2008 started off as one of the happiest times of my life at that point. It was 10 years since the best year of my life in general, which was when I was 9 years old and was in 4th grade, still in a regular public school that felt like a second home. Now I had that in college as a freshman ten years later…or I THOUGHT I did. But a lot of it was me convincing myself that was the case when in reality, I was getting a lot of verbal abuse from so-called friends who brought my lifted self-esteem from public high school tank all the way back down and more over time.
But before I noticed any of that, I was bumpin albums on my iPod (remember those??) like Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” and of course, Kanye’s “Graduation”, an album that still represented my idea of finally reaching goals I set in my life so far. Then sophomore year happened the next fall. I foolishly decided to become roommates with a toxic friend (I didn’t know he was toxic at the time) who nobody liked to begin with and it was easy to get the empty slot for his room because nobody else wanted it. He was rightfully so perceived by most people as dirty, smelly, lazy, messy (all of his clothes and other belongings including textbooks) were in a massive pile on the floor everyday, and he even had a reputation for visibly masturbating with the door still open. But he pretty much convinced my 19-year-old, naive and gullible self early on that he doesn’t go by society’s norms and how he does things works for him and if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. This guy even had a fucking gun collection under his bed. Despite the fact they were all empty, I didn’t realize at any moment during a room inspection, if they find that shit, we’re both expelled forever. The worst thing about rooming with this guy though had nothing to do with what I just shared. It was the social circle he had. My social life in college consisted of two groups that were light-years apart. One was a fairly welcoming group that lived in a different building on campus whom I befriended first during the start of my Freshman year. I actually met my future girlfriend (now my ex obviously) through that group. The other group was this guy’s circle. The geeks obsessed with B-Movie film culture, zombies, Batman, and a holier-than-thou attitude towards political opinions. As the 2018 election was getting closer, my roommate nearly brainwashed me into almost voting for McCain instead of Obama. I didn’t, thank god. But getting back to my main point, I felt trapped in this other group who brought my self esteem down and gas lighted it afterwards as a means of me needing to “smile more” and how they’re problems at home are a billion times worse blah blah blah. My next ten years living in deep depression began around this time. I thought I had made it to a new point in my life but felt like I lost it all my sophomore year.
In the midst of all of this, Kanye released his fourth album just a little after a year following his celebratory “Graduation” album. But that 2007 celebration was short lived for him. His mother had passed away the following winter. If you followed Kanye’s music and overall career up to that point, it’s common knowledge his mother played the biggest role in who he was and all the qualities that came with it. His music and ambition was what she inspired and she was his biggest fan who not only showed unconditional love toward her son but just as much support for his musical output, regardless of how much profanity was in it. Without her in his life anymore, Kanye not only found himself alone in a physical sense, but also was questioning his place in the music industry, seeing how it made him isolated from all the simple joys of a regular person he no longer had access to. And you could tell from the lyrics in this new album he was not embracing his success the same way anymore. His new album was called “808’s & Heartbreak”, which was a musical departure from the three albums before it. While every album offered a different style of production, this was on a different planet by comparison. Everything was minimal and bleak. The main focus was on the drum machine and manipulating the sounds it typically uses and turning it into something new and daring. Creativity aside though, the most notable difference was he was singing the entire album, not rapping. He didn’t even curse on this album even. The first song “Say You Will” sums up the entire mood of the project. A sad, haunting song sung by Kanye in autotune at his ex-girlfriend whom he stopped seeing shortly after his mother’s passing. Aside from the lyrics many people at that time would call “emo”, “bitch shit” and “catchin feelings” , the music was the saddest part. A simple one-two drum pattern that sounds like a slowed-down retro game of electronic ping-pong, and a harmonized choir loop that gives the illusion of a funeral march. When I listened to all of this for the first time, I was not only blown away but even posted a Facebook status calling “808’s & Heartbreak” the most moving album for me since first hearing Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ready To Die” several years ago. Two completely different sounding albums with very different content as well, but the general depressive nature was very similar and it gave me these overwhelming emotional feelings I rarely get this much from when listening to a hip hop or even R&B album.
I connected with this album a lot. I had no idea what the future held for me anymore and was questioning my place in the world. What was once a sense of accomplishment in my Freshman year was now in my Sophomore year bringing me back to the days of being a pre-teen who was mentally and physically abused by teachers and staff in small schools for children on the autistic spectrum. As this was years before I began recognizing all of these things…
(ie. the restraints, discouragement and ideas planted into my head that I am unfit for the real world and need to be taught how to behave like a “normal” person, being punished and banished for life from my hometown district due to the Columbine massacre I had no connection with etc.)
…as abuse, this is what the depression really was caused by. The signs started showing. Self hatred, wishing I was someone else who fit in more, sadness I tried masking from every single day, lack of excitement for anything that would excite me years earlier, over-eating, falling asleep as early as 6PM on some days, and many more signs to come. I really felt like everything was my fault and the unflattering and soul crushing, type-casted roles I got in the plays through my theater major, just brought me back to the roots of all of this as a pre-teen. More and more, I was surrounded by an environment that to me was encouraging me to hate myself.
As months passed and fall 2009 came along with Junior year, I would suck up so much internally to make it a mission to get my grades up which slipped significantly my sophomore year. I would become an energy drink addict. But I also would be advocating to live in a different dorm room and even spend a lot less time with the toxic circle my former roommate was in and more time with the friends I felt were taken away from me the previous year. But with that took a lot of masking.
And anything that was an unpopular opinion regarding my support for certain people I weirdly identified with pulling a huge stunt at a certain awards show that didn’t even sit well with President Obama of all people…I would make humor and criticism out of just like everyone else was doing….
(to be continued)