BACON – #probablybaconsocks

NB: Apologies for my absence. I’ve had a lot of work going on here and there recently and unfortunately, as much joy as it brings me, volunteering my opinion about various lumps of fabric and leather has had to take a begrudging back seat.

Please do rest assured, I’ve been looking at the same lookbooks and editorials as you have and the pot is still bubbling. Some quick notes; no, I don’t like the RT AF1s; I don’t really get the big deal about the Pigalle ones either but good for the Paris crew for doing it; Box Logo hype is silly and is just going to result in another dead icon (see: Stüssy World Tour logo and Andre The Giant). That’s not to say it’ll ever reach the same scale, but take it from me, a few Summer weeks walking around Shoreditch seeing a Taxi Driver tee every five minutes is going to officially dead any sort of cultural or sartorial aura that the two t-shirts have and, that considered, I’d rather put my money into something substantial as opposed to simulated heritage. On that note…

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Lock up your daughters, burn down your accountant’s office and fire your graphic designer – BACON is back. The Tokyo collective of visual media artists and post-internet ambassadors has reconvened for a new collection of fashion pieces for Summer 2014. 

Following a hectic 2013 which saw the group creating exclusive visuals for C.E as well as shooting lookbooks for other labels in Japan, the group began circulating photographs of socks with their trademark scattered letter motif sparking rumours that, in the future, it was probable that Bacon was making socks. The wait is finally over, and yesterday our suspicions were confirmed with the release of a capsule collection suggestively titled, ‘#probablybaconsocks’.

sb_5The collection consists of a pair of socks and two strapback caps, each sporting the letters for BACON scattered across their bodies. The caps come in traditional BACON blue/white and black/orange colourways, whilst the socks get a simple black/white treatment. They’re socks, and they’re by BACON. Failing that, this much we know – they probably are.

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‘#probablybaconsocks’ comes accompanied by a lookbook starring BACON’s very own Pootee. Any attempt to describe BACON’s visual aesthetic usually results in me bursting out laughing before reverting to an uncomfortable but smug silence that suggests ‘I’m on some next level tip other people don’t get’, but equally suggests ‘I’m not sure that I get it either’, so I’ll limit myself to saying this – it’s visually stunning, it makes very little sense in the best way, and the photograph of Pootee laying face down in a pile of leaves moves me in equal parts to tears and to joy.

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BACON’s #probablybaconsocks collection released yesterday and sold out almost immediately. The group announced via their tumblr that they have ordered more stock and will be updating the website soon, so if you’re interested keep checking back at Bacon-Index and drop them an email. Let’s lay the facts out as we see them – a box logo t-shirt is definite hype. Pigalle x Nike AF1 is definite hype. These, if I’m not mistaken, are #probablybaconsocks. Thanks again and I hope to be back properly soon.

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Cav Empt (C.E) – Spring/Summer 2014 Video Lookbook

CE14SS_19Today saw the return of one of the big success stories of 2013. As outlined before,  Cav Empt (C.E) explores concepts surrounding post-structuralism and modern digital culture to create bold, futuristic clothing. The brand stepped quietly onto the scene in 2011 and has since garnered huge levels of attention, particularly in the past twelve months.

CE14SS_16Having employed the likes of D Double E and Zomby in previous lookbooks, the brand continues its use of British creatives for its latest video lookbook, with Actress both modelling and providing the soundtrack.

CE14SS_05Familiar motifs return for 2014 such as unorthodox use of graphic prints and materials, whilst the brand’s outerwear and constructed pieces become evermore developed. Alongside the brand’s trademark Ziggurat and Pre-Cog graphics, we can see new graphics that build upon concepts of simulation and reality. I especially like the ‘Everyone is a Replaceable’ graphic; it’s a solid and straightforward taste of the C.E philosophy.

