Just in time for commencement ceremonies across the country,the world’s most famous college dropout is back on his grind with a video topromote his upcoming album Graduation (which is supposed to hit stores thisSeptember,when hardworking students are back to school).
When “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” first leaked off the mix tape of the same name, it sounded like a Late Registration reject. But I have to admit it’s grown on me. As is generally the case with Kanye songs,the production is the real draw. The eerie wailing, the vocal sample from YoungJeezy’s ”I Got Money,” and the slow, moody beat (courtesy of DJ Toomp, bestknown for T.I.’s ”What You Know”) all provide a perfect template for Kanye’strademark self-reflection, which hovers enigmatically between insecurity andunabashed braggadocio. When The CollegeDropout was released in 2004, his ”victim of the culture” perspective had afreshness and honesty that was reflected in tracks like ”All Falls Down” and ”Jesus Walks.”But at what point does public confession lose its sincerity and become anotherform of narcissism? Even though he’s apparently ”way more fresher” than Adam andEve, Kanye is still a sucker for temptation. From the opening line (”I had adream I could buy my way to Heaven / When I awoke I spent that on a necklace”),’Ye reveals that three albums in, he still can’t get away from those damndiamonds — and the girls, cars, and general reckless behavior that come so easywith fame and fortune.
Yet in spite of all the talk of temptation, Hype Williams dispenseswith the normal rap video accoutrement,leaving the conflicted Kanye to grapple with his demons in solitude. Does it work? Watchthe video here, then see what we thought after the jump. (My cubicle mate BethonieButler would also like everyone to know that the video can be downloaded for free from the iTunes Store.)
I predict that this video will draw a lot of criticism forbeing boring and uneventful (and maybe even for swiping some visual cues fromMadonna’s ”Frozen”),but I think it actually offers a rather insightful takeon Kanye’s controversial persona. Struggling with the mostfundamental questions of God’s place in his life, Kanye is removed from the vices that threaten his yearning for spirituality. Yet even as he wanders across an arid landscape, he chooses to wear a fresh mankerchief and medallion, and still swaggers as if he’s onstage at Madison Square Garden. The clip has an epic quality, with scenes shot from above, showing Kanye’s body flitting in and out of view. Suddenly, the smoke machine and spotlights kick in…has Kanye been transported to thereal MSG? No, he’s still alone in the desert. But why are there lights in the desert? What does it all mean!?!?
Even removed from the limelight,Kanye is still very much in it. Out in the desert, he’s like every kid alone inhis room, donning his freshest garbs and mean-mugging in the mirror.Williams captures the self-consciousness of Kanye’s confession perfectly: Kanye’s admissions of guilt both condemn and glorify his own actions,and the video reflects that duality. Uhhh, right?
Admittedly, I might be reading too much into this because Ithink Belly is a masterpiece ofcontemporary cinema. Or maybe I’m having flashbacks to my own graduation and havemistaken this video for the topic of my senior thesis. What do you think? Didanyone else see an arrogant man stomping around the desert in some niceclothes? And a waif who looks like Alicia Keys if she wandered onto the set of 300? Hollah at me, PopWatcherz!