Some Initial Thoughts on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

So, I need to spend some more time with Kanye West’s new album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” You can count on some more developed posts about it; those are on the slate for winter break. However, I thought I’d put a few initial observations into circulation.

Imma use a claptrack, too:

So, “Power,” the first single Yeezy releases after the infamous “Imma let you finish” incident echoes the very song that Kanye thought should have won Taylor Swift’s VMA. As I have argued before on this blog, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is basically a claptrack with sound effects and vocals. “Power” begins similarly with a claptrack; Ye emphasizes this in the remix, where his verse begins “Now when I walk in, everybody do the Power clap,” and the refrain through this section is “clap, clap, clap.” So, the question is: is Kanye making a direct reference to “Single Ladies” here?

Two more things to note about this “Power” remix: (1) oh, SNAP! So, there’s the obvious sampling of Snap’s “I Got the Power”…I guess it’s not surprising that a kid who grew up in Chicago in the 90s is gonna turn to some house music…however, it’s interesting that he uses a Belgian group…(2) “Norman Mailer shit”–Mailer’s (in)famous essay “The White Negro” is one of the most well-known treatises on white appropriations of black music, and often cited in discussions of white hipness. I wonder if this is further evidence of a turn to what I’ve called “postmillenial black hipness” (i.e., black artists appropriating white appropriations of black culture)?

Kanye West, Feminist?:

Both “Monster” and “Runaway” seem to argue that patriarchy is really damaging to women, and normatively “macho” d00ds are total assholes to women. This is most clear in Kanye’s solo at the piano in “Runaway,” about 13:45 into the video. Here, he proposes “let’s have a toast for the duchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes,” etc., and in response he suggests “baby runaway fast as you can…You’ve been putting up with my shit way too long.” So, men are rewarded for treating women like shit, and women ought best to get the hell out while they can. This sentiment is echoed in “Monster,” where West repeatedly claims “Everybody know I’m a motherfuckin monster.” Then, in the scene immediately following the performance, West’s Phoenix (i.e., avian) girlfriend is served roasted poultry for dinner. She responds with disgust and abject revulsion. Perhaps the idea here is that patriarchy gets women to buy into/eat up their own oppression? Here’s the video–I suggest you start at 13:45:

Now, I’m not suggesting that West is intentionally or “fully” feminist…but I do think there is some evidence of an awareness in the way that patriarchal gender roles harm both women and men.