NEW YORK — For Kanye West, presentation is everything and on Friday night (May 17), rap’s reigning mad scientist conjured up a revolutionary way to premiere his “New Slaves” music video.
Instead of YouTube or MTV, Yeezy projected his latest clip on the sides of buildings in 66 locations around the world, giving fans little forewarning before the first premiere. He posted the viewing times and locations on his KanyeWest.com site and about 100 fans answered the call and gathered on the corner of 14th Street and 10th Avenue in New York City’s Meatpacking District as many as 30 minutes before the scheduled 11:45 p.m. showing. The truck that drove around the city projecting the vid was an hour late, but the delay didn’t seem to matter much to the dedicated flock who gasped as the stark black and white image of their rap hero shot up on a matte black wall.
“My mama was raised in the era when/ Clean water was only served to the fairer skin/ Threw on clothes, you would’ve thought I had help/ But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself,” ’Ye spit, setting the tone.
From the video’s first few moments it was clear that this was something different, even for a rapper who has made a career off of wearing pink polos and singing an entire album in auto-tune. At the same time there was something familiar as Kanye challenged materialistic habits and racial stereotypes like he did on his 2005 single “All Falls Down.”
“What you want a Bentley, fur coat, a diamond chain/ All you blacks want all the same things,” he rhymed, making for an uncomfortable, but necessary listen.
The visual was equally dislodging as West rhymes with a piercing look in his eye addressing each individual listener, but without ever really being there. He shouts out “new slaves” before staring silently as the thumping beat played.
When the almost four-minute presentation was over, the crowd stood strangely quiet for a moment before they realized that it was OK to cheer their revolutionary rap hero.
We’ll have to wait and see if West performs “New Slaves” when he hits the “Saturday Night Live” stage with host Ben Affleck on Saturday.