CE14SS_15Likewise, the popular PVC coach jackets return in new iterations, along with the lightweight Trench jacket in a softened peach colourway. The spandex t-shirts that were introduced last season are back with even wilder prints; we’re talking WordArt logos, flaming bicycles and 3D Uzis.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 18.52.39Two really interesting introductions are the corduroy shorts and jacket with a screen-printed motif over the top. It’s the kind of stuff that could only come out of the mind of the C.E team. Likewise, the Plague Distressed hoodie is just mind blowing – slashes and rips all over with huge dropped shoulders and graphic prints on the ribs, and why the fuck not?

CE14SS_10Elsewhere we can see next generation interpretations of classic outerwear silhouettes. The denim rider jacket is a great example with some really interesting pocket placements, while the pullover anorak’s totally stripped-down design is another clean piece, tripped out with a wild graphic hit on the back.

CE14SS_06Overall the picture is clearer than ever in the C.E vision. When I wrote about the last collection I highlighted what I felt were clear  British influences from Feltwell in the design and styling. This season just screams out even louder to me with the short-bodied sweats and tapered bottoms. So many of the pieces seem like a halfway house between tracksuit steez and the football hooligan look and with Feltwell being a big fan of the UK house, garage and grime, it feels easier than ever to interpret C.E as some sort of sci-fi celebration of classic British Street Style.

CE14SS_01Beyond that, C.E’s brazen confrontation of 21st century consumer culture is just executed so well and always comes correct as a concept reinforced with substance. What better way to poke fun at our modern throwaway attitude than to make sweatshirts that look ready to bin, or a corduroy jacket with print-matted fibres like they’ve had paint spilled all over them?

CE14SS_11Every piece is cohesive as part of C.E’s in-your-face approach to the ‘practical impossibility of originality’, and as a result each piece just works. Presented as a full collection, it looks immediately miles ahead of anything else that’s coming out of streetwear right now. Fuck a stained glass window printed t-shirt, have some flaming bicycles and a load of quotes explaining why everything is fake as shit. It’s the kind of scathing satire that could only come from a British mind.

CE14SS_02But seriously, at this point my feelings about C.E are no mystery and it’s fair to say that the product remains highly conceptual. As far as I’m concerned, however, it’s nice to see a brand that dares to just do what the fuck it wants in an area of menswear that has, in recent years, begun to feel stagnated and self-parodying. I’d rather put my money into a tattered hoodie that’s full of holes from a brand with a rock-solid concept than put my money into a mediocre black-and-white hoodie from some dime-a-dozen label that is, itself, fundamentally full of holes.

CE14SS_08A huge aspect of the work of Baudrillard and other post-structuralists from whom C.E takes inspiration is modern culture’s ‘pursuit of the real’; in a world where everything is perpetually reproduced, replicated and simulated, we’ve become increasingly preoccupied in a chase of something that we can call ‘real’. We make films about our history that we celebrate for their realism and faithful representations, but we forget that all these things are just simulated realities, in the process forgetting what the real even was in the beginning.

CE14SS_12So, in creating these translucent trenches, elasticated t-shirts and ‘because it’s fucking different’ garment designs – not to mention poking holes in its product before it even reaches you – C.E is just reminding us of the game that every one of us is already involved in; a big painful struggle where we manipulate and bend meanings and use totally see-through simulations of reality to try and create some tangible idea of who we really are, lest we should find out that there’s actually no such thing. Try sleeping at night now.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 18.48.21You can view the C.E Spring/Summer 2014 Video Lookbook exclusively at the Cav Empt website right now. Pieces from the collection are available from their Online Store and deliveries will begin arriving in selected stores over the coming weeks. Keep your eye out and remember, it’s better to be dressed in the internet than to be dressed by the internet. Tread with care, digitally or otherwise. Safe.

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Interview with Silas Adler for Breaks Magazine

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Back in September, Soulland opened a pop-up shop at The Shop at Bluebird in West London to display their latest collections. I went over one morning for a conversation with brand founder Silas Adler and his business partner Jacob Kampp-Berliner. Some will remember my posts about their Babar the Elephant collection a while back. Already a firm supporter of their label, it was exciting to be able to sit down and pick their brains about the process behind the product. Lookng back, it’s safe to say that Adler and Kampp-Berliner did not disappoint.

