Kanye West hosted a screening of his music film “Runaway” last night for a coterie of industryites, actors and musicians at Hollywood’s Harmony Gold screening room, concluding with a remarkable address from the rapper-producer.
The 35-minute film, directed by West and written by musicvideo auteur Hype Williams, featured West as himself, and Selita Ebanks as a phoenix-human hybrid who falls to earth and in love with him. Featuring around half a dozen full new songs and snippets from several more, “Runaway” was half impressionistic musicvideo and half big-budget fashion promo, and featured a Michael Jackson-lead Klan rally, a ballet interlude, French subtitles, some tasteful Kanye-on-bird sex, and one catastrophic turkey dinner.
The songs on display exhibited a lushness that’s been missing from West’s music since his Jon Brion-assisted sophomore LP, and seemed to serve as an encapsulation of his career so far. There was hard-hitting, cinematic boom-bap that wouldn’t have been out of place on a mid-’90s Bad Boy cut, alongside AutoTune ruminations, touches of folk and one uncategorizable ballad boasting highly-processed vocals from Alicia Keys, John Legend, Ely Jackson, Rihanna, Fergie, The-Dream and Elton John. Yet the film’s highlight had to be “Runaway,” bookended here with a long, beautiful instrumental coda containing enough overlapping waves of distortion to suggest West has been listening to plenty of My Bloody Valentine alongside his Bon Iver and King Crimson.
Nothing heard last night immediately screamed “hit single” (then again, neither did “Stronger” on first listen), but this was meticulously-crafted, adventurous music nonetheless. Presuming his weekly song giveaways on Twitter haven’t sated appetites too much, “Fantasy” ought to be huge.
The remarks that followed were equally revelatory. In lieu of a promised Q&A, West instead took the stage and delivered a long, stream-of-consciousness address. Topics ranged from the virtue of “thinking like a five-year-old” to Yeezy’s theories on art and reflections on his time interning at Italian fashion house Fendi. (“I wouldn’t compare myself to Karl Lagerfeld,” Kanye demurred at one point. Then he compared himself to Karl Lagerfeld.)
Things turned abruptly somber when West remarked that he currently has “no mother, no grandmother, no girlfriend and no daughter,” and he appeared to choke up as he admitted contemplating suicide during his stint as a national pariah last year, during which he said he stopped making music for the first time in a decade.
“I’ll never give up on life again,” West announced to loud applause, then alighted to the patio for drinks.