I just finished watching the Joe Rogan podcast featuring the long-awaited Kanye West. Without a doubt, it was interesting hearing Kanye’s thoughts, but for all the hype around this episode, it was a massive disappointment. Before you spend three hours listening to or watching this podcast, I may be able to save you the trouble if you’re hoping for a deep conversation answering some Joe Rogan-style hard-hitting questions and fact-checking, it’s not worth your time.
Before I dive into everything wrong with Kanye West on the Joe Rogan podcast, I want to be transparent so you’re aware of some potential biases I may have.
First, I think it’s important to state that I used to be a massive Kanye West fan, and he inspired me during a very dark time in my life when I was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I listened to his first few albums obsessively because not only did he have an amazing style of rap and great beats, but I loved his message. I loved his music and his personality because he made me feel like I could accomplish anything even if it felt like the world was against me.
Today, with 8 years sober, my son back in my life, and an amazing girlfriend, I feel like a part of my success is due to Kanye’s impact on my life. As a chronic relapser who destroyed all my relationships, everyone told me that I’d never get sober. Like Kanye, the only person I had in my corner was my mom, but I managed to get sober and stay sober because also like Kanye, my main motivation was people telling me what I can’t do.
Due to the massive impact he’s had on my life, seeing him spiraling these last few years has been a major bummer, and I hope he learns how to manage his mental illness. In the podcast, they discuss how medications diminished his creativity, and that’s common, but as someone with mental health issues and who has worked with people who have mental health issues, I have some opinions I’ll touch on later about Kanye stopping his medication.
The next disclaimer I want to give is that I haven’t listened to Joe Rogan in months. I was a massive fan for a long time, and I’ve always respected that he has a diverse roster of guests. I believe we live in a time where it’s increasingly difficult for people with different ideologies to have conversations, and I think Joe Rogan has does a service by showing people we can calmly talk to people we disagree with.
I didn’t stop listening to Rogan for any specific reason. I just dedicate most of my time to books rather than podcasts now. With that being said, after listening to this episode, I’m not sure if he lost his touch, if he just wasn’t comfortable enough with Kanye to put his feet to the fire, or something else I’m not even thinking of. But as I’ll explain, I feel this was a complete waste of three hours for how much we were all anticipating this episode.
This Wasn’t a Conversation
As I mentioned, I haven’t listened to the Joe Rogan podcast in a while, but what I loved was the conversation. Rogan had no problem bringing people on who he disagreed with, and they’d talk it out. This is something that has become quite popular in recent years as well. I’ve recently been thinking about how prior to the pandemic and Jordan Peterson’s medical issues, people were paying a lot of money just to sit and listen to intellectuals like Peterson and Sam Harris wrestle with ideas and different perspectives. Although I don’t always agree with Peterson or Harris, there’s something great about seeing an atheist and a believer have an in-depth conversation.
A good conversation or debate is something incredible to watch, but what happened during the three-hour episode with Kanye was far from a conversation. I remember being 35 minutes into the episode and realizing that Joe Rogan had only spoken a few sentences in the first five minutes of the episode. I stuck around and listened to the whole episode hoping that Rogan would take back control of his show, but that didn’t happen. If I had to break it down into percentages, I’d estimate that Kanye talked 90% of the time, and that’s not a conversation.
There’s no denying that Kanye’s mind works in an interesting way, but this episode could have just been a series of voice memos from Kanye as a stream of consciousness. During my time of not following many of Joe Rogan’s episodes, I’ve seen people highlight debates he’s had with guests. For example, Rogan has had no problem calling out people like Dave Rubin on his show when something they said was factually incorrect.
One of my favorite clips in recent history was Joe Rogan talking to Ben Shapiro about systemic racism and the right for gay couples to get married. During this conversation, Joe Rogan backed Ben Shapiro into a corner by simply asking him questions. Unfortunately, he didn’t do the same thing with Kanye.
And I’m not simply looking for “gotcha” moments in an episode, but I think people tune into the Joe Rogan podcast because he’s open to different ideas and comes from a place of trying to understand. For the last few years, we’ve all tried to have a better understanding of Kanye, and I think that’s why this episode was so hyped, but Joe simply sat back and just let Kanye talk. This wouldn’t had been that big of an issue if Joe simply interrupted Kanye every now and then to challenge some of his conspiracies and incorrect statements.
Conspiracy Theories and a Lack of Fact-Checking
Kanye is a very religious person, and that’s no secret. As an atheist, I’m of the belief that as long as you’re not hurting anyone, believe in whatever you want. If religion helps people get through the day and gives them a community, more power to them. But there comes a point where you have to challenge a religious person’s belief on situations that are happening in the real world to real people, and Joe Rogan didn’t do that.
