What Kanye West’s Absence Throughout 2017 Means For His Next Album

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November 19, 2016. Kanye West is hovering 12-feet off the ground at the newly-created Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California on a glowing, floating stage. Everyone below is losing their shit with blissful abandon. The show got off to a promising start thanks to a surprise cameo from one of his most prolific protégés Kid Cudi, but a mere five songs later, things begin to go off the rails. After starting and stopping the song “Famous” several times, West abandons it altogether and launches into a now-infamous rant, attacking radio, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerburg, and most notably his friend and collaborator, Jay-Z.

“Jay-Z, call me, bruh,” he pleads. “You still ain’t calling me. Jay-Z, call me. Aye, bruh, I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man.”

For 30 full-minutes Kanye raged, stringing together a nearly incomprehensible series of thoughts. The audience cheers at first, but as he continues to unravel, the praise turns to boos as they plead with Yeezy to play another song. It was not to be. “Get ready to have a field day, press,” he warns. “Get ready, get ready. Because the show’s over.” With that, he drops his microphone and walks off into an uncertain future.

As the next several days bore out, West’s lengthy diatribe and walk-off weren’t your typical rock star posturing. Shortly after returning to LA West experienced a full-on mental breakdown. Paramedics, police, and firefighters were called to his home and he was taken to a nearby hospital and put under observation. All future plans and the remaining dates of his Saint Pablo tour were immediately canceled as West recuperated. Rumors of divorce loomed so large they felt true.

From the outside looking in, it appeared that Kanye’s punishing work schedule had finally gotten the best of him. Between recording and releasing a new record, The Life Of Pablo, launching a tour, working on his fashion line, and then dealing with the trauma of almost losing his wife after she was robbed at gunpoint by masked assailants in Paris, all while parenting two small children had taken their toll. The man needed a break in the worst way.

When he finally semi-emerged in the public eye a little less than a month after his onstage meltdown, he stepped out with a shocking bleached blonde look. Then came one of the most inexplicable moments of a year that had been filled with inexplicable moments when West strode into Trump Tower in New York and posed, stone-faced, with the President-elect. For many fans who had followed his career from the days when he memorably chided another Republican leader, President George W. Bush, for not caring about black people in the wake of the poor response to Hurricane Katrina, this was a shocking betrayal.

And then that was pretty much it. For almost the entirety of 2017, Kanye West has remained persona non grata. Almost every public event, like his Yeezy Season fashion show — the one he held earlier in the year, after canceling another one set to take place at the most recent New York Fashion Week — has been notable for his absence. That’s not to say his presence hasn’t been felt. The paparazzi have continued to follow his every move, snapping pics of an increasingly healthy-looking Kanye. He’s also popped up here and there in his wife Kim Kardashian’s social media posts — yes, they kept it together.