You can read the whole interview right now at
BREAKSMAG.COM

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Interview with Greg Lucci for Breaks Magazine

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Photograph by Wayne Thomas

I recently met up with Greg Lucci, the man behind contemporary footwear brand Gourmet, to interview him for Breaks Magazine.

You can read the whole interview right now at
BREAKSMAG.COM

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Well Fed – Fall/Winter 2013 – ‘Cause of Death’ – Part Two

Shouts out to Well Fed who came through with the second part of their ‘Cause of Death’ collection earlier this week. Following on from the first segment of the season that was released back in September, the latest release revisits some familiar themes and presents a mixture of old favourites and brand new bangers as we enter the new year.

tumblr_mzd99c9oIh1qaouuqo2_1280The titular ‘Cause of Death’ design gets a revamp on charcoal with a black hit, and the seminal ‘Hold On To Your Friends’ graphic gets a long-sleeve treatment with a neat little screen on the left forearm.

tumblr_mzd99c9oIh1qaouuqo4_1280Two pocket tees also get a refined dose of the Well Fed flavour on the ‘Return to Sender’ and ‘Thick as Thieves’ tees, using classic hardcore visuals with a trademark sharp-tongued aesthetic. Likewise, the ‘Luxury’ tee blends elements of prison tattooing, DIY and black-heart humour with roman numerals signifying the ‘WF’ initial on the chest and Jon D’s classic illustrative style on the back.

tumblr_mzd99c9oIh1qaouuqo5_1280The highlight for me comes with the ‘Vicious Cycle 2’ design which takes a new approach to a design from a few seasons ago, using all of the elements of Well Fed aesthetic in really slick unison. Alongside that, the ‘Born Guilty’ hoody is just a straight banger, say no more, say no more.

tumblr_mzd99c9oIh1qaouuqo7_1280As far as I’m concerned, it’s another season down for Well Fed. With more and more brands coming to my attention through social media and the like, I’m seeing an increasing number of people rehashing the mainstream trends and getting mad props for it for a season or two before fading back into irrelevance. Well Fed has been rocking a style that is now so pervasive for a minute now, and it always came from a real place that’s relevant to the people behind it and the heads that make each season a sell-out. It’s just fundamentally real, no bandwagons, no hype-huggers.

tumblr_mzd99c9oIh1qaouuqo1_1280With this latest release nothing’s changed and a few hectic days have left me writing about a collection that’s already pretty much gone – apologies to the guys at Well Fed and anyone who missed out on pieces, been caught slipping.

tumblr_mzd99c9oIh1qaouuqo6_1280Having said that, if you hadn’t heard about Well Fed by now maybe you should shift your focus from Hood By Air and its millions of mediocre imitations, put some Bane on and get a bit of blood in your belly. You’ll thank me later, shouts out to Drake. Peace.

WELL FED IS AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY FROM THEIR ONLINE STORE RIGHT NOW, WITH SHIPPING AVAILABLE AROUND THE WORLD.

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Visvim WMV – Photo Editorial for Champ Magazine

A few weeks have now passed since the release of Visvim’s Fall/Winter 2013 ‘Dissertation on a Man With No Country Vol. 2’ collection, and the season has been one of the label’s most exciting yet, owing partly to the domestic success of founder Hiroki Nakamura’s new ‘Indigo Camping Trailer’ project and, elsewhere, to an ever-increasing interest in Visvim’s well-made product with integrity and character.  Another exciting development this season, however, has been the release of their inaugural womenswear collection, aptly named WMV.

Designed by Hiroki’s wife Kelsi Nakamura, WMV operates in the same ethos as its brother label producing timeless, quality pieces of clothing that are accessible and built to last. Typical elements of Americana and global nomadic cultures are present as ever in the collection, and releases so far have been well received by female customers.

Moving on, Champ Magazine has produced a photoeditorial of WMV F/W’13 for its latest issue, no7. Set against the aptly migrant backdrop of an old railway yard, the shoot stars Ami Sibi in a selection of pieces from the WMV collection and the result is pretty damn spectacular.