For most of the episode, Kanye talks about his calling from God and the messages he believes he receives from God that guide his actions. As someone with 8 years sober who started in 12-step programs, I have an understanding of what Kanye is saying. But during this episode, it comes to the point where Kanye comes back to the topic of abortion and a woman’s right to choose, and he just starts sharing conspiracies and false information on Joe’s massive platform.
Personally, I’ve come to realize that you’re going to have a hard time converting a religious pro-lifer. Something I’ve learned from reading various books on the flaws in our thinking is that to religious people, abortion is taking the life of an innocent. Trying to convince them otherwise is nearly impossible when they believe life begins at conception. You can show them the science around fetal development and when consciousness actually forms, but this is null and voice when you’re debating someone who starts from the belief that at conception, a soul is formed.
Unfortunately, religious people often use motivated reasoning and confirmation bias to try and find science that backs their beliefs, and Kanye is no different. During this Joe Rogan episode, Kanye starts sharing false information about Planned Parenthood and statistics. What he shared can easily be found within evangelical circles, and these so-called facts have been debunked multiple times.
Again, I think one of the reasons Joe Rogan’s podcast grew to popularity is that he’s open to conversations, but he’s also going to fact check people. He even has Young Jamie on standby just in case something sounds a little off, and Joe wants a quick fact check. But during this episode, Joe sat back and passively nodded as Kanye shared this misinformation. And at the time of writing this, the YouTube video has 7.7 million views, and I’m assuming there are even more listens on Spotify.
About a month ago, Joe Rogan received quite a bit of heat for spreading false information about left-wing protestors starting fires in the Pacific Northwest. As someone with integrity who prides himself in not spreading misinformation, he made a public apology. So, when Kanye was sharing this misinformation, the least Joe could have done was have Kanye pause to challenge what he was saying.
Mental Illness and the Family
Finally, there were a few points where they talked about Kanye West’s bipolar disorder diagnosis, and this is a difficult, nuanced subject, so I don’t fault Joe for not knowing all of the facts around mental illness.
During the interview, Joe Rogan asks Kanye, “Why do people think there’s something wrong with you?”, and Kanye proceeds to give his explanation. Kanye minimizes everything down to one situation and says that one situation is what gave him the label of bipolar disorder, and they put him on medications. From there, Kanye discusses how the medications turned him into a zombie and stripped him of his creativity.
From here, Joe actually chimes in and shares his views about mental illness, and I’m not surprised by his views. Joe is someone who advocates for psychotropic medicines to help open the mind, and even though I’m a recovering drug addict, I agree with these views. I’ve read some incredible books like Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, The Emporer’s New Drugs, and Saving Normal, which challenge some of the conventional diagnoses from the DSM. As someone who has battled mental illness most of my life and has worked at a dual diagnosis treatment center, I do think that we often over-diagnose and over-medicate.
With that being said, to put Kanye in that category is enabling a sick person.
To enable Kanye by nodding in agreement that he had one situation that caused his diagnosis is negligent. Just this year, Kanye has multiple episodes that have raised alarms with his friends, family, and fans. After a series of unprompted Twitter rants, Dave Chappelle flew out to visit Kanye because he was concerned. Days later, Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian made a public statement about his bipolar disorder.
This is something that hits really close to home for me because for nearly a decade, I was addicted to drugs and suffering from severe depression. I was slowly trying to kill myself, and I was in a completely selfish state of mind. Meanwhile, my family and my son had to sit back and feel absolutely powerless. With 8 years sober today, I still look back and can’t believe I put them through that.
I touch on this personal aspect of my story because I feel for Kanye’s family, and if I were them, I wouldn’t be happy with the enabling of Joe Rogan. Again, it’s not Joe’s fault that he isn’t fully educated about mental illness, but to sit back and enable Kanye without challenging him by bringing up any of the other instances from this year or recent years is just another reason this episode was extremely flawed.
It seems like the primary focus of this episode was that Joe wanted to talk about Kanye running for president. If you’re interested in listening for that aspect, I’ll save you some time. After years in the music industry, Kanye realized the music industry screws over artists, which is now common knowledge. He’s very passionate about making changes in the music industry, but you can’t run a campaign off of wanting to help the select few musicians who blow up. If anything, Kanye should start his own record label or managing company for up and coming musicians.
Like Trump, he also believes that since he’s rich, he can figure out how to run a country. In fact, he says it multiple times in this episode that he just has this amazing ability to solve problems. Personally, these sounded like the rants of a man with a massive ego who needs to be humbled. But, if you do believe that Kanye’s bipolar diagnosis is legitimate, these sound like the grandiose thoughts of someone in a manic state.
If you need help with your mental health, I highly recommend the service I use, BetterHelp. They’re an affordable online therapy service, and by using this affiliate link, you help support The Rewired Soul.