wide open because at the time that they got married, Kanye was known for being Kanye. But as this new documentary genius demonstrates, the situation has changed a lot in the past 10 years, and it is so much sadder in hindsight. Now, at one point in the final part of the documentary, there’s a moment where the filmmaker just decides to cut off the camera because he’s clearly uncomfortable with what he’s capturing and what he’s capturing as Kanye in the middle of what seems like an episode. But by the time this documentary has come out, we’ve all witnessed some element of this. We’ve witnessed this breakdown and we haven’t turned away. We’ve seen people or again full transparency been one of the people who have referred to Kanye as being in the sunken place. And this documentary makes clear exactly what is happening, what we have watched and interpreted as just Kanye being Kanye Kim. And it raises some really big questions of what does it mean for one of the internet’s main characters to devolve in front of our eyes? What responsibility do we have as spectators?
S1: I don’t have an answer for you, Rachel. See, you did the thing you you post to me the impossible question before I could pose to you the impossible question. You’re welcome. Yeah, but I don’t have an answer and you don’t have an answer. And honestly. I’ve read a lot of really smart people writing about Kanye West, talking about Kanye West this week. No one has an answer because what this situation is really laying bare is that while his behavior is on the internet are ubiquitous and not necessarily individual to just him. The rules for how we engage with those behaviors on the internet are being written in real time, how people are reacting right now. That’s laying the foundation for the next time. This happens to the next person this happens to. All right. That is our show. We will be back in your feed on Wednesday, so please subscribe. It is the best way to make sure you never miss an episode. You could also leave us a rating and review over an Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you did that, it would really make us say Khan. Yay. Sorry, Nathan. You can follow us on Twitter. We’re at I.S.. Why am I underscore Pod? Or you can choose an email? I see. Why am I at Slate.com?
S2: I see why a mass produced by Daniel Schroeder, your edited by Force Wickman and a frank Amber Smith, a senior manager of podcast Audience Development and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcast See Online or Not.