WMVFW13-01Classic elements of the Visvim style are immediately noticeable. Pieces are tastefully layered in tonal colour schemes, and light contrasts elsewhere draw emphasis on the texture of each individual piece. A notable hit from the collection, the brand’s corduroy Kilgore jacket makes an appearance, layered over a Lhamo shirt with their subtle tones playing comfortably against each other.

Elsewhere, the rustic aesthetic of the mainline Visvim collection has been slickly translated into the women’s realm, the indigo-dyed dress with its simple pattern and light accents around the collar serving a prime example.

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Likewise, the insulated Shamrock vest provides a practical but lightly stylised approach to womens’ outerwear that ticks all of the right boxes. Again, Nakamura’s blend of understated and accentuation is what brings each outfit into unison; there’s that same spirit of universality and accessibility that has made so many pieces of the Visvim mainline perennial essentials.

WMVFW13-03Finally, a few action shots bring a necessary spirit of adventure to the WMV Collection. Pieces like the Lhamo robe and the brand’s new women’s footwear make prominent appearances, whilst a shot of Sibi climbing out from beneath a train carriage, in my view, captures perfectly the Bedouin spirit that emanates from Visvim collections. Girls look great in Converse as well, so it’s nice to finally see some Skagways in female sizing; best foot forward and all that (I know, forgive me). Likewise, the brand’s collection of broadly inspired headwear pieces has been reimagined in female renditions and they genuinely look nothing short of fantastic.

Overall, having followed Visvim for a few seasons, I have always had a great deal of respect for Hiroki Nakamura’s ethos of good design and straightforward quality. Some people initially criticised his clothing for lacking the depth and character of Visvim’s footwear designs and there was a view that the apparel lines would need more work before they reached the same level of prestige.

WMVFW13-05A few seasons later, there’s no questioning the success of Visvim as a contemporary clothing label that weaves vintage textile aesthetics into modern production techniques. That blend of the character of the old with the calculation of the new has seen Nakamura doing truly unique things in fashion – do you know anybody else producing traditionally mud-dyed garments that are then treated with Gore-Tex? – and the completely independent spirit of the designer has elevated Visvim into a realm that is truly all its own.

WMVFW13-04Nakamura himself remarked upon his shock at the lack of true quality products in the world of womenswear, and cites this as his initial inspiration in creating WMV with Kelsi. A gap was identified so the couple necessarily filled it and, frankly, they have done so to great effect. The entire collection feels totally in sync with that original Visvim ethos and Ami Sibi looks beautiful in every single photo. Sitting neither as uninspiring off-the-hanger garments nor as upper-echelon couture constructions, it’s a multi-faceted approach to women’s clothing that contemporary fashion has been screaming out for as we pass through the 21st century.

WMVFW13-06Furthermore, these pieces help to deconstruct preconceptions of gender roles and classification. By reimagining the Visvim menswear line, WMV presents a bold new aesthetic for women’s fashion that recognises that sometimes women want to look good and feel comfortable just as much as men – I’m sure that women’s jaws are dropping left right and centre at that ground-shaking revelation.

I hope that more labels will take a considered lead from this and we’ll hopefully see a lot more of fashion’s boundaries breaking down over the next few years. I’m sure there are plenty of husky men out there that sleep easier at night knowing they’re safe behind a sexual barrier of ‘guyliner’ and ‘manbags’ but, frankly, this man can’t wait to see the back of all of that tedious red tape. WMV. It’s Visvim, but for women. It’s fantastic. Be fantastic. [Flutters away]

WMVFW13-07The photos that you see here were scanned from A La Champfest no. 7. To see more from the Champ team and to enjoy these photographs to their fullest potential, you can purchase a copy of the magazine from their Online Store right now and I highly recommend it. Peace.

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Simulated Realities – Dissecting Kanye West’s Video for ‘Bound 2′

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.19There’s been a lot of discussion about Kanye West’s latest music video for Bound 2. Considering the controversy that follows West wherever he goes nowadays – some incidents more deserving than others – it’s hardly surprising to hear that the rapper has divided audiences once more with his latest output. Working with renowned British fashion photographer Nick Knight, the four minute video is an onslaught of vivid cultural imagery and oft-unconvincing green-screen simulations, and the general reaction has been that ‘more’ was ‘expected’ from this creative duo.

