Charalmagne v. Kanye: Shaking Things Up

November 6, 2018 - By 

            Shaking It Up With Kanye. The internet is on fire.  Charlamagne tha God and Kanye West have canceled their live appearance for a TimesTalks on mental health.  For anyone familiar with the music industry, this is shocking and surprising news.  The event would have taken place on October 17 in The Town Hall, New York.

According to an initial announcement for the event, the talk would feature the two men “discussing Charlamagne’s upcoming book ‘Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me‘ that details the ways anxiety has been a driving force in Charlamagne’s life since childhood.” The description said Charlamagne and West would discuss how to “break free” from “fears and anxiety to reach the next level of success.”

Back in May, the two had an intense two-hour sitdown, as the two delved on a variety of topics ranging from Kanye West’s time spent in the hospital, to the infamous Taylor Swift incident, Ye’s relationships with JAY-Z and Barack Obama, Donald Trump, leaving Nike for Adidas, YEEZY, Virgil Abloh and Louis Vuitton, and much more.

But in an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Charlemagne drew applause from the studio audience when he admitted that he’s the one who pulled the plug on the talk saying it wouldn’t be productive.  He explained that he was alarmed by Kanye’s admission that he was off his medication, which the rapper alluded to in his epic White House Oval Office soliloquy where he claimed to have been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was merely sleep-deprived. Charlamagne said he realized that trying to hold an event with a celebrity who may not have his own mental health issues under control was counter-productive to a cause he cares about.

“For what I’m trying to do which is like elevate the conversation of mental health in the black community and you know, try to eradicate the stigma around mental health, I just didn’t think it’d be a good conversation,” he said. “It’d be a distraction.”

Reports show that Kanye took the news well.

Kayne West has been open to discussing his psychological health. Two months after releasing his latest solo album YE, on which he confirmed he is bipolar and calling it his “superpower,” Kanye West spoke candidly about how the condition affects his life.  “We never had therapists in the black community. We never approached taking a medication,” West shared, before revealing that his late mother Donda West chose not to “fully medicate” him after he “had my first complete blackout” at the age of 5.

People with these disorders can have episodes that look much like depression (a different but related condition), including feeling sad and worried, a loss of energy, sleeping too much, and suicidal thoughts. Unlike depression, however, people with bipolar also have episodes of mania (associated with bipolar I) or hypomania (associated with bipolar II). People experiencing mania may be more likely to engage in risky behavior, including spending money or having reckless sex, as well as have euphoria, high energy, little need for sleep, irritability, racing thoughts, rapid speech, and other symptoms. Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.  Sometimes mania can include psychosis, which is a break with reality along with hallucinations and delusions that require hospitalization.

People can also experience a mixed state that includes high and low symptoms all at once. Men and women with bipolar disorder are at elevated risk of substance abuse and suicide, and people are often prescribed medication to help control the episodes.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 4.4% of US adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.

All Shook Up: Dealing with Anxiety. The center of As if a Black Privilege follow-up wasn’t always in the cards for Charlamagne Tha God. Even though the New York Timesbest-selling author and radio host had publishers waving lucrative checks in his face, he repeatedly declined the idea of penning another book without something captivating to offer his audience.

“Last year, I was sitting on one of my favorite islands of Anguilla and I was with all my friends and family sitting by the pool and I had this really serene feeling,” Charlamagne tells Billboard. It was at that moment of serenity that a light went off looking toward his next chapter.

Just over a year later, the brash The Breakfast Club co-host came back Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me. His second book will focus on personal experiences dealing with anxiety and peeling back the layers to traumatic events that were never dealt with properly at the time.

Overall, in this work, Charlamagne looks to elevate the conversation surrounding mental health, especially in the hip-hop and black communities. Shook One cements the radio personality’s stance in making sure he’s on the right side of history when it comes to society’s growing focus on mental health, while helping remove the negative stigma of remedies such as therapy.

Taking mental health issues head one has been of Charlamagne’s larger success stories.  It happened at a period in his life that where he had just been fired for the fourth time from radio. Charlamagne was living back at home with my mom at 32-years-old. His daughter was two-years-old. His now-wife had to go back home to live with her parents, so he was stressing. He had an artist he was working with and that didn’t work out, and that didn’t seem to working out. That’s when he began struggling with panic attacks. One time in particular, Charlamagne was riding down I-26 in South Carolina with his cousin, and he really felt like he was having a heart attack. His heart was beating fast and his arm began to go numb. Charlamagne wanted to pull over and got some water to calm down. He went to the hospital the next day and, according to him, the doctor said, “You got a healthy heart. You got an athlete’s heart, but it sounds like you had a panic attack. Do you suffer from anxiety?” He asked if Charlamagne was stressed about anything.  The response? “Hell yeah.”

