Kanye West – Reanimator

The waiting was gruesome, but Kanye never faltered. Every now and then he applied his ear to the chest of the specimen, and bore the negative results in typical Kanye fashion: by throwing a non-sequitur rant. He’d wax hyperbolic about breadth and width of his art, claiming that it couldn’t be contained by mere genre conventions like “life.”

Growing up in a Dutch suburbia, which to friends, acquaintances, and the occasional individual in the pub I often refer to as “The Whitest Place on Earth”, my fascination for Kanye West was only inevitable. As far as our similarities go, we both studied English and once rewarded ourselves with pet fishes for a major achievement. At the age of seven I bought a gold fish with my pocket money after I got my swimming diploma; Kanye purchased an 18th century aquarium with 30 koi fish after the successes of College Dropout (2004). Both well-deserved rewards I would say, but undoubtedly my fascination is more based on the allure of otherness than on the comfort of familiarity. And so I have no illusions that my attraction to the Other is any better than a white baggy trousered teenage boy shouting “Fuck the Police!” from his new housing estate bedroom or any other instance in which black culture becomes, as bell hooks puts it, “a seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture”[1]. Not wishing to participate in this white escapism, my affairs with Kanye are strictly private and rarely find their way past my own ivory white bedroom door. Instead, I indulge in his music the way I experience a Thomas Pynchon novel: from a respectable and self-aware distance but engaged enough to be overwhelmed by the sheer genius of it all.

So of Kanye West, who is a more than frequent appearance on my Spotify playlist, I can speak only with extreme awe. Imagine my delight when the Writer’s Block’s editorial board gave me a mashup of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic sci-fi story Herbert West – Reanimator starring this pompous contemporary enigma. Don’t let the novella’s size fool you; though it is, like Kanye himself, rather short (a mere 70 pages), Kanye West – Reanimator is a story of mythical proportions. From the recollections of Kanye’s one-member posse, we read about the hip-hop artist’s path toward fame. Driven by a burgeoning god complex, we follow Kanye in his attempts to save hip-hop from the perpetual doldrums of mainstream entertainment by resurrecting The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac – literally, resurrecting them. That is, Kanye’s music is of course so fresh that it cannot be contained within mortal bounds. After all, “since his music could reanimate dead careers, why not the literal human dead?” (8).

And so even though the two come across some practical issues along the way with both Biggie and Tupac being cremated – the notorious A.S.H.E.S. of the former resting safely in a ceramic urn in his mother’s bedroom, while the ashes of the latter had allegedly largely been rolled up and smoked by his crew, The Outlawz – Kanye is adamant in pursuing his ambitions. Tragically, Kanye’s unyielding search for immortality becomes fatal for his closest circle of friends: his mentor and confidant Jay-Z finds a harrowing fate, being decapitated by a sword handling Paul McCartney during the recording of “FourFiveSeconds”. He is reanimated by Kanye, head and body separately. Donda West, Kanye’s most beloved mother, is both heartbreakingly and disturbingly brought back to life with “Love Lockdown”.

The story may sound like a lost episode of South Park – granted, much of its humor draws from absurdism and the inexhaustible well of Kanye West inside jokes – but Lovecraft/ Chaplinsky’s elegant writing style with its grandiose words and archaic voice adds a layer of uncanny sophistication. The language and style which the unnamed narrator employs to portray Kanye West reminds one of the way Sal Paradise memorizes Dean Moriarty and Nick Carraway talks about Jay Gatsby – a narrative style, I think, of which Kanye West himself can only approve. Kanye West- Reanimator is not a page turner – the voice of Lovecraft’s 1920s calls for a slow-paced reading – but the novel is easily finished within a few hours and allows many rereading sessions to spot the overlooked obscure puns, jokes, and references.

Throughout the novel it becomes apparent why Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator, out of the entire Anglo-Saxon canon, provides the best context for a satirical story about Kanye West: it is a story about outlandish egos, god complexes, and ambition. In other words, Lovecraft created a world so cacophonic that only insanity, or Kanye West, could create it.

[1] hooks, bell. “Eating the Other.” Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press, 1992. p. 21.

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