Having watched the video a few times, I can see where these sentiments come from, but in the same way that the release of Yeezus was followed by comments that the album was nigh on impossible for the audience in terms of radioplay and commercial accessibility.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.01.48These comments are all well and good but it reminded me of comments West made in his interview with Zane Lowe on Radio 1 about how he produced Mercy with GOOD Music because he knew it would be a hit single. It was simple and easy and made a lot of money, and at that point West already felt as though he had proven his ability to make radio-friendly hits, and felt more than entitled to exercise artistic liberties. Quite right, Mercy is a banger and still better than half the Top 40 dirge out there at the moment.

So basically, taking a look at West’s recent history like his Zane Lowe interview, the merchandise for the Yeezus tour, the few elements of the Yeezus Tour set design with which I am familiar – having not been able to see the show myself – I think it’s important to treat this latest work as a text to be analysed like any other, and there are some interesting points raised once we begin to look beneath the surface.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.01.46Firstly, let’s look at how the video starts; long shots of hilltops, mountain skylines, rushing time-lapses of passing clouds, shots of the Grand Canyon. A majestic eagle spreads its wings as it passes us on the screen, shortly followed by shots of wild white horses running through splashing water and across an open plain. Very quickly, it becomes clear that this film is about America, its historic Frontier Spirit and the American Dream. Shots looking down on the world from on high suggest a man at the very top of his game, while the wild horses present notions of unbridled passion and pure, natural energy.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.01.51The video quickly cuts to close-up shots of West’s face and simulated footage of the rapper riding a motorbike through the mountains, inter-spliced with silhouette shots of a female figure laid back on a motorcycle. Yet more images of classic Americana are fed to us but increasingly their inauthenticity becomes prominent; this motorcycle ride is clearly simulated, and the scene behind West often becomes distorted and blurred; could it be that West himself is unsure of the image that he is trying to project?

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.04Shots of Kim Kardashian then follow, splayed across the same motorbike, cut alongside shots of her face, blonde hair, wind blowing, as if she were the star in an advertisement for perfume or a similar luxury product.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.24The video then cuts to footage of Kanye and Kim simulating sex whilst riding through a forest setting before moving to another classic American scene; Route 66. Moving beyond the forest’s subtle allusions to the Bible and Genesis, we are again presented images of the West couple indulging in an archetypal vision of American liberation – how many songs can you think of that talk about riding on down Route 66?

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.13The whole time that this happens, the two behave in a way that actively violates and disrupts the physical reality of the implied scene; Kim rides Kanye and kisses him lovingly, at points she vanishes entirely before reappearing on the motorbike, he raises his arms and they’re suddenly flying through the air. The two are engaged in the total liberation of the realisation of a dream world.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.49Bringing things back to reality, it’s important to consider where Kanye West has come from. Born in Atlanta before moving to Chicago, Kanye west has grown up in two cities in America with notorious social divisions along class and racial lines; if you haven’t watched Chiraq by Will Robson-Scott yet, it’s only 13 minutes long and I really recommend it. Growing up in that environment until the age of ten, it’s not a stretch to assume that during his time in school and elsewhere he came into contact with the shining beacon of the United States: The American Dream.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.14In the US Constitution, the American Dream is founded upon the principle that ‘All Men are Created Equal’. Branching out to more liberal definitions, there is a general spirit that any person can start from the bottom and build themselves up to realise their own success and to truly live their own ‘dream’ in America.

