Every rapper’s first album is their best, and Kanye West is perhaps no exception. His later stuff is good, great even, but, to me, he’ll never be that human I want in my ear again. The first album had him an his mother loading his belongings into a moving van. By this album, his mother is dead of botched plastic surgery and Kanye is going shallower and shallower into himself. His latest release is the 35 minute video ‘Runaway’ which is great to watch, great to present to a mass audience, and yet missing the soul that filled Kanye’s first album. It’s embedded above. I must say, it’s well worth a watch, in HD if you can. It’s no Thriller, but it is at least interesting.
The difference is, that while Michael Jackson may have had an outsized ego, his performance was able to fit it. MJ never looked like he was showing off, he just danced. Kanye, however, can’t dance, so in the video he just sorta thrusts and jerks on top of a piano. There’s an ego trying to get out, but it can’t exactly, at least not through his body. Thus, the video is filled with all sorts of weirdity – white servants waiting on blacks, an alien space bird (literally and figuratively), comets, clouds, deer. As an arthouse flick it’s actually quite compelling, beautifully art directed, magnificently scored and – except for the parts where Kanye or the bird speak – imbued with possible meanings.
That said, it’s missing something, mainly personality. Kanye is a bit too stiff jawed to carry off the male lead himself. He never seems entirely comfortable in his skin, neither detached nor attached to/from the scene. The model playing the bird comes off as dumb, especially when she speaks. Not entirely mysterious. Selita Ebanks doesn’t really seem to have the acting ability for this, she just ends up looking like a model between snaps, a sadly normal human being in extravagant get up. Give her more than a few frames and the mystique disappears.
So, is Runaway and mystery wrapped in an enigma, or nothing wrapped in a whole bunch of illusion? I lean towards the latter, but it’s definitely worth a watch.