Kanye West fever is at an all time high with the world film premiere of "Runaway", adding a whole new promotional and visual backdrop to his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that is due November 22nd. This innovation of accompanying the album with a short film is yet another example that Kanye West is an artist in the general sense rather than just a rapper, producer, designer, etc. We've seen him break down many ceilings to get to this point, and I feel like we've come a long way to begin seeing musicians look at music outside the box. "Art" is everything, because there is an art form to every activity of life, even life itself is an art form. The best artists transcend their skilled mediums by stepping outside the box and integrate elements that will help fulfill a greater level of experience for the viewer. Mash up all the "artists" in the world, and you'll get the ultimate experience. This blurring of lines is the direction we are heading, and conservatives who cling to old traditional modes of thinking need to be overcome for the benefit and greater evolution of man. Love is growth, and hate is the obstruction to growth.
Hip Hop is just one example of this evolution as we've seen it integrated with almost all genres of music, blurring the line and meaning of Hip Hop itself. Lupe did it with Punk, Eminem did it with Pop, Kanye did it with film, and is going to do it with Broadway Theater! Honestly it was one of my ambitions to integrate theater with live music performance on stage, and can safely predict that if we make it past 2012 that we'll see this type of integration! Heck Michael Jackson was about to do it for his final tour before they killed him, and Kanye already kind of did it with the Glow-in-the-Dark tour, so we aren't too far away from seeing other artists pick up on this innovation. (Eminem, Jay Z, Cudi, Lupe? - Holla at me I got ideas)
Well back to the review at hand, it's important to note the obstacles that Ye had to overcome before this culminating venture came into its climax. Being schooled in the art world, I know how difficult it is to make your vision a reality especially if that vision demands that you learn a completely new skill for its completion. This being said, one of the biggest reasons I respect Kanye West as an artist is for his bravery of venturing out into the great unknown above all else. When Ye started all he had was crayons and a coloring book. Shortly after that he taught himself how to produce, and then eventually how to rap, but he didn't stop there after getting his record deal. While growing and breaking ceilings on the music tip, he was also passionate about fashion as he began to teach himself how to design clothes, shoes, and outfits. This development led to the designing of the unprecedented Glow-in-the-Dark tour, and even his own book "Thank You, and You're Welcome". I hope you can see where I'm going with this - Ye had to LEARN a million new skills, overcome hate from conservatives, and pull through the loss of his family just to get to the present moment of "Runaway". We've walked down the paved road, and now we are at another milestone of innovation as Ye passionately took a stab at the previously unfamiliar genre of film. Ask yourself how many new things did he have to learn to make the vision of "Runaway" a success?
I'd say Kanye is one of the first musicians who blurred the lines of music with fine art, simply by venturing out into the unknown. While the film is beautiful in every regard, its true power and hype lies in the unprecedented innovation of accompanying an album with the film. It's not the ballerinas, color schemes, storyline, or cinematography, but the juxtaposition of genres that's the ultimate success here. All of these elements together are the true power that Kanye West conjured up. While this is only scratching the surface, it is still an exciting step in a fresh new direction.
So while we wait for the album to drop, the film serves us as a small foreshadow on the types of themes and concepts Ye will be dealing with this time around. To begin I'd like to mention that this film is an abstract work, and the gestalt's within it will provide each viewer with their own subjective interpretations... even for Yeezy himself. There is definitely no right or wrong answer, because the work is meant to make you reflect on your own life based on the general themes embedded within.
The general underlying theme in the film, which all other sub-themes stem from is that of life, death, and rebirth. In alchemy, metaphorically speaking the ultimate goal is to burn away the dross of your being, in order to turn yourself into gold. This is the human condition where we must constantly struggle to burn away our imperfections of fear/doubt, so that we can ascend closer to love. Kanye beautifully captures this universal truth, and reminds us of how we all live the life of the Phoenix. We are all one living organism, breathing together, burning together, and being reborn together; striving towards love like flowers towards light.
In this struggle there will always be evil for us to overcome, which Ye personified with a few cool scenes. I loved the part where he was confronted with the question "Do you know she's a bird?" at the dinner table. I thought that was hilarious, because it's a comical way of talking about caste systems dating back to the beginning of time. Ye's response was very poetic as he said, "No I never noticed that", personifying himself and this new generation to look past the caste you were born into. Yeezy himself is an example of overcoming the caste system by rising from the middle class to royalty so to speak, resonating the message that every being has the potential for greatness no matter their outward appearance. And if that comment wasn't enough sarcasm, Kanye ends up shitting on everyone at the bourgeois table by toasting to all the douche bags with an incredible performance of "Runaway". It was beautifully executed, because the ballerinas personified Ye's music on a physical realm adding to the experience of the song on another level. The addition of the ballerinas made you feel the elegant visual connection between body and sound.
Another evil Ye warned the viewer to overcome is that of their own perception by saying, "First rule in this world baby, don't pay attention to what you see in the news". This slight warning opens up a whole can of worms, because if you really open your eyes and look, you'll see how decisions are being made to keep the general level of consciousness at an all time low. People will believe anything they are told, and are open for easy manipulation. Did you know that the "news" is being controlled by companies that profit by others misfortune? While you watch TV and pay attention to fake representations of life, you're missing the black sack that's being pulled over your head. Food is being chemically altered to create long term health problems, crisis' are being created to bring us into wars for money, our economy is built on debt, education and healthcare are not a priority, we are consuming all of our natural resources, fear and terror is marketed to society through mass media, and we are being conditioned for control with troop imagery/microchip propaganda.
Kanye ends up touching on this topic of slave mentality, with the visuals of the kid running with the red torch. Yeezy said that the kid represented passion that roams freely, however he foreshadowed that same kid falling into a slave mentality with the imagery of him wearing a red cult hood like the rest of the followers. As a society most of us spit evil to the young by saying that something is impossible, trapping them to think about life in a certain slave perspective; as Yeezy said, I think it's our duty to break out society from their own mental jails in leading by example, and showing that anything truly is possible.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Ye is sprinting down the long road, which reminded me of our own unique metaphysical paths that we are assigned to walk. It made me smile that Ye was sprinting down his, and inspired me to pick up the pace! (Sidebar: the best teacher is inspiration, because it is the fastest motivator of evolution.)
In conclusion the film "Runaway" foreshadows the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that is thrusting us towards spiritual evolution. I therefore predict that the album will have similar themes of recognizing evil, burning it away, being reborn in a new light, and lastly repeating the cycle all over again. While Kanye would never admit it, I do believe that we as a culture have finally turned him to stone by relating him to the Phoenix. His life exemplifies the Phoenix, and I believe we can always count on Yeezy to shine beautifully, burn beautifully, and be reborn beautifully. We've seen it done during 'College Dropout', '808s & Heartbreak', and most recently this past year from Taylor Swift to 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'! This is why I respect Kanye West, because he burns willingly for the benefit of humanity as a whole. Make sure you pre-order the album, and be sure to drop him some kind words - LOVE!