Video: Kanye and Camus

Above: Kanye’s performance of “Black Skinhead” on SNL.

“I’m aware I’m a king.” 

“I am a God.”

Two lyrics from Kanye’s album Yeezus. The first from “Black Skinhead,” the second from “I Am A God.”

The anger, resentment, pride in the face of degradation, egomania that poses a threat to the white-supremacist ego, and skillfully articulated energy that informs Kanye’s “Yeezus” makes it a special pleasure to devour repeatedly. My favorite track from the album is “Black Skinhead,” with beats so powerful it reminded me of a famous quote from Albert Camus:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

In a world where black men in America are frisked, imprisoned and shot because their bodies have been stamped with supposed criminality before they make their first decisions as children, there is an unambiguous, silent statement that colored bodies are less deserving of the space they take up. And if a colored person takes up space that makes the white-dominant sphere uncomfortable, it is very likely they will be looked at with suspicion, hostility – feelings that too often become a a child’s death or an adult’s humiliation.

In this now Yeezus-blessed world, Kanye not only takes up the tenuous space that he rightly deserves; he lethally, artistically, fearlessly dares you to try and police him. When Kanye declares “I am a God” or “I’m aware I’m a king,” he’s not just indulging in the great American pastime of individualism as megalomania: he’s laughing in the face of the idea that his body, his person is not the dominant one. What many mistake as base egomania is more accurately described as an expression of unchecked freedom put to a rebellious, energizing beat. In a sphere that didn’t give him the White privilege to play God, Kanye, through Yeezus, grabbed us by the jaw, and, laughing at our surprise, he turned our eyes to his, and, in no uncertain terms, took that privilege.

As Teju Cole recently wrote, “Always be humble. Unless you’re non-white or female or disabled or queer (you’ve already had your turn).”


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