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  • 24Jun

    On Yeezus, Judas, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Passion of Kanye West


    As the story of Yeezus of Chicago continues to unfurl, there now arises an intriguing question regarding this Judeo-Christian rap mythology being presented in real-time. If we are to suppose that in having God listed as a song collaborator that Kanye West truly qualifies for “Jesus” status, then there is a clear flaw in the telling of this story. In lacking a Judas – a questioning disciple who leads to his eventual capture – Kanye’s Yeezus ideal is ultimately thought provoking, but while still important performance art-as-theater, comes from a place of being theater of the absurd.

    It’s in Carl Anderson’s portrayal of Judas in 1973′s big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar where we get arguably the best interpretation of the dissenting Judas Iscariot. Extraordinarily dark skinned and draped in red, Anderson gives a vitriolic and character-defining performance.  After hanging himself post-receipt of 30 silver pieces for turning Jesus in to the Roman authorities, Anderson’s Judas (now an angel draped in a white, flowing robe and surrounded by lithe, dancing female cherubim) belts “Superstar,” a show-stopping funk rock anthem where he asks (among many questions) “Could Mohammed move a mountain or was that just PR?” It’s in that question where you question the audaciousness of Jesus’ story, and where the human element’s ability to meet fantastical notions is called into question.

    If looking at Kanye’s life-at-present as being lived as an extension of his re-formatting of the Bible, there are a two key alterations. Instead of loving the sinner instead of the sin, in procreating with Kim Kardashian, he’s taken “loving” the sinner to a strange new place that is hinted at in the on-screen interactions between Ted Neeley’s Jesus and Yvonne Ellman’s Mary Magdalene in 1973′s Jesus Christ Superstar. However, until now, the blasphemous notion caught no great public movement to being possibly accepted as truth.

    Most importantly, in his G.O.O.D. Music roster-as-apostles there is no Judas. There is not one man or woman in that clique who ultimately feels as though they will question Kanye’s proclamations. The rubber stamping of Kanye’s insane, yet well reasoned notions on Yeezus is frightening. Though the idea of releasing an incendiary recording that is wholly driven by creative over financial commerce is an important sign of the times, it’s the fact that he proclaims himself as a god and nobody seems to care that is troubling.

    The existence, then, of a “rap industry Judas” who can expose Kanye and saliently question his fanaticism is important. Just like Jesus, Yeezus isn’t meant to live forever. As well, Jesus never – as Yeezus has tried to on multiple occasions – judged himself, flogged himself and lifted himself onto the cross. I’m certain that the recording industry – much as King Herod in Superstar  says – thinks the following: “Jesus you just won’t believe / The hit you’ve made around here / You are all we talk about / You’re the wonder of the year,” but at the same time deep down inside knows that as many cripples as he heals and as much water he makes into wine, that while an extraordinary man, Kanye West is just a man, and needs to be balanced. However, to date, nobody has stepped up to take the 30 pieces of silver.


    Are other rappers afraid of Yeezus? Or, do other rappers just not care and hope that he goes away? Hoping for the latter is a hopeless proposition. While J.Cole’s album sales are great, for as many crooked smiles as the rising rapper has, he lags far behind Kanye West in cultural impact. The amount of cultural currency expended in reviewing, re-reviewing and discussing Kanye’s latest album is incredible, and marks the recording as a creative victory. Thus, like Jesus at the start of Superstar, Kanye’s power may truly be greater than ever before. More desperately than ever before, rap needs a Judas to accept the industry’s pittance and attempt to be as, or more culturally impacting – in a similar manner – to Yeezus West.

    Instead of Ted Neeley singing “Judas, do you betray me with a kiss” to Carl Anderson, there’s a rapper in the world somewhere right now that Kanye will hopefully respond to someday soon with “Judas, do you betray me with a diss?” Yes, the times have changed, and rules don’t exist, but balance is a standard still worth achieving.

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