Kanye West is by no means father of the year, but his new song shows praiseworthy efforts to be a father to his children in the midst of ongoing drama between him and his ex-wife.
Kim Kardashian and West’s public divorce and its aftermath have dominated the news cycle since February 2021. The two share four children together, the eldest of whom is only 8 years old. So, with his rebound relationships, public shaming of his ex-wife, and threatening of her new boyfriend all playing out over social media, West’s attempts to prioritize his relationship with his children was truly surprising.
Released on May 27 and featuring XXXTENTACION, “True Love” offers a glimpse into the emotional struggle and pain caused by a divorce, especially when children are involved. It directly contradicts Kardashian’s most recent assertion that “marriages come and go.”
The song opens with a solemn repetition of the lyrics “True love shouldn’t be this complicated/ Thought I’d die in your arms.” Whether or not West still believes his love with his ex-wife is meant to be, the lyrics relay a sobering sentiment: Marriages are not meant to be torn apart, and it’s life-changing when they are.
In the following verse, West describes his struggle to adjust to shared custody of his children. As a father, West is now only allowed to spend time with his kids during court-approved times. He describes this reality as feeling like his kids are borrowed, and “When I gotta return them, scan ‘em like a bar code.”
Because of the actions of West and Kardashian, their four children are now treated as objects passed between them, similar to a shared car or power tools. West further reflects that his children are now being used as pawns in a game of chess. As he attacked Pete Davidson through song and music video, his ex-wife has dressed their kids in brands other than Kanye’s, Yeezy.
“Wait, who got our kids in some, ‘What are those?’/ Wait, why they can’t wear Yeezys with the cargos?” This line reflects West’s belief that instead of discussing their differences, or figuring out the issues with their love, the couple’s children have instead become a way for them to air their frustrations with one another.
With a culture glorifying divorce as an escape or a pursuit of one’s true identity, West’s lyrics reflect the toxicity and brokenness these actions create. With top-selling albums like Adele’s “30” and Kasey Musgraves’ “Star-Crossed” relating the freedom found in divorce, pop culture praises individuals for leaving their spouses, regardless of the cost. Entertainment media ignores the needs and the emotions of any children involved, seeing their emotional trauma only as collateral damage.
In Adele’s song, “My Little Love,” recordings of conversations between Adele and her 9-year-old son are interlaced with her melody. In these tapes, Adele explains the heartbreak and struggle she is enduring. Adele apologizes to her child, saying “I’m so sorry if what I’ve done makes you feel sad,” but the rest of the album is her unapologetic explanation of her need to have fun and be free because she settled down too young.
The sentiments expressed in Adele’s album, and others like it, dominate the pop culture narrative, telling parents to follow their hearts, regardless of the commitments they’ve made to their children or exes. Even if he hasn’t succeeded or set the perfect example for his children, West refuses to follow this societal expectation. He decides to prioritize his kids, or at least take actions to try.
In his previous single, “Eazy,” West shows his dedication to the well-being of his children, especially during this difficult time of change. “Noncustodial dad, I bought the house next door/ What you think the point of really bein’ rich for?” While the public may see West’s purchase of a house neighboring his ex-wife as an attempt to torment her, he describes it as an effort to be closer to his children. During such uncertainty, West understood his children need consistency, even if that is in the form of having their dad down the street.
As expressed on social media, West has not been happy with Kardashian’s parenting style since their divorce. For example, he vented his frustrations regarding his daughter’s TikTok account on his Instagram. West thus sees his proximity as an opportunity to continue raising his children as he sees fit. “Boujee and unruly, y’all need to do some chores/ Rich-ass kids, this ain’t yo’ mama house,” he continues in “Eazy.”
Expressing the feelings encapsulated in the song’s title, “True Love,” West hopes to “Let the kids dig a tunnel to my house like Chapo,” because he is the “only neighbor in the hood with a door they can knock on/ I leave the light on.” In the final lines of West’s rap, he leaves an open invitation for his children to come by and visit whenever. Regardless of the drama or news cycles, West attempts to prioritize his relationship with his children because he understands the importance of them having a father in their lives.
The song ends in the same way it started, only this time, XXXTENTACION’s lyrics about commitment and heartbreak are followed by West interjecting promises to his children: that he’s not leaving, his light will always be on, and he will be home, whenever they need him.