Every time Kanye West releases a song or video, makes an appearance on the VMA’s or is made fun of on South Park, it stirs a debate. Is Kanye an incredibly ambitious musician, a public figure of epic proportions tackling race, culture and art all in one fell swoop, or a clown in king’s clothing?
His latest public endeavour seems to be his argument for “D: All of the Above.” The 35-minute video for Runaway is not only an intense visual undertaking, but a lengthy musical process, and it seems to be commenting on multiple facets of modern-day society, all while Kanye dresses himself in white suits and stares directly into the camera for long, meaningful moments that make you wonder if he’s thinking, “Please, tell me you love me.”
Here’s what Three Grown Men had to say about it…
Jonathan Kosakow on Kanye as musician:
The line that sticks out in my head the most from Kanye’s 35-minute “epic” is probably the last one that he wants to be remembered by. “We ain’t married but tonight I need some consummation.” In other words, Kanye wants to fuck you, but he won’t be giving you anything in return.
READ ON for more takes on Kanye’s latest video…
This sentiment sums up exactly the impression that Kanye West has been giving me since he spewed forth from hip hop’s birth canal and subsequently grew into the world’s most successful dickhead. He constantly wants my attention – and he gets it – but when all is said and done, he’s the only one smoking a cigarette and I’m in the bathroom with the shower head. Things used to be good, I didn’t scream incoherent rants at innocent passersby when I heard his name. You might even say I liked him. But these days it’s different. It’s hard to take a beggar seriously.
There’s a moment around 1:50 in this video where you think he may be about to say something smart. His flow is right on point as he asks, “Hey, teacher, teacher, tell me how do you respawn the students and refresh the page and rebuild the memory, respark the soul and rebuild the energy?” Of this great question, we need an answer, or at least some advice. It would only be fitting to follow-up on your own question. Instead, he decides to skirt the point altogether by falling back on a single line of cleverness: “Fresh air, rolling down the window. Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your wins low.” The clever genius of this line is not lost on me, but where does it fit into the meaning of the verse, or the song? It doesn’t. Through poetry, Kanye promised us roses and an elegant meal, but he only showed up with a bucket of KFC and some VHS tapes of Seinfeld reruns – certainly good, but not my idea of satisfaction.
Throughout the video, Kanye uses tracks from his upcoming album to play soundtrack to his visual opus. The two – audio and visual – are hardly related here. The verse above plays while in the video he witnesses an asteroid crash and saves a beautiful phoenix from the wreckage. I won’t even try to make a connection for fear that my brain will start leaking out of my ears.
But here I am watching and listening, even though I am obviously not a proponent. Obviously he has done something right. Kanye is essentially a vessel of creativity, and his creative bombs never fail to make waves. It’s hard to say that he sucks – he doesn’t – but I don’t get anything out of Kanye’s lyrics, they rarely speak further than surface meaning, and his beats only stick in my head until the song ends. Runaway is more of the same: stunning visual moments and fleeting thoughts meant to make you think he’s somehow deep. His intentions – to get back in the good graces of the media and of his fans – are so transparent that it only backfires on him. As a whole, he doesn’t say much more than “Dear God, please love me,” and his crying on the corner of the bed doesn’t help much, either.
Conor Kelley on Kanye’s new film Runaway
Directing films now eh Kanye? My skepticism barely allows my mind to be open to that concept. It’s a well established fact that Mr. West’s ego is an unwieldy beast that often terrorizes entire villages of unsuspecting people. His ego is also the reason he’s so damn good. Every time I want to hate him he drops a new incredible single. He’s like an adorable puppy who shits on your couch. You just can’t stay mad at him.
When I first saw the song Runaway performed on the VMA’s I instantly liked it. The drum sample comes in under sparse piano and feels immediately right. The lyrics are unappealing to a lot of people but I think this is one case where a pop star writing a song about his persona actually works as opposed to, say, one of the countless Eminem tracks where the rapper tells us how misunderstood he is (stop insisting to your audience that you really have something to say, and just fucking say it). Kanye knows being in a relationship with him is poisonous and he is pleading with women like a desperate man about to morph into a werewolf, “runaway!” What better way to drive this point home than to make a high budget 35-minute film based on his insecurities with females?
Runaway the film is an epic music video and nothing more. I’d be very curious to see what “directing” means to Kanye West. Directing films is traditionally an extremely complex task, blending creative vision with technical prowess. Kanye has creativity in spades, but the extent of his camera knowledge ends with taking pictures of his dick and emailing them to supermodels. Every director has a distinct fingerprint. Kanye has cited Jim Henson, Frederico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick while describing the visual style of Runaway. After hearing those ridiculous comparisons I almost expected Runaway to be about Kermit the Frog, suffering from writers block, being sent to find Marlon Brando during the Vietnam War. Kanye is obviously confused on the whole subject of film.
Despite my suspicions about how much “directing” went on during the making of this opus, I would call myself a fan of Runaway. The story is about an otherworldly beautiful bird-like creature that crashes to earth and stays with Kanye. Kanye introduces her to the wonder, strangeness, and horror that is human existence while she shows him that love is supposed to be selfless; a hard lesson to teach an egomaniac. Visually, pieces of it are fantastic. There is no consistency with the color scheme throughout the video and it works incredibly well, not despite that, but due to it. Oranges, reds, bright whites and muted greens are drawing the viewers eye in at all times.
The end sequence in which the Phoenix burns up into the sky is a little campy and overdone. All that is beautiful in Kanye’s life is in flames before his eyes. Some subtlety in this scene may have actually made the impact stronger. When the film’s visuals go on a bit too long, as in the ballet sequence, the music keeps it afloat. Remixes of Power and Runaway show off Mr. West’s real talent: music production. His hubris allowed him to think he could direct a film, so he did. In the end Runaway proves that Kanye West is a true artist for one reason: he set out to make something beautiful and succeeded.
Kevin Smallwood on Kanye West as a personality:
“Who the fuck is Kanye West?” Seriously, does anyone have an answer to this question??
Isn’t he the guy who crashed his car and resurrected himself as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone?
Hold on, hold on…isn’t Kanye the guy who collaborated with Daft Punk to create the ground-breaking, genre-crossing, award-winning, smash-hit, “Stronger” - or is he that cat who said, “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people” during the Nationally Televised Hurricane Katrina fundraiser?
No No, Kanye West is the guy who mentored the incredible new artist, Kid Cudi – who is changing the face of hip-hop! Kanye’s the guy who bet 50-Cent that he could sell more albums on their mutual release date, and won!
Ohh wait a second…maybe I’m thinking of the wrong Kanye. Am I confusing him with the guy that always does something irrational at award ceremonies when he doesn’t win? Is he the one that ruined that little girls speech on MTV last year – what was her name, Taylor Swift?
“Who the fuck is Kanye West?!”
D: “All the Above”
- Three Grown Men (Jonathan Kosakow, Kevin Smallwood and Conor Kelley)