Thinking About Grief & Kanye’s Monster Video Trailer


This is for the little Basquait or Frida toiling somewhere in South Africa, Brazil or Mississipi. We are ready for you.

I am not certain what to make of this.

Earlier this week, I had a long Twitter conversation with@BritniDwrites about this video clip of Kanye’s new Monster video trailer.

Britni was  seemingly concerned with the presence of the White women models and  she questioned why such a video would be made in the first place. She wanted him to be less “Van Gough” and more “Basquiat.”

I was concerned because the video is dark. Real dark.

There are White women hanging from the ceiling and Kanye hugs and maneuvers White women’s seemingly comatose bodies that are laying in the bed with him in one of the scenes.

Given this countries historical treatment of sexual imagery, and the IDEA of sex between Black men and White women, I don’t know if he is being provocative and attempting to exploit this history or just kinda imploding right before our eyes or a combination therein.

When I watch this video I think of how after Reconstruction (1865 and after) mainstream culture said that Black men wanted White women sexually and responded by terrorizing Black men (Birth of a Nation) and Black communities as a whole by lynching them. The reality is that Black women were being sexually assaulted by both White and Black men, frequently with impunity.

Emmitt Till.

Jack Johnson.

Bigger Thomas. (Yes, its fiction but it is timeless because of its treatment of gender, race and sexuality.)

Would Kanye make a music video with Black men hanging from the ceiling?

In this video, I see a man in pain. A lot of pain. Trust me, seeing Oakland turn from pretty west coast, mulitiracial, industrial city to the crack hub of the Bay Area, I learned to recognize pain at a young age.

Two years ago I wrote Why People Hate 808′s and Heartbreak and I talked about how in one year Kanye West lost his momma and broke up with his lady friend. I am concerned about him as I am concerned about the mental health of many folks.

A couple of weeks ago writer and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi wrote about Kanye on The Root saying,

I want to challenge the idea that Kanye is just ego and boasting. When I look at Kanye, when I watch that painfulinterviewwith Matt Lauer, when I see this man seemingly unravel in front of our eyes and the talking heads poke and prod and needle him for every …  single … misstep … , I don’t see a man with a big head and no redeeming qualities. I see a hurting. I see a man who loved his mother more than his very life and who is still dealing with the loss of the one person whom he knew loved him unconditionally.

As a mental health advocate, I’ve seen people crumble under lesser triggers. Losing your mother and your base and your support is the ultimate trigger. Yes, Kanye brags often about his riches, but I’m willing to bet my own baby boy that he would gladly give that all back just to have his mother for an hour, for a second.

Reading this video within the context of Bassey’s comments and within the context of the United States down right violent reaction to mixed race dating, something is amiss and I am concerned.

Thoughts?

Video gave you the heebee jeebees?

Comments

  1. Hell yes, the preview for “Monster” creeped me out. All the comatose white women hanging from the ceiling, laying in bed was just disturbing. And it speaks to a larger narrative of how women’s bodies are treated in mass media and advertising. As objects, as set dressings. Separate from the person.

    I don’t know. I think it’s easy to write Kanye off, to say “Oh, he’s just acting out” and leaving it at that but I think too often we forget that celebrities are human like the rest of us. We have to hold everyone to the same standards, we can’t expect more (or less) from someone just because we see them on TV or they have an official “Verified” Twitter account.

    All I know is, grief makes people literally crazy. Have you ever read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion? The way she described the aftermath of the sudden death of her husband of 30+ years was heartbreaking and an accurate account of how we cope with loss.

    Losing two people you love in one fell swoop (death + a broken engagement) would be difficult for ANYONE to handle, let alone having to go through that kind of pain on an international stage, with your every move being watched, studied and analyzed.

    I mean, Jeebus. If someone had a camera and was following me around in the year and a half after my uncle was murdered, they’d would have thought I was wacked out of my gourd too.

    I’ve always loved and been irritated by Mr. West. Probably because I recognize a bit of myself in him.

  2. This article is amazing thank you for speaking up. I get the sense given kanye’s connection to the church we are watching a man wandering this earth without his faith. My request is that we all respond with empathy and call kanye to heal – as to not persist our legacy of trauma and pain.

