Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who Will Survive In America?

On the last day of class, Chris played for us a track by Gil Scott-Heron who passed away just last year. 

I had never made the connection before, maybe because its not explicitly stated in the title, that Kanye West features Heron in the song "Who Will Survive In America?" in his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The song criticizes the image of America and the corrupt systems that it holds. The line, "America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey"is a clear indication of this. It expresses that idea that the American ideal, "milk and honey," is not what it actually seems. The speaker later states that, "we learned to our amazement, the untold truth of scandal." I find this to be sarcastic because it is obvious in the track that the speaker is distraught about corruption and inequality in America. The lines literally says that society continues to be surprised by the secrets of the government that are uprooted, but carries the basic message that people shouldn't be "amazed" because of the corruption that already exists. The motif of secrecy is also evident in the line, "Democracy, liberty, and justice were revolutionary code name/ That preceded, the bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling/ In the mother country's crotch." The line suggests that these "code names" were used to mask the fraudulent ideal of freedom that were imposed during the creation of the country. Although I find this to be a harsh critique of America's ideals, I do find truth in it. In the song, the speaker calls freedom a "rapist" -- "free-DOOM." While it might sound like he's denying freedom as something positive, I think the comparison is made to suggest that the freedom that is said to be given to us, it not very free at all. Racial inequality in America contributes majorly to the message of the song. Although there is no explicit statement regarding race, with the mention of Nat Turner being a "good guy"suggests a distorted vision on what constitutes as someone to be admired. Despite the fact that he led a slave rebellion, many blacks, most innocent, faced brutal deaths as a consequence and life for slaves worsened due to new policies. 

How do you feel about Kanye's addition of this track to his album, and why do you think he did it?

1 comment:

  1. I always felt that Kanye does take himself kind of seriously sometimes. The use of "Who Will Survive in America" track is one example of this. In an album mainly dealing with self-reflection, such social commentary isn't really needed and gets in the way. However, I will say that the Heron's speech is really powerful and speaks to the history of this nation, so I will excuse it.

    The way that Heron compares freedom to a rapist is very apt. Freedom comes to a place whether its wants it or doesn't want it. And as it was breeding in Britain, it came over to America. Just as America was free from Britain, so would blacks be "free" from racism. The reason being that freedom comes to a place eventually.

    Kanye probably used "Who Will Survive in America" to get his listeners thinking. Has racism really fallen in America? Do these words that were said in the '70s still apply today? If so, how much do they apply? That's why I think that this track seemed, although unnecessary, important to sample on his album.


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