The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Kanye West

Imma let you finish what you were doing before clicking on this article, but we simply have to talk about Kanye West. Recent drama between West and ex-wife Kim Kardashian, West and Kardashian's boyfriend Pete Davidson, West and Trevor Noah, West and "Saturday Night Live," West and the Grammys, West and Instagram, West and Coachella, and, well, West and just about everyone in showbiz, it seems, keeps the legendary "Donda 2" rapper in the headlines. And usually, it's for all the wrong reasons.

So you might be wondering, as you wolf down popcorn and refresh Twitter every 30 seconds for a new update on the latest West disaster, how the hip-hop superstar ended up the way he is: a musical genius who simply can't stay out of his own way. As you may have guessed, Ye's stunning and hard-fought success has been balanced out by more than his fair share of personal tragedies and experiences with mental health issues.

From the death of his mother to the Taylor Swift feud to all the latest gossip with Pete Davidson, this is the tragic real-life story of Kanye West.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

A car accident almost ended his career right as it began

Netflix's "Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy" is a must-see for any fan of the rapper's music (or anyone fascinated by his antics). One of the early stories it tells is of a serious car wreck in 2002, when he was just starting his music career (via Newsweek).

At 3 a.m. on October 23, while driving home from the recording studio, West fell asleep at the wheel of a rented Lexus and smashed the front end into an oncoming car. Nobody died, mercifully enough, but they didn't walk away unscathed, either. The other driver broke both legs while West's jaw was seriously broken in three places, resulting in emergency surgery, a metal plate insert, and his jaw being wired shut for a month and a half.

Newsweek excerpts an MTV interview West had a few months later. "I had nasal fractures," he explained, talking about the lingering complications from the accident. "I'd be talking to people, and my nose would start bleeding. Even to this day, I could start choking because spit will go down the wrong path. ... I'm just learning how to pronounce words like 'What's up' with the 't' and the 's' together without it being slurred, so I can rap again."

As the article points out, West couldn't resist referencing the traumatizing incident in several songs, including recent ones. "God saved me from that crash," he says in this year's "Eazy."

His mother died after cosmetic surgery

The Netflix documentary "Jeen Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy" describes the namesake for Kanye West's two most recent albums, "Donda" and "Donda 2." That would be Dr. Donda C. West, Kanye's mother, who had a larger impact on the legendary rapper than anyone else (via Newsweek). 

A professor at Chicago State University, Donda separated from her husband Ray when Kanye was 3 and raised him alone for years. In 2004, the doctor retired to be the "momager" of her sun's rapidly rising music career. She even wrote "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar" and listened to his debut record, "The College Dropout," repeatedly. Who wouldn't love a mom that supportive? Kanye said in 2004 (per Newsweek) that his mom was his "best friend in the whole world."

Sadly, on November 10, 2007, at age 58, Dr. West passed away of heart failure a day after undergoing cosmetic surgery. As the article and the documentary note well, Kanye struggled for years to process his grief. Tragically, although her passing was clearly an unpredictable freak accident, the rapper seems to blame himself. The New Zealand Herald excerpts an interview Kanye did with Q Magazine from 2015, where he was asked what he had sacrificed for success. "My mom," he said. "If I had never moved to L.A., she'd be alive. I don't want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears."

West and Taylor Swift have been going at it for years

Everyone remembers where they were when, at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye West stormed the stage, stole the mic from then-up-and-comer Taylor Swift (who'd just won the trophy for best female video for "You Belong With Me"), and said, "Imma let you finish! But Beyonce had the best video of all time. Of all time!" Ah, classic early West.

As Billboard points out, West and Swift's relationship never really recovered from that moment, despite him saying the following day, on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "I immediately knew in this situation that it was wrong ... it's someone's emotions that I stepped on. It was rude, period."

In March 2012, Swift was seen sporting a shirt from West's clothing line. Three years later, the two were spotted smiling and having a pleasant chat. It certainly looked like their relationship was thawing, especially after she cheerfully presented him with a VMA award later that year. But the story doesn't end there.

In 2016, West released "Famous," one of the lead singles from his seventh studio album, "The Life of Pablo." "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b**** famous." Shockingly, the lyric didn't go over too well with Swift, even though there was (and to some degree, remains) a lot of back and forth between the two over whether or not she had approved the lyrics beforehand.

