Don’t get me wrong. I live streamed Yeezy Season 3, I follow Khloe and Kim on Instagram and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was heavy in my Spotify rotation there for a second. But the recent video release of Kanye West’s “Famous” got me like, “This shit’s going south.”
Featuring a slew of naked celebrities lying in bed, sheets askew and snoring to high heaven, the “Famous” music video is clearly (and uninterestingly enough) a commentary about fame in modern American culture. It is a portrait of the most notably scandalous people in recent memory, including Taylor Swift, Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, Amber Rose and Bill Cosby. It is constructed as if to say, “Look at me, look at me – I’m edgy and defiant. Here are boobs and weird close-ups to prove it.”
*Nina Simone turns in her grave*
With Kim Kardashian-West on his arm and public outbursts aplenty, Kanye has become one of our preferred celebrities to gawk at. His latest release, though, could easily be considered his most attention seeking. Am I the only one that thinks the ‘nudity as shocking / controversial / thought-provoking' schema is a bit tiresome at this point? Then again, when your wife is “famous” for a leaked sex tape, maybe all subtle forms of provocation are thrown out the window.
When voicing my frustration at yet another cliché voyeur film masked as an innovative masterpiece, I was met with, “Kanye is a genius.”
“Kanye is a genius in the same sense that Madonna was in the 80s or a kid throwing a tantrum is,” I said.
“Ah,” my companion responded. “But here we are... still talking about him.”
Woe is we. Surely our generation hasn’t strayed so far from Def and Kweli to think that Kanye is one of the great hip-hop ‘geniuses’ of our time because he can stir up controversy. He is an incredibly talented producer, sure, but is undoubtedly a subpar rapper. If you want to argue with me about that, you’re wrong.
As far as the new album goes, “Life of Pablo” is underwhelming. “Wolves,” “No More Parties in LA” and “FML” are worth mentioning. The gospel undertones are of interest, considering self-idolatry is clearly a problem. “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” are painful in comparison to the eloquent expressions from Chance The Rapper’s similarly themed “Blessings” and “Finish Line / Drown.” Now there is a stark contrast.
Kanye is talented but lacking the wisdom that predicates greatness and the ability to communicate truth with humility. Not a Picasso-level genius in my book.
Kanye’s insane antics are an easy target amongst snickering talk show hosts, but his greatness is maintained and reinforced by millennials holding onto “College Dropout” for dear life. Perhaps Kanye’s visions of grandeur align with our own skewed perceptions of reality.
…and yet when watching his recent interview with Ellen, I feel a pang of empathy.
Incoherent ramblings aside, Kanye consistently attempts to voice his experience in a deep-seated system of oppression. As an African American in the United States, the glass ceiling is incredibly low and reinforced with steel bars. The head-down-chin up-mentality is one that tricks marginalized people (even wealthy ones) into thinking that with hard work, anyone can achieve anything. Sisyphus would understand this fruitless myth all too well.
Perhaps Kanye West really is a genius. Or maybe he's just a perceptive douche with a good ear.