“This is not about me.”
The line—sung over angelic piano arpeggios on the 22nd track of Kanye West’s Donda—is a remarkable admission from an artist who, over the course of his career, has deemed himself the “number one living and breathing rock star,” the “f—ing end-all, be-all of music,” “one of the characters of today’s modern Bible,” and, ultimately, “a God.”
For the better part of two decades, everything has been about Kanye West. It wasn’t enough for him to win six Grammys bursting onto the scene in 2004 and 2005; he became a household name declaring, on live television, that George Bush “doesn’t care about black people” and adorning the cover of Rolling Stone imitating Jesus’ crown of thorns. He was exiled from polite society in 2009 after stomping all over a then-19-year-old Taylor Swift’s awards show victory, re-emerging a few years—and critically acclaimed albums—later engaged to arguably one of the only people in the world more famous than he was. Over the past half decade, Kanye has very publicly dealt with his bipolar disorder diagnosis, become a billionaire, hopped aboard the Trump train, and disembarked it to mount a nonsensical presidential bid of his own.
And then, after the 2020 election, Kanye tried something he’d never done before: He shut up.