KANYE WEST DEBUTS ‘NEW SLAVES’ WITH PROJECTION ON 66 BUILDINGS

Kanye West.  You either love him or hate him.  As a lyricist.  High end fashion designer.  Taylor Swift’s killjoy.  And now… visual artist.  People are either offended by his brash behavior (which is usually mistaken for ignorance) or envy him for his craft.  Truth be told, Mr. West, Ye, or Yeezy equals ‘Yeezus’.  There, I said it.  The twenty-first century messiah that trumps anyone bold enough to stand in his way.

With rumors anticipating the announcement of a new album (Update: following his impromptu visual performance, Kim Kardashian confirmed the release of his new album, titled Yeezus, for June 18th via twitter), Kanye West surprised fans Friday night with a projected video spanning over 66 different locations with the premiere of his new single, ‘New Slaves’.  Ditching a capitalistic approach, which would have jumpstarted profits for Yeezus with the release of his new single via itunes, amazon, etc., Kanye took his work to the streets.  Literally.  The projections, which ranged from several San Francisco locations to Bed-Stuy, all the way to Paris, displayed a three and a half minute close-up of Kanye performing his new work.  With heavy percussion and a monotone synth and bassline, Kanye’s presence was eerily omnipresent and totalitarian, as his face–expressionless, towered over crowds.  Irony.  A gimmick often found misused or cliched, can be a tricky device when it comes to colloquial jargon.  But Kanye killed it, dismantling the hypocrisies within American culture and his own conflicting oppressions as a successful African American, and a Big Brother-esque vibe that most likely left CEOs and media moguls with disdain toward Mr. West.  After all, Kanye’s performance is the ultimate ‘F U’ to corporations and capitalism, calling them out on their ploys to corral hip hop artists into jumbled contract deals as a means of control.
Though many critics have accused Kanye of being too outspoken, ‘New Slaves’ addresses many issues still present and very much embedded in modern American society–consumerism, racism, corruption, economic inequalities; the list goes on.  In an age where stability and disorder are obscured, and with so many uncertainties facing our future in regards to growing technologies and politics, Kanye’s anngst-fueled sermon gives audiences a bleak glimpse at the realities affecting our lives–past, present, and future.  ’New Slaves’ delves into the relationship between consumerism and slavery, alluding to the fact that we, the consumer, are slaves to money in a material world driven by an endless barrage of advertisements.
From the opening lines, Kanye recounts the days when racial segregation was enforced by law, rapping:

“My momma was raised in an era when, Clean water was only served to the fairer skin”

“I see the blood on the leaves”

The later is a line taken from Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, that describes the lynchings in place during the Jim Crow era.  Kanye’s juxtapositioning of Jim Crow into modern America implies that the demise of many successful African Americans is still deeply rooted in bigotry; as suggested in his mentioning of the prison-industrial complex, which allows free labor for privately own businesses and corporations.  Do you see the bigger picture?  Kanye’s words weren’t ad-libbed, this was a deliberate attack on modern-day slavery.  Though his lyrics might come off as radical to novice listeners, his dictation was regarded with extreme precision.  No itunes, facebook, or twitter come have garnered the same response as his video projections.  This was meant to be shared with the masses–in a public space, for all to see and hear.  A smartphone, wi-fi, or an internet provider wasn’t necessary, his intention was to get people out in the streets and engage in a socio-political discourse.  Genius.
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Praise Yeezus.
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Update:  The majority of video content from Kanye’s May 18th performance has since been removed by NBC Universal Studios.  Wieners.
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Article by: Hannah Guenther
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