This Is My Jam: Kanye West “Runaway”

by on November 19, 2013

Posted in: Concert

When I was in high school, I considered myself a fan of Kanye West. Not a “superfan” or a “casual fan.” Just a fan. As in, I knew all of the words off of all of the songs on Graduation but I only knew a handful of tracks beyond the singles on all of his other albums. I watched his videos and read all of the news articles. I chose Team Kanye over Team TSwift. A fan.

This changed my senior year, that year spent standing on the edge of adolescence looking over at adulthood (until you jump over the chasm and realize you just landed in “extended adolescence”.) It was a time that felt urgent and monumental and special. Music wasn’t the hugest thing for me and my friends. We all listened to our own stuff, sometimes with overlap or communal mixtapes, but for us to talk about it, it had to be huge. We talked about the “Bad Romance” music video the morning after it was released.  If we were in high school now we would be talking about the entire Miley Cyrus train-wreck; the new Lorde album. We talked about things that were unifying, cultural elements. Things that felt urgent and monumental and special. And in November of 2010 all we were talking about was My Beautful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Twisted Fantasy was an album that captured all of those feelings, despite being so completely removed from our small-town talk and shakedowns. When it gets dark around 4 and that darkness stretches on for months, when you drive day after day past bare trees and grey skies, you need a fantasy so  bold that it can transport you from the natural misery. You need a fun-house mirror to show back your silly fights, loves, and ego. You need something that feels as big as your stupid dark twisted reality. Kanye West delivered. And how exciting to feel that you are living in the time of music so relevant. How strange to know that you are living in a future historical moment in art. We could feel it.

This past weekend I got to see the Yeezus tour which had a similar appeal: the feeling that I was witnessing something Important; that I was getting to see somebody that people will be talking about for years, decades, centuries in the future. The sort of thing you can tell your kids about. From bringing 12 women out in nude bodysuits who thrust Kanye over their heads to seeing the rapper hanging off a rising cliff as snow began to fall during “Coldest Winter”; from the appearance of a man dressed as Jesus ascending over the stage to Kanye jumping amidst pyrotechnics exploding from a glacial volcano, the show was moment after moment after moment. Urgent. Monumental. Special.

But of all of the moments, I do not think anything in any of my concert-going experience will ever top what happened in the middle of “Runaway.” An already riveting and  fantastic performance that began with Kanye rolling out his sampler and playing single notes, leaving the audeince screaming for more, slowed and Kanye began talking. He brought up all of the interviews he’s been doing, he talked about all of the tours he’s done. He begged “What does it take to prove that you’re creative?” He told the audience he loved us and that he also loves talking shit. I laughed, gasped, and stood completely rapt. It was so ridiculous, weird, and unreal. This is what the entire experience of Kanye West in my life, Knaye West on tour, Kanye West in our musical patchwork is all about. That he preceded it with “Lost In The World” (And then followed it up with my favorite Kanye track, Street Lights- which, in my already vulnerable state, made me tear up-was just a billion cherries on top of the best cake I’ve ever had.) After Kanye stopped talking, the music still low, everyone in the audience sang the chorus of runaway so softly, so beautifuly, so strangely that I got chills.

I always find, I always find something wrong, you been puttin’ up with my shit just way too long

It’s a lyric anyone can relate to and in that moment that we all sang, we all related, and it was exactly the opposite of a small town shakedown. It felt like the whole world was a little bit okay and that for a millisceond all 13,000 of us singing were on the same page. It was a church choir, it was a sentimental sing-along around a campfire, it was quieter, and soft, and crass. It was a Kanye West concert. Urgent. Monumnetal. Special.

Praise Yeezus.

Though it feels sacrilige, if you want to experience it for yourself, somebody captured the entire speech and posted it on youtube. Check it out, but I swear it can’t even begin to compare.