So once the doctor had an honest conversation with Charlamagne, he knew what it was. He started thinking back in life to all the times in life he had those similar feelings.

The Breakfast Club came a few months later. In his mind, when an artist is seven years into doing what he had been doing on radio and he had success doing books and television and yet still have those frightening, same panic attacks, one would wonder “why?” Charlamagne thought he was good, but clearly, he wasn’t perfect. That made him want to start going to therapy.

For Charlamagne, based off his own experiences with anxiety, going to therapy, realizing that he got PTSD and even trauma from things that happened to him when he was younger. He definitely wanted to bring in an expert’s opinion because he was not an expert in what he would call “anything.” All he had were his experiences, and his hope was to share his experiences to see if people could learn from them. Charlamagne connected with Dr. Ish Major, who is a therapist that specializes in black mental health issues, to consult on the work. For everything he described in the book, he gave a clinical correlation for at the end of each chapter. Charlamagne’s concern was that it would just sound like he would venting without it, which could have undermined the credibility of his work.

In his book, Charlamagne writes a lot about rational anxiety.  Rational anxiety is when you’re aware of the source of your anxiety. For example, if Charlamagne had to host an award show or talk to millions of people on the radio, he’s explains he we would feel anxious, and he would know why. Irrational anxiety, on the other hand, is when someone would leaving CVS and there’s a car behind them and he or should be wondering if that driver would be following them home. Should the driver start doing detours? That person would be making sure nobody’s running up on them, but, upon reflection, it’s some logic-looking kid driving past the anxious person. That’s trauma and anxiety from things people been through.

Being black in America, Charlamagne emphasizes that people are going to have a sense of paranoia people won’t know how to remotely unpack. He wrote whole chapter called “Blackannoyed.” When Charlamagne gets pulled over, his mindset is totally different now. He doesn’t have the luxury of asking, “Why did I get pulled over, sir?” He can’t curse the cop out. He has to comply.

A lot of anxiety followed. For Charlamagne, with young he sees kids from difficult neighborhoods, what he thinks is that he sees lot of PTSD. And social media brings another whole level of anxiety that we’re all dealing with. Charlamagne thanks God that he didn’t have to grow up with social media in his formative years. He don’t think he would’ve made it. In his books he talks about the fear of missing out in, and that’s what social media does to you. He thinks social media is painting an unattainable picture of perfection. Social media is literally everyone’s highlight reel. You don’t see any mistakes, flaws, or struggle. The problem with that virtual reality is we are all trying to bring that into our real world.

Now, you can get in trouble for talking about things that happened years ago. Charlamagne laments that people can get in trouble for the way they used to think a long time ago, and that’s not fair. Every story Charlamagne has enjoyed, is one of growth and evolution. He thinks The Autobiography of Malcolm X is the greatest story of evolution ever. He thinks Jay-Z going from Jay-Z to Shawn Carter is a great story of growth. Charlamagne has seen the flaws of these people, but nowadays, no one is allowed to do that. Imagine being 14-years-old and going on social media to see everyone living this fake perfect life, and then in real life nobody’s talking about their mistakes. So when that 14-year-old does make a mistake, he might feel inferior and kill himself, which concerns Charlamagne. Let kids grow and evolve he believes.

Finally, Charlamagne feels like the universe is conspiring for all of us to have this conversation. Our whole life we’ve been told everything is mental. Everything starts with a thought and thoughts become things. What you conceive, you can achieve. Charlamagne always tells people the things they want to happen in life, they should constantly think about. That’s why anxiety is so tricky. For example, when you’re thinking about the worst things happening, you hold onto those thoughts. When Charlamagne sees Taraji P. Henson with her foundation or Chance The Rapper pledging one-million dollars, he didn’t know the universe was going to do that. Instead, he believes, it’s conspiring for us to win. He wants to elevate a conversation by letting people know its okay to go figure out what’s going on upstairs. Because, nowadays, there’s a bunch of us on this mountain seeing each other going through the same things.

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