Coming into the Yeezus tour, I was praying Kanye wouldn’t ruin my image of him, since the “overconfident angry black man” narrative seemed too TMZ to be the full story. Musically, Yeezus’ production and collaborations are untouchable, but, lyrically, the album makes me a little sad. Besides “New Slaves,” most of his verses always seem to throw in something sus as if he couldn’t come up with anything else, and I can’t always listen to Ye talking about fisting Asian pussy. REGARDLESS, I was intrigued.
The first thing I saw upon entering the stadium was the merch table. With all of the headdressed skeletons and confederate flags, I literally asked myself if Kanye was trolling his audience. Am I being punked? If someone tries to buy this will black Ashton Kutcher pop out?
As someone who feels like they “get” Kanye more often than not, I figured he was purposefully using controversial imagery as a way to deconstruct symbols and incite commentary. The whole line probably would’ve gone over swimmingly at an honors art class critique; however, this isn’t Cooper Union. The world is Kanye’s gallery. This makes his work particularly contentious because he has all these performance art school ideas, but as a pop star, he has the actual ability to do it and disseminate it to the very real masses (rather than just talk about it or simulate it in a gallery as a thought exercise). What could cause unique danger, in Kanye’s eyes, offers unique power. In my opinion, the most common dominator of America, let alone Kanye’s own fans, needs layers of extra explanation before they can be expected to play out the concepts and intentions behind Kanye’s art (an artist’s statement if you will).
We hear stories of him getting into beefs with the media, so I can see why people tune out. Less viral are radio interviews where he states that he is freeing himself from racism by stripping the symbols of their tragic connotation and using them to promote his own music in a way that can be aesthetically appreciated (though, dissecting this divide designers feel between appropriating symbols in their art and their existing social implication in the real world is a whole other talk). SIGH, THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF BEING BIG. At least he recognizes the reach of his voice, and tries to stay making a sound.
Kanye with his dancers. Photo by yungmedha.
AND THEN HE CAME ON STAGE. Well he didn’t at first, actually. A bunch of nude suited long haired faceless shapeless women in nylon masks initiated the show. They played his disciples of sorts throughout the concert (I was one of them for Halloween!). They performed minimal modern dance while Kanye rapped in masks (shoutout Leikeli47‘s maskswag). With a full cinema dome, a movable iceberg stage and multiple acts, the concert struck a rare balance between stern scripted performance art piece, and candid intimate hip hop concert- probably the first of its kind. It’s likely that most of the crowd would never willingly opt to see a performance art piece, but they were exposed alternative standards of entertainment that night. This all-designed-everything display is an example what Kanye wants as a DONDA experience.
Snow falling during Coldest Winter. Photo by yungmedha
-Ye explaining that “I Am A God” as a song is meant to show that we are all creators. And that we are Gods, and to realize the power within ourselves to create the world around us.
-White Jesus coming in half way and removing Kanye’s mask, immediately after which he falls to the ground as the beat to Jesus Walks drops and you remember how much power this song placed in people. (Hint: REWATCH THE VIDEO).
-Ye setting up the beat of “Runaway” himself and remixing it for a second. (woulda been down for more tbh)
-Kanye getting real about his mom’s death sparking a change in his music with “Coldest Winter” and literal snow falling.
-Surprisingly busting out some fav collabs like “Don’t Like” and “Good Life!”
Setting up the Runaway beat. Photo by heymoanalisa
-Kanye autotuned repeating love for 15 minutes. WHILE AFOREMENTIONED MIXER WAS STILL ON STAGE. UNTOUCHED. AND LOVE IS VERY IMPORTANT AND ALL BUT YEEZUS IS A LITERAL GOD WHEN IT COMES TO MIXING, SO MIX IT UP.
-Me tearing up thinking about the original sample of “Blood on the Leaves,” when Kanye is trying to teach me how to turn up despite the legacies of slavery. (WILL IT WORK?)
ULTIMATELY, the show definitely made me respect him more. Whether I thought it could be better with more dancing, cameos, whatever, the undeniable truth is that Kanye had the entire crowd bopping to his music and while spreading messages of love and self empowerment set to an entire act of performance art – and that is a feat.
Photo by yungmedha.