Kanye West's 'banned' cover art: Let's rap
How about that George Condo, right? Does he actually live in a condo?
The first reaction that the purported initial album art for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy inspires is complete, abject silence - a stunned quiescence.
It's like that student of Billy Crystal's in Throw Momma From The Train who keeps going on about how he's written a book called "100 Girls I'd Like To Pork," explaining "it's a coffee-table book." It sucks all the air out of the room. It causes your jaw to drop. It is incendiary, even if it's hardly the most graphic or disturbing album cover to appear on record-store shelves in recent years. At first glance, I thought "Okay, Maurice Sendak crossed with Paul Cezanne, maybe," and I still kind of stand by that impression.
(As an undergrad, I didn't take any art-history courses; silly, silly me.)
Look at that cover. Just look at it. It's like the Jungle Fever movie poster to the thirteenth power in a red box frame that winks at the obscured Robert Wisdom/Selma Blair sex scene in Todd Solondz's Storytelling.
It's a big, bold rejoinder to the idea that we're living in a post-racial epoch, a bird flip to the idea that we're all essentially the same - that there's no sense of sexual undiscovered-country mystery or Mandingo fantasy or exotic "otherness" to one culture or another.
(Or the idea that the concept of black men as demonic figures or white women as unicorn-esque peaks to be ascended and conquered hasn't been exploited overwhelmingly already. Hooray, objectification!)
Not to mention a possible rejection of the idea that the album is dead as a physical object. If it was - if iTunes and its online competitors were the only road to hoe for new music, if the Wal-Marts and Best Buys and mom'n'pops of the world gave up on retailing CDs - would we even be having this conversation, at all?
On the other hand, this debacle is a textbook example of what it takes to sustain narrative momentum for any media-borne event or product in 2010; Fantasy is set to drop in about a month, and - insanely, incredibly - West's incessant tweets and over-the-top proclamations and G.O.O.D. Friday event-rap spectacles and the Runaway movie and the VMAs and guest productions/raps for other artists and the torrent of good will and admiration from his peers aren't seen as enough to guarantee that anyone will show up on November 22nd to buy the damn album - an album that's shaping up to be pretty fucking fantastic even without all the promotional/ancillary bells and whistles surrounding it.
I mean, I half expect that someone will attempt to "kidnap" or "assassinate" West between now and election days, just to keep all eyes on Yeezy's prize.
Would you be surprised?
But please - don't quote me on that.