1) Presidents had opinions about you,
2) Millions of dollars were paid for your pictures,
3) Your mother’s tragic death was headline news,
4) Millions saw you at the MTV awards,
5) You could have sex with almost anyone without even trying,
Wouldn’t you be trippin’ off the power?
In his new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West escorts the rest of us into his VIP green room. We sit with him in the bathroom writing the name of one of his recent female escapades on the stall wall; then we overhear her talking dirty to someone else. Kanye West wants the listener to see his disgusting obsessions.
In the lyrics to All of the Lights, he says:
I want y’all to see this / turn up the lights in here, cop lights, flash lights, spot lights, strobe lights, street lights, fast life, drug life, thug life, rock life, every night.
This begs the question: “Why should we watch this trainwreck?”
The answer: Because Kanye’s hot-mess makes for beautiful art.
Kanye West isn’t just another professional party-crashing Paris Hilton. Since his work on Jay-Z’s Blueprint in 2001, he has become one of the most influential hip-hop creators alive. His stratospheric rise over the past decade has given his fans ample opportunity to witness ego get in the way of (and often animate) his art, time and time again.
In My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye exposes this ego in all of its excess and frailty. He wins me over with his shameless honesty. Kanye doesn’t hide his failure: “Gossip gossip Niggas just stop it / everybody know (I’m a muthafucking monster).” go the lyrics to the approprietly titled song “Monster.”
It’s no surprise how revealing and self-depricating this album is given Kanye’s recent string of very public humiliations, borne of his own ego. As he recently explained in an interview for The New York Post, describing how the events of the past year informed the epic thirty-minute music video launched in tandem with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
“It’s the story of a phoenix fallen to Earth, and I make her my girlfriend, and people discriminate against her and eventually she has to burn herself alive and go back to her world. I’ve been feeling the idea of the phoenix. It’s been in my heart for a while. It’s maybe parallel to my career. I threw a Molotov cocktail on my career last year, in a way, and I had to come back as a better person.”
With an entourage of hip-hop and indie-rock upstarts (most notably the Wisconsin sensation, Bon-Iver), Kanye’s new album chronicles the journey of his past few years in a dark neon haze. You won’t find punchy pop rifts in this story. It’s a moody, sickening, tour-de-force of celebrity as only Kanye West knows can tell it–because he has lived it.
In spite of his celebrity ego and personal failures, the rest of us still need Kanye West to remind us what unrestrained power looks like, and what this power can do to us. Kanye has a plan: “Run away as fast as you can.”
If you only have five minutes to watch Kanye at his self-effacing, opulent, artistic best check out the following music video; it’s a segment from the aforementioned Runaway (aesthetically indebted to Swedish filmmaker Lars von Trier)