Helping Kanye keep it real

By Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post
Posted June 22, 2013, at 8:17 a.m.

Dear Kanye,

Congratulations on “Yeezus,” the new album, and North, the new baby!

You have described yourself as the Steve Jobs “of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period.” whose instinct to avoid regret has “only led me to complete awesomeness at all times.” You say, “I understand culture. I am the nucleus.” I do not doubt this. I hear that “Yeezus” was inspired by a Corbusier lamp! That sounds pretty rad. I just Googled some pictures of Corbusier lamps, and I can kind of see it, although I might be looking at the wrong lamp, which would be really embarrassing.

“Why are you writing this?” you’re probably asking yourself. (Oh, who am I kidding — you will never read this. You are off somewhere being fanned by people with palm fronds and trying to decide what items we little people are going to buy as Christmas presents in 2043.)

Well, I’m glad you asked! I appreciate your lyricism and the raw, stripped-down, undefinable thingness of your new album, but as a student of the classics and a fan of popular cinema, I feel compelled to register a complaint.

In the chorus for “Black Skinhead,” you remark that you are “Keeping it 300 like the Romans” and ask “300, [ladies], where’s the Trojans?”

Those were not Romans. Those were Spartans.

I’m not saying this only as a classicist. In the movie “300,” Gerard Butler specifically yells, “This is SPARTA!” to forestall any confusion on this point, helpfully punctuating this information by kicking a man down a large well.

On Rap Genius, an apologist has explained this away with: “Also, the Roman Numerals for 300 are CCC, an initial-ism for Calm Cool and Collected — Commonly mistaken for a film-mix up this is actually one of the most genius lyrics ‘Ye has written. To one who is not attentive to Kanye’s lyrical intricacies, this may seem like a mistake. But Kanye is really just ‘cool, calm, and collected’ no matter what — he’s always a few steps ahead of the common man. A real Jesus figure.” And on the website KanyeToThe it is explained as an instance of you creating your own reality.

This is another way of saying that it is not correct.

I realize that being memorable yet wrong is the key to a lot of famous lyrics. “Uno, dos, tres, catorce” — the beginning of U2’s “Vertigo” — is wrong, or at least highly irregular. Everything Alanis Morissette says in “Ironic” is, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong, if what she’s trying to describe is “irony” and not “misfortune.” Love, actually, has a lot to do with it, and once you have “us” and “trust” assembled you should probably at least contemplate how it fits into the picture.

Still, I assume that the Romans/Spartans confusion was an oversight on your part, and I would like to suggest some alternative lyrics that scan just as nicely:

Keeping it 300 like the Spartans

CCC, like I looked in tartans! (This one is my favorite.)

Keeping it 300 like the Romans

Specifically 1/20th of a legion, which was a thing that Romans had

Keeping it aqueduct like the Romans

Keeping it Polanski, like certain Romans (Probably don’t go for this one.)

Keeping it numeral like the Romans

Meretrix, supply some Trojans! (This is politer than what you originally had.)

In an Empire state like the Romans

Who claimed to be descended from Trojans

Through the myth of Aeneas detailed by Virgil in ‘The Aeneid’ (You might have to move some lines around, but it would be worth it for overall accuracy.)

Keeping it 300, like the Spartans!

Picking up Oscars like Marcia Gay Hardens (This is nearly a rhyme, but then again, so is Romans/Trojans.)

Keeping it 300, like the Spartans

With a wide array of fine, glossy coats, like the martens (I found this one on RhymeZone.com; the marten is a member of the weasel family.)

Keeping it 300, like the Spartans

I would be a better president than Van Buren, Martin (Actually, some say Van Buren’s leadership is underrated, but this is a fun controversy you could ignite.)

Keeping it 300, like the Spartans

300, [ladies], where’s the Trojans? (You don’t need to rhyme! You’re the Steve Jobs of culture!)

Thank you for your consideration, Mr. West, and congratulations again on your many life milestones!

 Alexandra Petri is a columnist for The Washington Post.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/22/opinion/helping-kanye-keep-it-real/ printed on May 26, 2015