a [banned] runaway.

Home Videos a [banned] runaway.
25 Oct

Talking about it? Judging it? Critiquing it? Studying it? Or simply dismissing it?

Whether we like it or not, Kanye West has managed, once again to grip the attention of the entire world, as millions await his upcoming album, scramble to view the banned album cover, and view the full-length version of his feature film short, “Runaway.”

Kanye’s been called everything from “genius” to “possessed.” What do you think?

What I see
A demonized image of a black man holding what appears to be a 40 oz. beer bottle. Is the black man really as evil as he appears, or is this simply our own personification/interpretation of his image? Also, is there room to consider the cause of his appearance — i.e. the substance in the bottle, a circumstance not shown in this image, etc.?

He seems to be lying down, and mounting him is what appears to be a demonized image of a white woman (Kanye later clarified that this image represents a “phoenix”), with no arms, wings, and a tail. Again, is this another play on our perception?

The sexual tension and positioning within the piece cannot be ignored, which calls to mind folklore regarding the succubus and the incubus — demons which play on the sexual fantasies and weaknesses of men and women in a ploy to capture their souls. Symbolically, this calls to mind a few ploys, centered around sex and sexuality, that have been (and still are) utilized to capture/destroy/distort/capitalize upon the heart and soul of our culture, our men, and our women.

In addition, the overall style of the piece is reminiscent of the style utilized by Jacob Lawrence — it’s simplistic and includes basic color compilations, but conveys a resounding message that can be interpreted in any number of ways given a person’s experiences and perceptions.

Certainly, as African-Americans, we have demonized and generalized white men and women in our minds, and in our communities.

Certainly, as African-Americans, we have been subject to demonization, and struggle with the internalization of those demonized images and perceptions as actual representations of who we are, what we deserve, and what we expect of ourselves and of one another.

So, why — when faced with these images, have so many failed to recognize them? Why — when faced with these images, have so many quickly dismissed them as “demonic” or indications that Kanye has “gone crazy?”

Is it because this is the quick and easy thing to do? Or, is it because viewing these images externally through someone else’s interpretation causes a discomfort within ourselves that we are not yet ready and willing to confront?


  1. … and all this from the man who just got his bottom teeth replaced by diamonds … you know … they say there’s that fine line between genius and insanity … Prince has been walking it for decades ;)

    • whaaat?!

    • However the difference I feel with a person like Prince vs a person like Kanye is mostly that Prince was expanding sexuality for the betterment of the time period as a whole, whereas Kanye is in it for the shock of it all. Prince was a very sexual presence during a time when AIDS was first coming to mainstream attention and when homosexuality was still treated like a disease (even though that time period began the slow march forward we all continue to walk today). Kanye doesn’t seem to be doing his antics for a positive purpose, intentional or unintentional. Don’t get me wrong, Kanye is a brilliant artist and I don’t think Prince started out meaning to become an icon of hot androgyny but Kanye’s underlying message does not seem to be positive.

      Holly Tittle-Hudson
      • You know, I’ll agree that comparing Kanye to Prince is like comparing Janet Jackson to Miley Cyrus, but at the same time, I gotta give Kanye some props. nnI mean, at a time when records sales are hinged on cars, bitches, hoes, and bling, Kanye is dropping tracks like “Through the Wire,” “Jesus Walks,” “I’ll Fly Away,” Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” and pretty much the entire 808s & Heartbreak album was one big, fat risk. nnI mean, he’s no Talib Kweli or Mos Def, but in his own way, he’s bringing the message, and what’s most important — he’s evolving. nnI think he’s got a whole lotta love for the shock and awe factor, but man … did you see his latest interview on Ellen!? Ummmmm, Kanye’s been through something, and he’s def trying to share it the best way he can. nnI compared him to Prince because I think, similar to Prince, Kanye is approaching that area in his career where he just doesn’t care anymore and wants to create what he wants to create in an effort to express himself and connect with his audience … the trick, is going to be whether we continue to simply dismiss his efforts in a superficial manner AND whether he can deal with the fact that not everybody is going to ride the indie/underground train with him …

        • I can agree that he blew onto the scene essentially showing hip hop (and top 40 for that matter) that not everyone wants to hear about Eminem’s fantasies about beating his wife. Not everyone can relate to the whole “Money Cash Hoes” philosophy that was dominating music at that time (and sadly hasn’t gone away fully). But it makes me think, in 2004 when “The College Drop Out” hit the media, he had songs like “Jesus Walks” and “Through the Wire” to deal with his near fatal car accident. Since that album he has started going the way of other popular artists. “Welcome to the Good Life” is an amazing song ( I walked out of my wedding ceremony to the strings version ) but it’s all starting to lead away from the inspirational tracks he started out with. I’m just concerned that he is losing sight of the reasons he went into this business and what made him awesome and refreshing in the first place.

          Holly Tittle-Hudson
          • Yeah, that’s the truth. Neither “Graduation” nor “Late Registration” were as strong as his debut, his underground, or 808s. nnYou know, I think what’s getting me with this album is the fact that people are honestly and seriously dismissing the man’s work as “demonic” and “possessed” … I mean … really!?nnIt struck a cord in me because for so long, people have fallen back on that same hiding space, you know? Instead of looking deeply at something that may or may not challenge them, and may even make them feel a little uncomfortable … it’s just easier to say something’s “demonic” or “not of the Lord” and move on … without even giving it a fair chance … nnI honestly think the five covers have a lot to offer in the way of artistic presentation, and if folks could just give them a chance, you know? nnAnd “Runaway” … man … I’m impressed … I’m real impressed …

          • Musical progression through the years has been riddled with artists considered “depraved” “demonic” etc. Look at Elvis Presley. He was lewd for that time period. We went from a “lewd” Elvis to Britney and Madonna making out on stage. Marilyn Manson was shocking in everything he ever did, but now we have Lady Gaga, and people are cool with her self expression. nnIn every generation of music, there are those artists that push the boundaries almost to the brink of breaking. Then those who step through those opened doors. With “Late Registration” and “Graduation” I feel that Kanye was stepping through the doors previously opened by artists such as Outkast and Mos Def. I think Kanye is quickly solidifying his role as a door opener with 808s and now this new album. He is going to catch hell for it now, but it will allow for a new eccentric artist to step through and make awesome music.

