A single piano key is struck with a melancholy echo. In that moment a low, dirty tone and drum beat sets in. A toast is made by rap star Kanye West to all the “douche-bags,” “assholes,” “jerk-offs” and other empathy challenged folks.
This is West and his song. The artist has become known for his many outbursts and shenanigans. In his latest single, “Runaway,” West doesn’t deny it.
It’s a funny thing to hear this admission from a guy who gets so much flak for his ego-tripping and award show faux pas. His bad behavior would usually call for an image cleaning by a publicist. Nope. He would propose a toast instead because he’s got the talent.
An overabundance of confidence is part of his DNA and without it he wouldn’t be the same artist. His last album release, 808s and Heartbreak, was something a sad and wounded West made. “Runaway” is something a West back on top of his game has made.
As a single the song bodes well for West’s latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. His lyrics are entertaining, intelligent and honest. He’s aware of his image and how it’s shifted since his last release and is willing to dissect it.
Hubris is a big part of what makes West entertaining. This is song boiled down to a simple thesis: I’m an asshole, but it’s the only way I know how to be. It’s an anthem for the hubris and the bad behavior fans and media love to watch and listen to.
Whether it’s Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, Cypress Hill or Young Buck, they are part of hip-hop. Fans want to sing along with Jay when he says he’s the greatest. For a brief moment one can pretend they’re on top of the world. For someone who feels powerless it’s a nice dream to have.
What makes “Runaway” a good song is how West explores the relationship between listener and artist and how this affects his own personal life.
Outside of the public eye, living the life of an ass is bad for relationships, and the song explores that aspect of stardom. West can’t help himself. He states plainly he isn’t going to change and provides a simple solution at the end of the chorus by singing, “Baby, I got a plan. Run away as fast as you can.” There’s no reading between the lines in those lyrics.
West’s honesty about his own faults and natural confidence makes the song compelling. It’s an anthem and a tragedy born from real insight into his character. The rest of his album maintains the level of artistry in “Runaway,” giving West even more to toast.