He has Bipolar Disorder

In fact, the man behind "Donda 2" may just be the most famous person to have ever experienced bipolar disorder (BPD), which Mayo Clinic says causes wild mood swings that cause long periods of either mania or depression and all the associated symptoms of those mental states. BPD almost certainly plays a heavy role in many of the rapper's widely publicized highs and lows, his infamous ego and outrageous statements, and his erratic, unpredictable behavior.

The Quint says West opens up a whole lot more than he usually does in Netflix's "Jeen-yuhs: a Kanye Trilogy." "Even me, when I already had the house and wife and the kids and the plaques, I'd still have moments where I felt like, suicidal, would still have moments where I'm addicted to Percocets and don't even realize it," he said.

Just listen to the lyrics he wrote for his 2015 song, "I Feel Like That:" "Feeling afraid in open spaces or in public. Thoughts of ending your life. Feeling that most people could not be trusted. ... Are your feelings easily hurt? Feeling that people are unfriendly, or do you feel like people dislike you?"

It just goes to show that while wealth and fame go a long way toward improving your quality of life, there are some things that can't be bought off.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

He was briefly addicted to opioids

As far as we know, Kanye West isn't currently experiencing an opioid addiction. But he was for a brief, no doubt scary period back in 2016.

West spoke candidly about the experience to TMZ back in 2018, saying he had been prescribed opioid painkillers after liposuction surgery. He then says he was "drugged the f*** out, bro!" when he went to visit then-President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016. Anyone who was following Ye at the time likely remembers his pill-popping habit and how he canceled an entire upcoming tour after a "psychiatric emergency" landed him in the hospital for a week (via The New York Times).

According to the same article, West was angry at the dose he received. He also ignored the liposuction-related death of his mother and decided to undergo the procedure after seeing how his father-in-law, Rob Kardashian, had been treated in the media. He reportedly said he simply didn't want to look "fat."

"Wanna know how pain feels?" he rapped on Travis Scott's 2018 song "Watch," referencing his undoubtedly harrowing experience. "Got off my main pills ... Opioid addiction, pharmacy's the real trap."

Kanye West had a 'psychiatric emergency'

According to dispatcher audio acquired by TMZ, Kanye West had what emergency responders referred to as a "psychiatric emergency" in November 2016. After they arrived at his trainer's house (they had called in, saying West was acting "erratically"), they handcuffed the rapper to a bed and hauled him off to the UCLA Medical Center.

So what happened that night? Confirmed details and specifics are still pretty hard to come by, but in a 2018 interview with Charlamagne tha God, West said that "fear, stress, control, being controlled, manipulation, being a pawn and chess piece of life" was responsible for the emotional meltdown. TMZ acknowledged that most people believed the incident to be the result of constant pressure in his professional and private life and his aforementioned and mercifully brief post-surgery opioid habit. However, they also noted that the Los Angeles Forum show he'd canceled the day before fell on the anniversary of his mother's funeral, and the traumatic memory of her death fueled depression and anxiety.

He was once in serious debt

In 2016, Business Insider says Kanye West announced on Twitter, "I write this to you my brothers while still 53 million dollars in personal debt... Please pray we overcome ... This is my true heart."

Everyone scrambled to get to the bottom of how one of the world's most popular musicians could've possibly wound up in such a spot. GOBankingRates has since identified some purchases that might've contributed to the problem, including an engagement ring for his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian that likely cost him between $2.5 and $3 million, a $4.5 million NYC apartment, and $500 haircuts ... every single day. Yes, you read that right, and that would amount to around $182,000 a year. On haircuts. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair believes West got so into debt due to multiple failed attempts to get into the fashion industry.

However, Forbes claims the rapper and entrepreneur has since pulled himself out of this financial hole by becoming a billionaire in 2020, likely a result of raking in massive piles of cash with his Yeezy sneakers line. Even when he was in the thick of it, though, and publicly pleading for help, West didn't let himself get discouraged. "I was trying to play a sport that's a billionaire sport," he told BET, per the Boston Herald. "It's not a millionaire sport, and I'm proud of the debt. I care about my vision."

His Donda House charity was marred by infighting

According to ABC Chicago, Kanye West, Che Smith (known popularly as Rhymefest), and his wife started a youth outreach program in Chicago named after West's mother following her tragic passing in 2007. Sadly, the charity eventually became saddled with struggles and infighting. The public saw it all unfold when Rhymefest sought to legally change the organization's name in 2018, alleging that West had hardly participated in running it at all.

