Welcome, people. I will apologise here, for I am not about to indulge in pontificating about Kanye West, and in particular about his latest single ‘Bound 2’; but, anyone who has seen the video and heard the song must surely have experienced the same utter bewilderment that I experienced, so I feel justified in waffling about it.
I should start by saying I have an incredible soft spot for Kanye. His previous solo album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was one of my favourite albums of 2010, and, in my opinion, Kanye is a unique and rare example of how the mainstream can accept more experimental approaches to hip-hop. Agree with that statement or not, what I love most about Kanye is how he believes exactly that about himself, too. And if Kanye was to make that statement about himself it would, in comparison to his usual statements, be a modest remark by his standards. This is a man who, in an interview with The New York Times, described himself as “the Steve Jobs of the internet, downtown, fashion, [and] culture.” A man who said of himself: “I am Warhol. I am the No.1 most impact artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh.” A man who has stated: “I am God’s vessel. My greatest pain in life is that I’ll never get to see myself live.” He is a man who, given a soapbox in speakers corner to make these self-aggrandising claims, would be considered mentally unstable. But, his superabundant ego aside, the redemptive quality that allows Kanye to make these ridiculous statements is, in all honesty, he is the most talented artist in mainstream music. In part because of his own self-belief/delusion (call it what you wish) in his genius; he has developed for himself a mental space allowing him to create without any hindrance, consideration or restraint. He doesn’t conform to convention because he sees himself as being above convention. He does not just produce culture but, by his own admission, he is culture!
But what got me on a slight obsession about Kanye this week was his latest single, ‘Bound 2’, and it’s video. Both are amazing. Absolutely insane, but absolutely amazing. Though probably not for the reasons Kanye believes them to be. All the bemusement, amusement, absurdity and ‘genius’ of Kanye is woven in to these two artefacts, and as soon as I laid eyes on the video it was if my brain was being squeezed. It was like sitting through a lecture on quantum mechanics. I understood that it existed but I couldn’t fathom how or why; for what reason was this video made?
Firstly, though, I’ll talk about the song. As a piece of music, ‘Bound 2’ has no business being a single. As an album track is works, it hits, it’s a great closer. But there is barely a single common denominator between ‘Bound 2’ and any other hit single since the charts began. The movement from verse to chorus sound like separate entities; if you were to hear them separately never would you think they belonged to the same song. The ‘Yeezus’ album is littered with moments like that. (A slight side note, but Justin Vernon, a.k.a. Bon Iver, appears regularly on ‘Yeezus’, which is something I take great joy in because it means in the same year he has had prominent roles on one of the largest selling albums of the year and also avant-garde jazz saxophonist Colin Stetson’s record ‘New History Warfare Vol. 3’. What a leap that is.)
But, that small curiosity aside, the video. At what point did any person in the process of producing that video believe it was a good idea? Was there no one around to propose that, possibly, Kanye sitting on a motorbike in front of a grotesquely animated backdrop might not make for a great music video? Or that white horses galloping through an ocean surf that then gallop across an American dessert (how far have these horses run?) may look, at best, tacky, at worst, hideous. Or that introducing a naked, but cunningly lit, Kim Kardashian riding on the motorbike with Kanye, insinuating fellatio and fornication at various points, and concluding with Kanye suggesting that he is Jesus (or ‘Yeezus’ and he will be named) would be good ideas, too. Seemingly no one suggested a word against the ideas. And god bless them for not. Such ludicrous creations like this video are so adored by me. It is as absurd as the R Kelly’s continued Trapped In The Closest series. To understand the effort gone into making it you realise that the people behind it truly believe what they doing is worthwhile, of value, and beneficial to the world. But the final product is just so unlike anything that would normally be considered good that you just have to sit back and marvel at the lunacy of it all.
This week I’ve just put some Kanye tracks together on a playlist. One interesting thing about Kanye is that when listening back from his first record, ‘The College Dropout’ to ‘Yeezus’, you can honestly hear an artist becoming more and more enamoured with himself, hopping down the rabbit hole to a realm most of us will never experience. For Kanye, that realm is complete creative genius, as he keeps reminding us. I’m sure every person will ascribe a different appellation to this realm of Kanye’s, but whatever you call it, genius or madness, it’s fun. You can’t deny that.