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Footage of Kardashian is similarly provocative to the American Spirit. Many of the shots, for me, immediately hearkened back to Madonna’s video for Ray of Light. Although tenuous on my part, it remains a bold reference to one of America’s most famous female pop stars; blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin, named after the archetypal woman, perpetually reinvented and always welcomed back with open arms – if you disagree with this sentiment then read more about Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson and see if you still think Madonna had it hard.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.13.50Kardashian is in fact the daughter of an Armenian immigrant and is not herself an ‘American’ either, but with her hair blonde and flowing in the wind, subtle nods to classic imagery of beautiful Western women dripping in each shot, West highlights the idea that Kim has necessarily had to ‘assimilate’ in order to be accepted; almost every shot of her face is superimposed over this dominating image of the Western Frontier, unifying her beauty with that of the American aesthetic, not her own personal story. Though Kanye is central in the video, there are moments when Kardashian’s mouth moves almost as if singing a melody and her role within the scene is virtually equal to West’s. Interestingly however, the anger is still directed in one direction when the comment sections blow up. Hint: It isn’t to the ‘white woman at the top floor’ – it’s at ‘King Kong’.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.04.26In the Bound 2 video, Kanye west has placed himself in a physical representation of the American Dream. The classic scenic imagery, the visual signifiers in the eagle and sprawling highways, it all culminates into the idea that Kanye has dominated this landscape. The problem for the audience arises because the entire scene is so clearly simulated; we could perhaps forgive West if it wasn’t so painfully obvious that the motorcycle is in front of a green screen in a studio, but it’s so obvious that we feel almost insulted.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.03.30Returning to Kanye West’s story, his life adds depth and weight to this backdrop. Spending his childhood in disenfranchised parts of America and truly building himself up from the bottom, it could be argued that Kanye West is one of the real-life embodiments of the American Dream being realised; he had a dream, he followed it and made it happen, and now he’s truly ‘free’ to do what he wants to do artistically, professionally and so on.

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But, if we look at the way Kanye West is portrayed in the media, such as reactions to his outburst at the MTV Awards – come on guys, the Beyoncé video was absolutely incredible and we all know the decision was politics – or media outlets that turn every single vocalization of his into ‘a rant’, it’s quite clear that ‘America’ (or at least, it’s representatives in the media and politics) aren’t happy about West’s own realisation. It could be argued that the ‘Keepers of the Gate’ to the American Dream have tried persistently to keep West out. Remember Hedi Slimane at PFW; people really don’t want him playing in their sandboxes, but they’re awfully ambiguous about why.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.02.32But hold on, if all men are created equal, if the dream is accessible to all, then who are these gatekeepers that perpetually deny Kanye’s right to the dream? How can it be that in the ‘Land of the Free’ and the ‘Home of the Brave’, he is constantly reminded of where he cannot go and what he cannot achieve? Why is it that the rapper-designer-artist-fashionista-creative is told, over and over again, to go back to hip-hop where he belongs?

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.04.19In the same way that Kanye and Kim violate the physical realities portrayed in Bound 2, West feels that the very foundation of the American Dream is being violated by external forces – manipulated and controlled. In fact, it could very well be that the American Dream is not real at all, that it is just another simulation, and one in which West, and millions of people like him, will always be ‘out of place’. Despite his life playing out as a physical embodiment of the American Dream, West continues to be demonised for his work. Why does he look so out of place on that motorcycle? The same reason all the townsfolk kept staring at Django on that horse.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 14.03.10Kanye knows that the image of the American Dream that is fed to thousands of people across America, particularly young people, is not the whole story; as one of the few people that made it out of those marginalised American communities, he knows all too well that the scenes constructed for the American Dream were never built with people like him in mind. That he would ever be able to be ‘fully in the scene’ was never in doubt for him, and perhaps this video isn’t to do with the falsehood recognised by the many audience members; perhaps it’s to do with the falsehoods that they fail to recognise elsewhere.

As a result, in the same way that we feel cheated to see this ‘half-finished’ video that barely even tries to convince us of its authenticity, West too feels cheated by a philosophy that screams Opportunity and American Dream, but always refuses to relinquish the keys when that opportunity finally knocks.

Just as we could forgive Kanye if the scene wasn’t so lacking in authenticity, West too feels like he could forgive the mainstream media and American society for its denial of his right to success if it didn’t do so under a manipulative veil of equality and opportunity. Yes, Bound 2 presents a totally fake and falsified notion of the American Dream; what West is asking is where the real image can be found.

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