Cultural Arts Review- Kanye West and The Tower of Babel

Posted on December 21, 2013 by

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On June 18, 2013, Kanye West released his sixth studio album named Yeezus. The very title of the album immediately sparked outrage among some and conversation all. ‘Yeezus’ is a play on words, combining the hip-hop superstar’s nickname ‘Yeezy’ and the name of Jesus himself. In the past, ‘Ye has been very vocal about his Christian affiliation. His single Grammy Award-winning single Jesus Walks was released in 2004, with the famous lyrics, “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotape/But if I talk about my God my record won’t get played, huh?” Nine years later he apologetically raps about God, Jesus, and Yeezus.

Through my brief perusal of the infinite amount of opinion on the internet, I found a wide variety on Kanye’s new album. One Christian blogger said that West claims to be a Christian, but shows the values of a self-serving nihilist. A Jewish Rabbi pointed out that Jesus was a very common name among 1st century Jews meaning “God saves”. In this way, the album’s title is not at all blasphemous. Another blogger points out that the rapper Jay-Z has been calling himself ‘Hova’ for a while now, which is a play on the name ‘Jehovah’. A common theme in rap music is boasting, and what is a bigger boast than calling yourself a god?

One of West’s most controversial tracks on Yeezus is actually titled “I Am a God”. The song features West telling an unidentified person to hurry up with his croissants, massage, and menage because he is of course a god. There have been many explanations for his blatant narcissism. One theory is that the entire song is a satire because of the vain nature of his requests. The screams in the second half of the song could express his frustration with the banality of everyday activities such as waiting around for french pastries that even music stars have to endure. Personally, I find it hard to believe that it a satire, as the size of Kanye’s ego probably makes it hard for him to make fun of himself.

Of course, if we were to take the song seriously, the phrase “I am a God” sort of comes from Psalm 82. In the Psalm, God says that we are all gods, but we will still die like mortals. It is not praising the power of human beings at all; it is actually saying that we all live under the authority of the one true God.  “He is way off base in terms of interpretation of that Psalm,” said Dr. Terriel Byrd.

“I just talked to Jesus/He said, “What up, Yeezus?”/I said, “Shit, I’m chilling/trying to stack these millions”, raps West. Despite the bold nature of these lyrics, Rap Genius suggests that he is trying to say that he still prays to Jesus and is still Christian. Later in the song he says that Jesus is the most high, but he is very close to him. Interpret that in whatever way you want.

It is my opinion that West does not intend to be sacrilegious in any way. He is simply boasting, which is the name of the game in hip-hop. This is nothing new.

-Jonathan Burow

 

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