  3. I haven’t seen the trailer for the video yet, but from your description I’d rather not. Frankly, the “Runaway” film and the whole album disturbs me. Although his work prior to 808s was never all sunshine & roses (see “Addiction”, “Crack Music”, “All Falls Down”, etc), there was always some hope and humor interlaced with the rawness. I realize that after the collegiate theme ran its course he needed to go in a new direction- but both 808s and MBDTF are a soundtrack to depression, in my opinion. The man needs a hug, and some therapy. Kanye seems to be heading into Eminem territory and much as I love him as an artist, I can’t follow him there.

  4. @Sbot
    HEEYYYYY.
    I got you on the blog. This is what the Second time ever. Feels like a blog grammy. Win.

    @Brownbelle
    as I love him as an artist, I can’t follow him there.
    ====
    This notion of following has my jaw dropping. Many people will not admit that we follow artists, that they impact us. How could they not?

  5. I am a big fan or horror movies I dig what I have seen it is grim and creepy as it seems like its supposed to be. I do see the change in his music and I dont dig some of it but I dont feel like its okay to JUDGE him for it (not all the way saying that this is whats going on here) if you didnt like Miles Davis DooBop you just had to wait on the next bus to come around when he made another project. It seems like dude is in a very dark place in his life now and is expressing himself and letting it out rather than keeping it in which I applaud because as black folks we dont talk about or let out our problems and that is extremely unhealthy which I am sure you can agree. I dunno I just refuse to let myself get caught up in the hype and go grab the pitchforks and torches. white woman black woman hispanic or asian woman hanging from the ceiling its still a woman no substitute would be better if it did not fit the video the song is called monster and too me all the themes make sense. if your going to do something creepy GO IN why do rated G creepy? I am not a Kanye stan I dont think he shits gold louie eggs like some do but I think that sometimes we over react and forget that we can just enjoy something….or not. Simple as that. Great blog though I am a fan of your work for sure.

  6. Hey Ceewhy,

    Thank you for sharing and I am glad you like the work.

    Where in my post am I judging Kanye? I write about sex and pop culture along with 50/11 other things.

    Is there a differnce between “judging” and being analytical?

    ~R

  7. “In this video, I see a man in pain. A lot of pain.”

    “I am concerned about him as I am concerned about the mental health of many folks.”

    “Reading this video within the context of Bassey’s comments and within the context of the United States down right violent reaction to mixed race dating, something is amiss and I am concerned.”
    ========================================
    Aye blood,

    Does black folks art have to be read through the lens of autobiography?

    Or, alternatively if society says I cannot be free, am I allowed to be a mystery?

    Yours truly,
    the ghost of Billie Holiday

  8. Rob.

    Fuck you. Seriously.

    YOU will not use other conversations to push back on me ON MY BLOG. LULS. #IhateGettingTheoriticallySilenced.

    On the real, I think I just blushed.

    Ok, now that I got that out my system.

    No Black peoples art doesn’t have to be read through the lens of Autobiography.

    But how do I read it in light of his historiography, in light of the clear directional change. From Back packing + Louie to dark side kissing comatose young white women in videos.

    In fact, I am willing to wager that there are are some parallel’s between Ye’s dark side, And Billies’ + Coltrane’s + Davis’s and the production of highly conceptual work. Dark or Light. Everything ain’t gotta be Love Supreme in order to be genius. I know you know this but I needed to say it.

    Or, alternatively if society says I cannot be free, am I allowed to be a mystery?
    =====
    He can be a mystery, but as a fan and a Black woman who Love’s Gemini’s, I guess I want him to come to the light before he hurts himself fatally.

    Warmly,

    #allcity

  9. word life. i think ye’s and artist who enjoy’s pushing the envelope and drawing analogies in the most twisted of senses as an ARTist.

    these lyrics back the piece:
    Conquer, stomp ya, stop your silly nonsense
    None of you n-ggas know where the swamp is
    None of you n-ggas have seen the carnage that I’ve seen
    I still here fiends scream in my dream
    Murder murder in black convertibles
    I kill a block I murder avenues
    Rape and pillage a village, women and children
    Everybody wanna know what my achilles heel is
    LOVE I dont get enough of it
    All I get is these vampires and blood suckers
    All I see is these n-ggas I’ve made millionnaires
    Milling about, spilling there feelings in the air
    All I see is these fake f-cks with no fangs
    Tryna draw blood with my ice cold veins
    I smell a massacre
    Seems to be the only way to back you bastards up

    honestly, i think he IS growing through his expression. its what he’s living for. yes it’s dark, but he be speaking to the light.

  10. Renina,

    You know I slapbox lefty so you gotta keep your hands up.

