Periscope Depth

I’m trippin’ off the power

New post up on Overthinking It this morning, taking a look at Kanye West’s single “Power” and his live performance of it on SNL.

The second verse of “Power” started off as a personal reflection on the travails of becoming a world-famous MC. When you become successful, you make a lot of enemies. You also goad a lot of people into making fun of you, like SNL. So Kanye fired a shot off against SNL for having dissed him in the past. SNL responded by inviting him to perform. If we view this as a power play between two forces in popular culture — Kanye vs. Lorne Michaels — that was a cunning riposte on SNL’s part. By having him on their show, SNL could co-opt his language. They would own it, at least in part, by having given him a venue from which to rap.

Kanye’s response was to change up that second verse into something completely different. As a power play, that’s a frankly astonishing response. It’d be equivalent to Campbell’s asking Andy Warhol to exhibit Campbell’s Soup Cans at their headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, and Warhol showing up with a robot made out of a microwave oven. SNL thought they were showing how cool they were with being told to kiss Kanye’s ass(hole). Kanye played it off like he had something else entirely to say.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-check it.