Kim Kardashian, then West's wife, took to Twitter to blast their soon-to-be-former business partner. "You're over levergenging [sic] Kanye's name and asked Kanye to donate money to u, so stop w your fake community politics & lies," she said (per ABC Chicago). Rhymefest released a statement in response: "How can you criticize an organization you've never been to OR that you've never even talked to the executive director or any of the team?"

"Our community actually selected the new name," said Donne Smith, the executive director who helped her husband Rhymefest run the program, according to ABC Chicago. "And we did a review of programs and decided we're going to continue our old programs, and also add some new ones contributed by the community.

However, the article goes on to claim that West's support of Donald Trump played a role in the organization's decision to rename itself "Art of Culture, Incorporated."

He is no stranger to controversial political activity

At this point, Kanye West's at least as famous for his outrageous comments and behavior as he is for is music. The Chicago Tribune remembers one of his earliest controversial remarks back in 2005. While hosting a fundraising telethon in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, West said, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." It was an unscripted outburst that had co-host Mike Myers visibly squirming.

But West has apparently switched gears. In 2018, he had this to say about slavery while at TMZ headquarters (per CNN): "When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... For 400 years? That sounds like a choice." Unsurprisingly, the comment sparked outrage. A TMZ employee blasted him on the scene, saying, "Frankly, I'm disappointed. I'm appalled, and brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something to me, that's not real."

Later that same year, ABC says he started wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat to signal his on-again, off-again support for then-President Donald Trump. And in 2020, West infamously launched a presidential bid that miraculously did even more poorly than you might have expected. According to Billboard, the rapper committed $9 million of his own money to the effort but only managed to get on the ballot in 12 states and pull in 60,000 votes. Rumors that Republican party operatives were behind the campaign in an attempt to undermine Joe Biden were later proven true, as per Business Insider.

West and Kardashian's divorce was devastating

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian officially split in 2022, per Page Six. They began dating in 2011 and married in 2014, a year after having their first child (via Brides). According to the article, rumors of the impending split started seriously circulating at the beginning of 2021, when Kardashian, then 40, was seen out and about without her wedding ring. Meanwhile, West spent the holiday season alone at his ranch, which Kardashian apparently insisted he purchase so they could live separately while hashing out divorce details. Brides says Kardashian officially filed for divorce on February 19 and was declared legally single as of March 2, 2022, long after she began dating "Saturday Night Live" star Pete Davidson.

Unsurprisingly, the public has been privy to every mood swing West has suffered since it all began. In late 2021, West made news with his outlandish gestures, designed to lure Kardashian back (via  BuzzFeed). Most notably, he begged her to "run right back" to him while performing in December. When that didn't work, he started openly harassing Pete Davidson (more on that ongoing mess in a bit) and sharing his every thought on social media. After learning Kardashian was legally single, he posted an original poem called "DIVORCE" (we wonder what that could be about?). "Divorce feels like your soul was dragged over coals," he wrote. "Divorce feels like suffocating / Barely breathing."

He couldn't handle seeing Kardashian with Pete Davidson

It's of course understandable for someone to be hurt by seeing their former spouse in another man's arms, but Kanye West has taken his feud with "Saturday Night Live" veteran Pete Davidson, currently dating his ex-wife Kim Kardashian, to scary extremes.

Complex says the feud started long ago when Davidson first mocked West on "SNL," but it went into overdrive when he started dating Kardashian. The current spat started with passive-aggressive jabs, like West calling Davidson "Skete" on social media, as per BuzzFeed. Then the rapper started asking his followers to yell at "Skete" if they saw Davidson out and about. West frequently referred to the comedian as "garbage" throughout this time and eventually released a music video for his 2021 single "Eazy," in which a terrified claymation Pete Davidson is kidnapped and decapitated.

You don't have to be a mental health expert, police officer, or a survivor of abuse to realize this is a volatile, dangerously escalating situation. As Trevor Noah of "The Daily Show" pointed out, not even Kardashian's wealth and status has protected her from her potentially violent ex-husband, who's been harassing her for months. West responded by calling Noah a racial slur that Bustle says got him booted from the Grammys.

All this controversy and unacceptable behavior has resulted in West being suspended from Instagram and even pulling out of an upcoming appearance at Coachella, per Variety.