    I think there is a certain extent that we have to read autobiography in hip-hop. More than any other genre, It’s built on self-reference and the tradition of the ego trip.

    At the same time, it’s always a good critical move to separate the artist from the man (or woman) behind the mask. Kanye’s gone through some personal changes and maybe those have informed his work, but what if it’s also just a personal choice to explore some of the darker side of his artistic soul. Maybe it’s always been there; maybe he’s been listening to a lot of Muddy Waters and Marilyn Manson and thinks hip-hop needs more of that. Art is a lot of things and sometimes its meant to take us to some dark, scary, and potentially dangerous places.

  11. Rob,

    We slapboxing now. #ummp.

    My big brother is a Gemini who slapboxes lefty and has a mean reach. I been blocking since ’82. So yeah, don’t be like the cabbage and bring all head and no ass. #thingsmymotherSays.

    At the same time, it’s always a good critical move to separate the artist from the man (or woman) behind the mask. Kanye’s gone through some personal changes and maybe those have informed his work, but what if it’s also just a personal choice to explore some of the darker side of his artistic soul.
    =========
    When was the last time a rapper made a highly conceptual album based on some experimental ish. I am not saying its not Possible. I am saying you are giving Ye extra credit I don’t see the evidence that he earned it.

    Doom is conceptual and experimental all the time. In fact thats ALL doom Does. Mad Villany…Ummm Food? Vik Vaughn…or Even Kev Brown w/ all them Henessy Raps and what not.

    In fact, my homie, filmmaker James Richards(http://www.thebicyclemovie.com/) has contended for YEAR’s that rap would be far more subversive and conceptual were it not for the corporate investment changes that happened after The Chronic.

    Art is a lot of things and sometimes its meant to take us to some dark, scary, and potentially dangerous places.
    ============
    There is nothing wrong with the dark space.I just want folks to be healthy in general and Black folks in particular.

    In the dark is the light. Amy Winehouse’s “Frank” and Illmatic, Mobb Deep’s first joint and Biggies Ready to Die are my go to dark albums

    There is dark and then there is morbid.

    Ye ain’t earned that credit yet Love. You putting 10 in 2.

    ~#allcity.

  12. I don’t mean to quibble over semantics, but what do you mean by a “highly conceptual album based on some experimental ish”?

    I think DOOM is a good example with the creative wordplay, off the wall samples and supervillain can get us part of the way there but we have to keep in mind that he struggles to stay on the beat, only has one flow and coasts on throwaway verses too often since Madvillainy.

    He’s the perfect example of a dude who’s nerd rap image fits the bill of “experimental/left of center rapper” for a lot of folks dissatisfied with mainstream rap. I think using this lens can sometimes elide some of the really funky, creative guys who may not be rapping about rhinestone cowboys and vomitspit but there are doing all types of creative things with their rhyme patterns, wordplay and breath control

    Just so I’m clear, I don’t think My Dark Twisted Fantasy is all that far out of the mainstream imagination. Sonically, It’s building on a lot the maximalist aesthetic that was already there on the Graduation.

    The album itself draws most of its thematic darkness by consistently paralleling sex with sin and not feeling at war with that tension (where black folks music usually struggles with the saturday night/sunday morning binary).

    ======================================
    “Ye ain’t earned that credit yet Love.
    You putting 10 in 2.”
    ======================================
    I don’t see morbid in the new ‘ye album.

    As far as the video, I see it more as being provocative than imploding. On some banned from TV/make some old folks in the South write angry letters to the editor type ish.

  13. Or get the blogosphere/twitterverse rise to arms about how racist/sexist/perverse it is lol

  14. Hi Rob,

    No quibbling taken.

    You mentioned that Kanye may be listening to Manson and Muddy waters.

    The last rapper to listen to Muddy Waters and be inspired by him is Redman. #ummp.

    So again…I am less inclined than you are to read #MBDTF as some experimental joint, rather than watching a man implode from grief.

    On another note, you misread me or perhaps I misspoke. The video for Monster is morbid, #MBDTF is dark and Runaway the Movie…..Shit that the Lady byrd…Dancing while he made a beat? Gorgeous.

    Honestly tho, this conversation reminds me of another point that I been thinking about on the low…There is little space in mainstream culture for an Black masculinity that does experimental. For example, peep how people treated Com after he dealt with Erykah or…how they treated Electric Circus. #ummhmmm.

    ~R