The Moment You Realize Kanye Is In “The Sunken Place”
There’s been a change in Kanye West.
Anyone who has followed the man’s career from his 2002 “Champions” rap debut with Roc-A-Fella to his 2016 psychotic break during The Life Of Pablo Tour knows what I’m talking about. We’ve watched him drastically change from George-Bush-doesn’t-care-about-Black-people Kanye to dapping-up-with-Donald-Trump Kanye, from I-ain’t-saying-she-a-golddigger Kanye to marrying-Kim-Kardashian Kanye, and from polos and backpack Kanye to blonde hair and colored contacts Kanye.
But now, Jordan Peele’s Get Out has happened, and with each passing day since I saw the film, I am more and more convinced that Get Out is an adaptation of Kanye West’s life.
A quick recap (spoiler alert): Get Out is a horror flick that cleverly unpacks the social monster of racism. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, a black photographer who faces near death while visiting the family of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Rose’s mother (Catherine Keener) uses the trauma of Chris’s mother’s untimely death to hypnotize him into mental servitude, a.k.a. “the sunken place.”
What if Kanye’s been living in “the sunken place” since the death of his mother and has been trying to tell us through his music, public “rants” and relationships all along?
And my head keeps spinning
I can’t stop having these visions
I gotta get with it
– Kanye West, “Welcome to Heartbreak”, 2008.
Donda West, Kanye’s mother, died in 2007. Like, Chris from Get Out, Kanye has expressed feelings of guilt and helplessness surrounding her death. As a result, Kanye’s music transformed, giving us the melancholy tones and dark themes of 2008’s 808s and Heartbreak. If I had to give the sunken place a soundtrack, it would probably be the outro beat of “Say You Will,” a warping instrumental tune that lingers on for three minutes. Now, watch Ye’s video for his track, “Coldest Winter.” The image of the woman falling off a cliff is an even more haunting version of Get Out’s sunken place. These themes of depression, falling and suicide have been a constant in Ye’s music ever since.
You’re my devil, you’re my angel
You’re my heaven, you’re my hell…
You’re my freedom, you’re my jail...
Lost in this plastic light/ Let’s break out of this fake ass party/
Turn this into a classic night
If we die in each other’s arms/
Still get laid in that afterlife
- Kanye West, “Lost in the World,” 2010.
Kanye hasn’t been shy in admitting that “Lost in the World” from 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is about Kim Kardashian. However, Kanye’s love for Kim - at least how he describes it, “You’re my devil, you’re my angel”- is perverted fantasy. This perversion of love is similar to the twisted relationship between Chris and Rose in Get Out. A mentally vulnerable Chris confides in Rose his desire to leave her family’s home. Yet, after referencing the trauma of his mother’s passing, he won’t leave without her: “You’re all I’ve got,” he says. Later in the film, Rose literally holds the keys to Chris’s freedom. Like the lyrics of “Lost in the World,” Rose represents both Chris’s “freedom” and his “jail.”
SIDE NOTE: Interracial love police, don’t get mad at me and call me a reverse racist (no such thing). But when Chris has trouble choking out the women who literally tried to gun him down, even after seeing all the photos of her previous victims, I have to wonder… Similarly, Kim Kardashian has quite the line-up of victims (see all the black men who helped build the Kardashian empire). Just gonna leave that there.
I see the blood on the leaves
They throwin’ hate at me
Want me to stay at ease
Fuck you and your corporation
Y’all niggas can’t control me
I know that we the new slaves
- Kanye West, “New Slaves,” 2013.
In Get Out, the flash of the camera provides a brief window of escape from the sunken place. For example, the flash from Chris’s camera phone momentarily frees Andrew (Keith Stanfield) at the “party.” When Andrew awakens from his servitude, he desperately warns Chris to “get out.”
This is what the Yeezus album is to me: a camera flash moment of Kanye’s desperate plea for freedom. Kanye pushed boundaries stylistically with Yeezus, refusing to be controlled but simultaneously aware of his own bondage: “I know that we the new slaves,” he rapped. He even refused to “stay at ease” during his press tour, blasting society for not acknowledging his vision as a fashion designer. After turning up on Sway (“You ain’t got the answers, Sway!”) and on Jimmy Kimmel, media outlets claimed Kanye was having a psychotic break. But what if Yeezus Kanye was actually Real-Life Kanye trying to break out of the sunken place? What if we dismissed him as just a deranged man, snapping at the flashing lights of the paparazzi?
If your mama know how
You turned out, you too wild
You too wild, you too wild
You too wild, and I need you now
Lost in… my doubt
- Kanye West, “Wolves,” 2016.
I have long tried to figure out how Kardashian-loving Kanye and Yeezus Kanye could possibly be the same person. Thanks to Jordan Peele, I now see that Kris (Kardashian) Jenner has put Kanye in a trance. In Get Out, Rose’s mother, Missy, mind controls the Black servants and the entire family. If there is a real life example of a white woman controlling a family and pimping out her children to build a plantation, it’s Kris Jenner. When Kanye joined the family, she wasted no time using him for ratings on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and her own failing talk show.
Like in Get Out, Kris and Kanye discuss his mother’s passing and how Kim saved him. But the Kanye pictured in this interview is not the Kanye we know: empty smiles, higher-pitched voice, softer hand gestures - definitely not South-Side Kanye.
Comparatively, you would think that love would inspire a more optimistic project than 2016’s Life of Pablo. Yet Kanye is still expressing guilt from his mother’s death and the “doubt” of if she would approve of the man he has become, as depicted in the song “Wolves.”
As a fan who hopes to one day see the revival of the Kanye who once rejoiced in the face of adversity, like in “Through the Wire,” I have to wonder if he’s been dissected, used and left with only a shell of what he once was. And if a genius like Kanye can be Bound 2 the sunken place, we should all take this as a warning and GET OUT while we still have the chance.