At first, it may seem a little strange that Steve McQueen and Kanye West would collaborate – they seem to be almost polar opposites in their approach to fame and art. Both may have been fine artists before ultimately moving on to different art forms, and both may be one of the best working in their respective field, but there is something that strikes as strange about a collaboration from one of the most outspoken stars alive right now and a director who, in spite of his almost unfathomable degree of success, tends to stay out of the spotlight most of the time. When McQueen’s music video dropped, however, things became much clearer – evidently, he understands Kanye quite intimately and, more importantly, he knows how to allow him to be vulnerable during a period of his life (the Yeezus stage!) when he was spending most of his time doing anything but.
Opening with the extremely high octane and energetic ‘All Day’, McQueen’s camera moves in close to Kanye in an entirely empty warehouse (save for some speakers) and tries its best to keep up with him as he sprints around this open space and brags to the camera in what is still a surprisingly hardcore track, full of pride and joy to such an extent that it became a huge moment for Grime and British hip-hop when Kanye performed the song at the Brits in 2015, live with accompaniment from huge grime artists such as Skepta on stage with flamethrowers, dressed in all black (leading to the sample on Skepta’s single ‘Shutdown’ of a woman claiming to be intimidated by the performance). The song itself is fantastic, but there is something about the way that McQueen’s camera desperately tries to keep up with Kanye that seems to speak to his life in stardom: Kanye lusts for the media attention a lot of the time, or at the very least he appears to, diving in front of the camera that at times actually reverts and tries to avoid him (only to fail).
This part is quite diacritical though, and the power of it only becomes clear when the second half of the video begins. An exhausted Kanye slumps into the corner of the room, as the camera comes startlingly close to his face and he starts to perform ‘I Feel Like That’, a song which sees him completely disarm himself and his public persona (which was shifting from the previously mentioned Yeezus era towards The Life of Pablo, a far more vulnerable record that saw Kanye reclaim his Christianity rather than claim himself as God) and admit his struggles with mental health, citing symptoms of crippling anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The song, completely different to the track that preceded it, remains the most vulnerable that Kanye has ever released, and McQueen’s directorial approach of keeping the camera so close to Kanye’s lethargic face is devastatingly impactful. As Kanye’s vocals end and his reverb-heavy instrumental takes over, McQueen pulls the camera away and leaves Kanye, alone, sitting in the centre of this empty space – trapped with his thoughts, alone, and finally away from the cameras.
Check out the ‘I Feel Like That’ half on YouTube via the link below. The full film is available to watch now on Vimeo.