Me and this latest characterization of Kanye West ain’t never been friends. Maybe associates in passing, but never in constant rotation on my playlists. There was no urgent need for me to watch West’s “Monster” video. I avoided it like I avoided my mom with a hotcomb as a kid. With all the uproar surrounding West’s latest efforts, I took the plunge and braced myself as the video loaded.
“Monster” is a brazen visual of West’s battle with black masculinity, whiteness, and art. Horrific images of hanging women, the bleakness of the plot and setting, and other representations of a distorted reality are significant because of the hypervisible and hypersexual presence of whiteness. “Monster” forces notions of white supremacy to become visible to the audience, especially with West’s treatment of white women.
While I do not intend to suggest West’s “Monster” is not problematic, I am intrigued by his treatment of what John L. Jackson refers to as “racial paranoia.” Kanye West is not the only artist that picks my interest with teasing out the relationship between racial paranoia, performance, money, and Hip Hop. I’ve pondered similar musings about other rappers including T.I., Rick Ross, and Waka Flaka Flam. The jury’s still out.
It is certainly no surprise that the most recent cycles of corporate or mainstream Hip Hop cop the top spot as capitalism’s poster child. Quips and undertones of materialism and succumbing to a cloaked form of capitalism under the more street-credit worthy “game” run rampant. This peculiar social-historical moment of American culture, however, presents a unique intersection of race and economics seldom experienced by previous generations of (African) Americans.
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