It’s hard for me objective about Kanye West. If you’ve ever had the rap conversation with me you know I borderline stan for Yeezy. Yes, he’s pompus, arrogant, obnoxious, blah, blah, blah. He’s also an artistic genius and his work backs up his considerably high boasting. You can’t expect a humble man to produce work or lyrics of Yeezy’s caliber.
But even I, arguably Kanye’s biggest fan, had to pause after watching the leaked and incomplete version of the “Monster” video. The “dark”-ness of the video, the implied necrophilia, the body parts, etc. didn’t bother me as I’m also a die-hard True Blood fan too. The more guts, blood, and gore the better. But frankly, the video isn’t as great as the trailer, leaked in November, suggested. In a 20 second snippet, it’s a hot concept. As a full- length video, it just went on too long. *yawn*
That said, I don’t accept anything Kanye does at face value. He’s an artist, a great one. So when I saw the lifeless white women hanging from the ceiling and all the dead white bodies laying around, almost immediately, I got that it was an anti-thesis to what happens in most videos with over-hyped Black women gyrating enthusiastically. The excessive use of dead white women? Totally got that it was a clap back on the Taylor Swift “scandal” and white America’s overreaction to that whole debacle. West is pretty obviously showing all the folks who made him out to be a monster for his asshole-esque interruption of Taylor Swift, what a real monster is.
There are those who would say I’m giving Yeezie too much credit. Gina over on What About Our Daughters is one of them (typical.) In “Kanye West Lynches Women in Latest Video- A Desperate and Sick Display” she writes:
[Kanye] is a man in crisis. He’s in a death spiral at the end of which somebody is going to end up dead. Most likely a woman. This isn’t “art” these are the public musings of a sociopath and y’all are too intoxicated by the cult of celebrity to realize it.
Sometimes art is art and sometimes art is a public expression of a sociopath’s inner thoughts and a signal to RUN not walk in the opposite direction.
She also compared the women hanging from the ceiling as being “lynched.” I’d argue it was a verbal metaphor on the way West was verbally lynched during the Taylor Swift reaction. Like you hung me, now I hang you.
Gina tends to be extreme. So I looked for other reactions to the video, stumbling upon The Modern Shift by Gerren K. Gaynor (a Morehouse senior who will guest blog tomorrow, offering an insider’s perspective on the aftermath of the VIBE story about cross-dressing gay men at the historic institution)
Kanye’s apparentintent [is] to objectify white women. He chillingly uses these women as objects, ready to be used at his disposal; for sexual approbation and/or home decor.
The message it does present is an image of the black male that most racist whites perceived during the slavery era: a hazard to the white woman. Black men are were feared simply for being ‘big’ and ‘black’, two irrational cues for a threat to society. Kanye does the same (whether he intended to or not) in this over-the-top video
Over on The Atlantic, veteran writer Ta-Nehisi Coates didn’t tackle the “Monster” video specifically in “On White She-Devils” but he did tackle what he found to be an overwhelming use of racism on My Dark Twisted Fantasy, which includes “Monster”:
I’m a little amazed that no one’s disturbed by “Champagne wishes/30 white bitches” as a hook. I’m more amazed at his empty employment of white women as objects.
…The problem isn’t simply racism or sexism, but boring racism, boring sexism that hearkens back to the black power macho of Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver at their worst. … This is an aggressively external album obsessed with dismissing haters, slut-shaming women (black and white…
I can’t bear to re-hash Soul On Ice* over some (admittedly dope) beats. More likely, I’m tired of rappers who deploy slut-shame to smoke-screen their near total fear of pussy…There’s something hard about submission, and something really weak in Kanye’s fear of losing control…
Coates assessment about Ye’s “fear of pussy” in his lyrics ties in too conveniently when applied to the visual imagery that accompanies them. Say for instance, that the vaginas of the women in the “Monster” video are dead like their owners, and thus, easily controlled, no submission necessary.
I’m sure we can all agree that “Monster” sends a message, but what exactly is it? Is this a bad video with small moments of brilliant personal commentary on the West backlash after the MTV upset (my take)? Or is this a vile display of racism and reckless misogyny set to a tight beat (everybody else’s)?