The Spiritual Meaning Of Kanye West's Masks & Monk-Like Living Quarters

Photo: KEVIN MAZUR / GETTY IMAGES
Kanye West wearing Donda mask

Kanye West has a new look and a new home — his now-famous masks and barren living quarters at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium — as he enters a new era working on his upcoming album "Donda."

West seems to be entering a minimalist (for Kanye) phase, wearing a face covering that masks his high-profile identity and moving into newly improvised living quarters.

In typical Kanye fashion, there’s a reason for everything, including the various masks he’s been seen wearing and his choice to live in a sparse locker room featuring only a twin bed deep inside of a sports arena.

What is the meaning of Kanye West's masks?

Kanye West himself has only spoken about his masks on one occasion we know of.

During a performance of his song "Runaway" at the London Wireless Festival in 2014, West addressed the media's negative perceptions of him.

"If you’re a creator…and you just want to create more, this is exactly what I’ve been fighting for," West began. So if you hear me talk about Louis Vuitton or the Gucci group or anything like that, I’m not dissin’ Louis Vuitton, I’m not dissin’ the Gucci group and sh*t, I’m just sayin’ don’t discriminate against me. Because I’m a black man or because I’m a celebrity you tell me I can’t create in that field. Because you know damn well ain’t no black guys or celebrities makin’ no Louis Vuitton nothing!

"They let Pharrell make those glasses, and we liked ’em, right? They let me make those shoes and we liked ’em, right? And they say, “No, no, no... That’s too much… Stay in your place... Save face. Save face," he said. "That’s why I got this f**king mask on, because I ain’t worried about saving face."

"But f**k whatever my face is supposed to mean and f**k whatever the name Kanye is supposed to mean, it’s about my dreams! And it’s about anybody’s dreams. It’s about creating," he continued.

That was seven years ago, and in the meantime, fans have developed additional theories about the possible symbolism of Kanye West's masks, including that they represent "Yeezus", a stripping away of ego and/or the hiding of one's true self.

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Some believe the mask is how Kanye takes on his "Yeezus" alter ego.

The "Donda" listening party wasn't the first time he’s worn a face covering during an album launch.

He wore studded head covers back in 2013 during performances of his album "Yeezus," which was rife with religious references.

During that show, Yeezus was met by Jesus onstage in a scripted interaction that included Kanye finally taking off his mask and Jesus telling him to “show people the light.”

Others believe the mask signifies a stripping back of ego.

During the Yeezus tour, Kanye said, “People just saw me perform for 80 percent of my show without seeing my face and they’re like, ‘We paid all this money to see him and he ain’t show his face for 80 percent and we still cool with that.’"

Still others have suggested Kanye West's masks symbolize our sins and the hiding of our true selves.

A fan theory circulating has also tied more religious meaning to the mask, inspired by the Nathaniel Hawthorne book “The Minister’s Black Veil.”

In the book, the pastor delivers sermons while wearing a black veil, symbolizing human sins and the true self being hidden.

Those sharing this theory believe Kanye is trying to hide his sins and his true self while he writes the album, which is named for his mother, Donda West, who passed away in 2007. Perhaps West feels some sort of regret or wants to repent his sins with this work.

Kanye is no stranger to using religious symbolism and themes in his work.

And considering one of the masks he has been seen wearing had a design of Jesus on it and his most recent album was titled "Jesus Is King," any and all of these theories ring true.

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Kanye's new room at the Mercedes-Benz stadium may also have a spiritual meaning.

Not only has West made frequent appearances with his entire face covered, but he has also moved into what appears to be monastic living quarters within the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Fans finally got a sneak peek of what it’s like living in his new sports arena-based dwelling — and it’s not what you'd probably expect from a guy used to mansions.

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The small locker room looks surprisingly barebones. Cinderblock walls, a bed, a closet and a TV. Not much else to see here.

It’s minimalistic, which is something that Kanye West has expressed familiarity with in the past as well. His listening party was just him standing in the middle of his future home for a couple hours after all.

You’d think Kanye, someone known for going above and beyond, would have a stylish, luxurious space reserved for him, not something that looks like a college dorm room.

The simplicity of it all could possibly be tied to asceticism and the Buddhist religion.

Asceticism consists of practices of self-discipline undertaken voluntarily in order to achieve a higher state of being.

“Those who seek to practice an ascetic path often go out of their way to locate themselves far from the secular world.”

Sound familiar?

Kanye places himself far from secular society through his show of faith toward Jesus and Christianity. And while those beliefs are not in line with Buddhism, he does appear to be following a form of Buddhist ascetic practices.

Some of these practices include wearing patchwork robes, not dissimilar to some of his clothing line releases, and being satisfied with any humble dwelling — which would be his room at the stadium.

So it could be that Kanye is giving up the extravagant lifestyle he’s used to in order to get in touch with himself and his spiritual side.

West seems to be trying his hardest to achieve his spiritual peak and ensure that "Donda," a project that probably means a lot to him, is the best it can be.

If that includes living inside a locker room and wearing what looks to other like pantyhose on his head, so be it.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.