Very rarely does something leave me at a loss for words, but the trailer for Kanye’s new video, “Monster,” had me scratching my head.
The song is epic, featuring rap heavyweights Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Jay-Z competing for bragging rights for the hottest verse. Exploding with energy from the first few bars, “Monster” offers one hell of a braggadocios anthem. Each artist goes crazy on the track, principally Nicki Minaj, who literally beasts it out, screaming on the song to highlight her punch lines.
I’m biased. I love the song, and generally love Kanye’s work. Unlike other hip-hop artists who play to stereotypes (hyper-sexual, violent, etc), Kanye’s work is generally emotionally honest and about the art, whatever he deems that to be. And, as a writer, I feel that. I understand Ye’s need to simply create, to get the feelings out. However, lately the visual interpretations of his music have me a bit confused.
The video for “Monster” features a pretty freaky treatment. Rick Ross smoking a cigar in a room full of hanging female corpses, Nicki Minaj crawling around the floor in a lace cat suit, Kanye kissing on lifeless, stark White women, and, of course, a monster. I don’t really know where to even begin.
And I know, everything is not always about race, but I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t mention the way in which Kanye’s use of lifeless White models in the clip made me feel. Although I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly bothers me, seeing their pale bodies juxtaposed against his Blackness (black skin, black clothes) feels very stereotypically menacing (as in “the big Black brute threatening the lily White woman” kind of way). Then again, the song is called “Monster,” so perhaps Kanye is just channeling his inner “Twilight.”
After viewing the video clip, I took my thoughts to Twitter and expressed my confusion at the use of White, Mannequin-esque models: “So i’m starting to worry about Kanye’s fixation on stark white models. or am i being too sensitive?”
My girl, Renina, reminded me that Kanye’s been going through it since his mother died and is using his music to work through his pain. She also challenged me to see past my own biases when viewing his work. While I appreciate Kanye’s constantly reaching outside the box and getting his Van Gogh on, I secretly wanted him to get his Basquiat on instead. But it’s not really fair of me to expect that of a man who is so intent on “the work” speaking for itself.
So, again, I’m stuck. Stuck attempting to match my expectations (and strong biases) of Kanye to his visual presentation of his art. One thing is for sure, however. I am glad that music (and specifically hip-hop) is sparking an intelligent conversation centered around something other than what some brotha said about Black women.