Ign'ant Kanye vs. Conscious Kanye

"My momma was raised in the era when/Clean water was only served to the fairer skin/Doing clothes you would have thought I had help/But they wasn't satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself."

Song: "New Slaves" (2013)
Album: Yeezus
Conscious Or Ign'ant?: Conscious

2013's "New Slaves" is not only the place where Kanye's most ignorant self coexists with his most conscious self; it is the song in which the warring aspects of his personality become one. Conscious IS Ignorant, and Ignorant IS Conscious. The first verse is one of the smartest of Kanye's career; it is also one of the snottiest. The rest of the song intentionally places his most ambitiously inflammatory statements alongside his most gloriously ign'ant declarations. A reference to Billie Holiday's Civil Rights anthem "Strange Fruit" knocks against a reference to Adam Sandler's retard-comedy classic The Waterboy. A venomously concise critique of the prison industrial complex segues into one of the filthiest lines of Kanye's career. (The Hamptons seems like a less good place for a family vacation now.) But that's not because he's doing two things at once—it's because he's showing that those two things are one. Political invective is street swagger; a sexual revenge fantasy is a form of historical retaliation. To Kanye, the profane IS political. And sometimes to be deep you have to be shallow, if only to prove the inevitable complexity of being a black man, being a rapper, being an artist. Thus, "New Slaves" itself embodies juxtaposition, as the violent, skeletal sonics of the first half suddenly give way to a lush coda that is an Ocean of sweetness.

Tags: kanye-west
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