We’ve been through a number of KanyeStorms—the brief but exhaustingly energetic bouts of attention-seeking behaviors, new music, outright trolling, and occasional pure marketing savvy that rapper Kanye West shifts into whenever he’s got something big coming up to promote—at this point, enough to know they each have their own individual rhythms. The run up to 2016's The Life Of Pablo was focused on obsessive, fiddly perfectionism, for instance—the constant name changes, swapping out track lists left and right, continuing to tinker with the album’s content well after its official release—while West’s current burst of energy has been significantly more divisive, as he’s apparently embraced a number of elements of the political right, up-to-and-including an ongoing flirtation with similarly braggadocious asshole Donald Trump.
But a KanyeStorm never comes in a single emotional tone, something West exemplified yesterday, when he released two very different songs onto the internet: “Lift Yourself,” an obvious troll track in which he mocked critics by rapping literal nonsense, and the far more reflective “Ye Vs. The People,” in which West allowed his current “Don’t tell me what to think” persona to be called out with lines from his friend T.I., rapping about all the harm West’s support of Trump could do. Today, though, West appears to have moved into a stranger, more melancholy headspace still, announcing what he says will be the image on the cover of his upcoming, still untitled album: A picture of Jan Adams, the surgeon who performed the operations that led to the death of West’s mother, Donda.
Donda West died in January 2008, of complications from liposuction and mammoplasty performed by Adams (who was also a well-known TV correspondent for shows like Extra). West, obviously, was deeply affected by his mother’s death; he dedicated every show of his Glow In The Dark Tour to her memory, and her death, and his desire to reconnect with her, has been a recurring theme in his work ever since. (Up to and including his announcement, several years ago, of a proposed video game in which Donda is an angel who flies up to heaven.)
But West says he doesn’t intend to put Adams—who surrendered his license to practice medicine not long after Donda West’s death, after being convicted of a number of alcohol-related offences—or his face on the proposed album cover in an effort to shame the former surgeon. “I want to forgive and stop hating,” he wrote, while fielding suggestions that the new album might be called Love Everyone (or something along those lines), and asking for his followers to reach out to their enemies with messages of love, too.
The winds of the KanyeStorm are mercurial; tomorrow, the multi-platinum rapper and producer will probably be back to picking fights and telling people to fuck off for being mad at him for wearing Trump-themed baseball caps. And honestly, today’s tweets might just be a random whim anyway; there’s no guarantee that Adams’ face will actually show up on the album’s cover, especially since that seems fraught with all sorts of legal issues. Still, that willingness to be suddenly, aggressively vulnerable out of pretty much nowhere is one of those things that make West far harder to write off than he might otherwise be, and all-but impossible to predict.