            Holly Tittle-Hudson
          • That is the truth. Just the other day I was listening to some Lady Gaga song played backwards. Ppl were claiming it was some demonic declaration. I didn’t hear anything. nnYou know, the real test is if Kanye can keep it up and act right.

          • It’s one thing to be a visionary. It’s another thing to be a complete douche bag. His mother may be dead, but he needs to stop and think… would this strong, proud black woman want me acting like this? He isn’t honoring the memory of the woman who raised him and the only woman who he genuinely seemed to love and respect. I’m not saying he should make his life a shrine to her or anything, but if he would just take a second to think about his momma before he snatches Taylor Swift’s microphone, he could actually BE the visionary he proclaims to be.

            Holly Tittle-Hudson
  2. watch the whole movie, and it all makes sense… its brilliant. The music is amazing… and I am not a huge Kanye fan.

  3. There is so much I could go from the “white” perspective as well….I like that you mentioned, is the interpretation a discomfort (or causes one) within ourselves….? I would elaborate if you need be. wow.

    • Hey April,nnDefinitely! I mean, this post is meant to foster a discussion on our perspective of the message the art contains, no matter what that perspective may be. nnThanks for being willing to share!

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Lion's Historian, The Lion's Historian. The Lion's Historian said: Thought maybe I'd slather on a slightly different interpretation … "a [banned] runaway." — READ MORE http://t.co/H1JgrAc [...]

    Tweets that mention a [banned] runaway. « The Lion's Historian -- Topsy.com
  5. Even though I despise his ego, as each day passes, Kanye is becoming a more powerful political artist. Every piece of artistic content that he releases, whether it be his Runaway film or album cover, is meant to be provocative and startling for a REASON. I was uncomfortable with seeing this picture, but I was thankful that he made me uncomfortable. For one, the stereotype of black men as demonic, monstrous creatures is nothing new and with hip hop, something the larger society has yet to address. Additionally, the white woman, yes I said white woman because that’s what I processed her as first (and I’m sure he did this intentionally), made me question my feelings toward the stereotype of black men and white women interracially dating. There are so many prejudices rooted deeply in ourselves that we have yet to address. I hope he continues to make people uncomfortable because it’s the only way for us to start questioning our ideologies and begin change.

    Arielle Loren
  6. i love runaway. love it. and i love kanye. however it’s taking me some time to come around to viewing the video or his album cover as legitimate fine art. and really it’s just as much his fault as it is ours. throughout his career he’s had some real moments of vulnerability and truth, but they’ve been overshadowed by his ego and just generally not knowing how to act right.nnbut then he makes a mess that people wouldn’t just laugh off, went away for awhile and came back claiming vulnerability through imagery pretty foreign to hip hop and most of pop culture. nnhe hasn’t exactly set the stage for meaningful dialogue; i don’t look at him and think “man, i want to talk art with this cat”. i would expect him to pull a taylor swift fiasco on me before i would trust him to break it down again like that bush/katrina moment. so then how are we supposed to *want* to confront these things, these ideas with him or through his work? nnit appears that he’s ready to have a real conversation. it’s unfortunate only because is seems that most people think they’ve got him pegged and aren’t really looking or listening. not like they should be.

    • Ahhhhh … so you’re thinking this might be a bit of the “hip-hop artist who cried wolf?” … like how do we tell if he’s really getting ready to do something different, or if this is just the prelude to another PR stunt or public temper tantrum … ? nnYou know, I honestly can’t even say … I mean … it just might be … you’re right though, it sure does make it difficult to take an artist seriously when they’re constantly pulling stunts, sometimes for attention, other times ’cause they’re just drunk off their a** … nnYou know, it doesn’t excuse the accusations of Kanye being “demon possessed,” but your perspective does shed light on why many may find it difficult to take him seriously …

      • i cannot find *anything* on people accusing him of being possessed. is it the misinterpretation of his album art or him for the new direction he’s going in? link?

        • It was the definitely the album art, and unfortunately it was Facebook and Twitter posts. Let me see if I can find some RSS conversations …

          • um. is it bad that my first reaction is “wow…are they from kansas?”nnseriously though, i see what you’re saying now. because my second reaction is “oh they’re just silly, ignorant ppl.” it isn’t surprising, given the 1) lack of good art ed and 2) strong christian leanings in our country. but dismissing it doesn’t change anything. kudos to you for speaking on it.

          • *lmao* No, not at all. It is not bad that that was your first reaction, because mine was something like, “Really!? Where the hell are you from!? Who still thinks like that in this day and age!?” nnThanks for coming by and showing support! Hopefully, I’ll see you back around on Friday for my letter of the week. nnThis one’s addressing a certain … “plague” that’s affecting our country …

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Lion's Historian, Patrick Johnson. Patrick Johnson said: @vyzion360 BTW, great post! Loved the perspective on the banned album art. http://vyzion360.com/a-banned-runaway/ [...]

    Tweets that mention a [banned] runaway. « The Lion's Historian -- Topsy.com

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