Kanye West released his “Famous” music video Yeezy Season 3 style—fans and close friends of the rapper gathered at The Forum arena in L.A. to watch the highly anticipated premiere, the same way he debuted his latest collection and album. But this time, the outcome was so much more surprising.
The visuals start out with an image of angelic clouds as West rants, giving a nod to Saint Laurent, “We culture, rap is the new rock and roll. We the rock stars. It’s been like that for a minute Hedi Slimane!”
A hyper-speed montage follows, including his infamous Taylor Swift interruption at the VMA’s, mentions of George Bush and nude bodies lying in sheets.
As the music begins—Rihanna’s vocals start out the track—the camera pans over faces of naked people sleeping in a bed together, and it’s quite the unexpected orgy: George Bush, Anna Wintour, Donald Trump, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, West himself, Kim Kardashian, Ray J., Amber Rose, Caitlin Jenner and Bill Cosby.
Including Rihanna is a hat tip to their musical collaborations, but adding Chris Brown is a reminder of their tragic abusive relationship. West lies next to his wife, but he also includes their respective exes, Amber Rose and Ray J. Then, there’s Jenner, a family member and trailblazing trans icon, and Wintour, to acknowledge West’s dive into the fashion world. He also includes news-making figures he’s publicly commented on, like Cosby, a suspected rapist, whom he tweeted about earlier this year (“BILL COSBY INNOCENT!”) and George Bush, whom West criticised for not caring about black people. And if it wasn’t controversial enough, he added Donald Trump in the mix.
Of course, Swift’s appearance in the film nude is the most surprising, especially since there was so much back and forth between her and West over whether she approved of the song’s lyrics or not. After “Famous” premiered, Swift spoke out against the lyrics’ misogynistic message, but West responded saying she approved of the words when they talked on the phone. Kim Kardashian recently added that Swift already knew of the song, saying Swift was “playing victim” in her complaints. But Swift’s reps clarified that West never played the song for her to begin with.
West has yet to confirm how much of the video includes those actual celebrities and how much is CGI, but that mystery just adds to the video’s genius, if you want to call it that. The visuals took over three months to create and West was making final edits the day of the premiere. The resulting tableau, though shocking, is a parallel to Vincent Desiderio’s Sleep. He referenced a work of art while trying to make one of his own.
Full video available on Tidal