Kanye West: The latest artist to blur the lines between artistry and instability

Are Kanye West’s Twitter rants just for play – or do they hint at real instability?

After months of speculation, Kanye’s The Life of Pablo is finally out there and is currently streaming exclusively for a week on Jay Z’s Tidal music platform.

For many, there was a hunch that his recent erratic Twitter activity, which has seen him renaming the record on three separate occasions, a fully-fledged rant at fellow rapper Wiz Khalifa and defending his lyrics against accusations of misogyny, was all part of a subversive PR campaign which made the new album and clothing line launch literally unavoidable.

But the question is: how much is the line blurred between performance piece and genuine instability?

kanye album launch
Kanye at his album launch in New York – Getty Images

At the album launch / fashion show last week at Madison Square Gardens, Kanye seemed to be all smiles and good humour as he danced along with his collaborators – but there was still a sense of awkwardness as he addressed the gathered crowd about his gripes with the technology guys in San Diego – before sharing a baffling trailer for a video-game of his Mum travelling to the gates of Heaven.

The weirdness didn’t stop there – West continues to be extremely active on Twitter.

Asking for Facebook lord Mark Zuckerberg and Google king Larry Page to get in touch about funding his empire.

This is just a small snippet into a constant stream of consciousness that has been going on over a number of days, where West also claimed to be over $53 million in debt and asking people if they had seen the movie Tron.

Whilst Kanye’s social media barrage is enough to at least raise eyebrows, long-time collaborator Rhmyefest has also hinted that things aren’t well with Kanye.

To put Rhymefest’s (real name Che Smith) comments into context, the rapper has been a co-writer on some of West’s biggest hits for more than a decade – with credits on tracks from ‘Jesus Walks’ to ‘New Slaves’.

We’re not talking an outside observer here, but in fact a close confidant.

As for The Life of Pablo, Kanye’s lyrics are often brutally honest to the point of shocking.

There’s the misjudged Taylor Swift joke on ‘Famous’ that has already soured their relationship (after Kanye had made amends for not letting her finish back in 2009), and there’s his jibe at Ray J, an ex of his wife Kim Kardashian, on ‘Highlights’:

I bet me and Ray J would be friends
If we ain’t love the same bitch
Yeah, he might have hit it first
Only problem is I’m rich

It would be excruciatingly near-the-knuckle even for a stand-up comedian.

Coupled with this however are moments of true black comedy gold such as in ‘No More Parties in L.A.’, where he drops the self-aware line:

My psychiatrist got kids that I inspired
First song they played for me was ’bout their friend that just died

With Kanye the line between personal and private, real and exaggerated, seems to have become irreversibly blurred.

Perhaps we’re watching an artist fall apart at a rate of tweets-per minute, or maybe it’s all just a ruse? Is he working the whole of the media industry like a giant wrestling crowd, reinventing the machismo posturing culture of hip-hop with searing honesty?

Only time will tell.

The Life of Pablo is available to stream now via Tidal

More: How musicians are breaking down the stigma of mental illness