Progressive Classics: On Yeezus and Black Feminism

image courtesy of Myspace.

image courtesy of Myspace.

 

Editor’s Note: While we like to keep profanity, violence and misogyny to a minimum on our blog, Kanye West’s Yeezus is explicit in nature. Please be aware that the lyrics re-printed here may be very offensive to some people. 

The self-proclaimed Michael Jordan of rap is gearing up to work on the “second half” of last summer’s critically confusing Yeezus, so we’re going to take a look back at our feminist deconstruction of the blasphemous collection of songs.

Kanye’s last album placed the rapper at the height of his fame and has been heralded as many things: Pitchfork gave it a 9.5 rating, it was called “boundary cutting” by NPR and Rolling Stone says of it, “Yeezus  is the darkest, most extreme music Kanye has ever cooked up, an extravagantly abrasive album full of grinding electro, pummeling minimalist hip-hop, drone-y wooz and industrial gear grind.” Yes Kanye’s done it again! As a constantly tormented Black feminist AND hip-hop lover I went through several listens to his album and I did the same thing I usually do when I listen to most mainstream rap albums: I tried to disassociate myself from the offensive, woman-hating lyrics because I love a good beat, ’80s synths and Motown samples. This time though, Kanye made it impossible to do that. While I’ve never produced beats for the hottest rappers, sold out stadiums or kicked it with Beyoncé, I still think that I can offer suggestions to Kanye on how to be less of jerk, to women specifically.

While I admit that Kanye’s never been the most feminist of artists, I do believe he’s a smart, clever guy who’s not afraid to question gender dynamics by openly wearing pink, showing his vulnerability on 808s & Heartbreak, or making astute cultural observations on awesome songs like Late Registration’“Crack Music” or The College Dropout‘s “Spaceships.” I would like to enjoy his music again because his creativity and innovation as a producer and musician is admirable, but I’m tired of compromising my principles in favor of music that makes me want to slow twerk. So, Kanye, I think I speak for many women when I say I’d like to live in a world where North West doesn’t have to grow up with mixed messages about how to express her sexuality or feel alienated by her father. Unfortunately, Kanye’s not really making it easy when he makes an album in which women are only portrayed as money-grubbing hos, money-grubbing exes and sexual objects – with no regard to their own sexual desires. Here are some of his biggest lyrical offenses:

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2 Comments

  1. Abby Calhoun

     /  October 30, 2014

    Very powerful post. I’ve also grappled with Kanye’s lyrics from a political standpoint. His broad reach and potential to impact impressionable youths is wasted on power-drunk lyrics and an insatiable need for shock-and-awe. Kanye embodies the bleak future of political and/or social movements through music. This post is well researched, poignant, and personal.

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