Mark, My Words: why Kanye’s porno rap videos would be a disaster

Kanye West allegedly planned to film hardcore porn videos for tracks from 2016's 'Life Of Pablo'. Our columnist Mark Beaumont explains why they would've cock-blocked his music.

As someone once inadvisedly told Har Mar Superstar, sex sells. It sells movies, clothes, perfumes, late night naked dating shows, chocolate, shower gels, Kardashians and probably the odd pasty, considering most Britons find a visit to Greg’s a deeply erotic experience. Scroll far enough down this column and you’ll probably come across sex, however subtly, selling PPI claims, typing apps and Mediterranean cruises. Because let’s face it, we’d all sign up to invasive and untested medical experiments if there was a chance of some sex at the end. And perhaps a lollipop.

And as sure as Cher once straddled a gigantic metal phallus in a glorified mankini surrounded by seamen, sex sells music. Ever since Elvis swivelled, Tina jiggled and Ziggy did this weird kind of bisexual downward dog in a leotard while licking the balls of Mick Ronson’s guitar, sex has been a driving force of pop music. From Robert Plant concealing a bicycle pump down one leg of his ultra-tight ‘70s velvet trousers to Nicki Minaj attempting to change global weather patterns by buttock power alone in the ‘Anaconda’ video, being a music fan for the past 50 years or so has essentially been cultural dogging.

Sex sells, yes, but only some sex. Madonna fellating a champagne bottle. Jacko hoisting his space trousers up by the scrotum. David Gedge going at his guitar like a jackrabbit in heat, or is that just me? It’s all in the subtle suggestion, the overt titillation, the art of sonic seduction. The promise of sex and/or nudity is pop catnip, but the reality is just a bit too icky – give an audience too much sex and they turn off. Just ask Peaches. Case in point: have you ever gotten past John and Yoko’s gnarled nadgers plastered all over the cover of ‘Two Virgins’ and actually listened to the thing? Exactly.

So when Bret Easton Ellis revealed this week that Kanye had planned to make full-on porn videos for tracks on his 2016 album ‘Life Of Pablo’, it sounded like a squelchy disaster in the making. Now, Kanye’s obsession with pornography is well documented. This is the guy who, as a teenager, wrote a computer game in which you play a giant penis chasing ghostly vaginas. He spends hours in the studio watching porn – when Paul McCartney stopped by it must’ve been like sitting down with granny after Christmas lunch to watch Salo, 120 Days Of Sodom. For Kanye pornography is a keen hobby, so making hardcore porn rap videos would be no more unusual than, say, Bruce Dickenson making a promo from the cockpit of an antique plane, or Morrissey videoing himself being interviewed by a sycophant.

 

 

The trouble is, porn and music are two artforms which demand a certain amount of attention to fully appreciate, and could only act as major distractions from one another. It would surely put one off one’s gender-non-specific stroke if the couple whose intense and tender lovemaking you’re appraising on your letch-site of choice suddenly burst into ‘I Predict A Riot’. Likewise, little could pull you out of a deep immersion in the latest Father John Misty album faster than a couple of rutting horndogs going at it like Russell Brand in a Bangkok knocking shop, right up in your grill. And if you are able to concentrate equally on both at once, what might be the subliminal damage of a Kanye music porno? What if a generation of sexual newcomers started thinking it was normal bedroom practice to lean into your partner’s ear mid-coitus and bark “hurry up with my damn croissant!”?

History has stern lessons in the rap/rumpo crossover department. Pre-internet, when porn was distributed solely via rural hedge and the closest you had to Pornhub was a Channel Four season on Ken Russell, the likes of Madonna, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Marilyn Manson and a plethora of rappers (Snoop, Jay-Z, Ice-T) garnered publicity and notoriety for beyond-the-pale video output. Come 2011, when the phrase NSFW stood for Numerous Streams From Wankers, everyone from The Flaming Lips to Matt & Kim, Yeasayer, Brother and Girls – whose ‘Lust For Life’ video featured the memorable use of an erect penis as a microphone – attempted to cash in on the growing normalisation of sexual imagery online.

But one man took it too far – a little-known grime artist by the name of Skepta. His 2011 single ‘All Over The House’ came with a video of Skep lounging around a plush apartment rapping “in the kitchen, in the shower, in my bed, on the couch… we had sex all over the house” while a pair of actual porn stars hammered away around him IRL, like Love Island gone feral. And it was about as sexy as a lapdance from James Corden (I’m told, by someone who’s seen it). For a start Skepta seemed pretty bored and disinterested in being there, which detracted somewhat from the inherent eroticism of the track in question. And secondly, when you find yourself caught up in a torrid, uninhibited house-wide shagfest, the most off-putting thing imaginable would be a random rapper narrating the whole thing in monotone from the breakfast bar.

It took Skepta half a decade to shake off his reputation as the Hugh Hefner of grime and get the recognition he deserved, and the whole sorry scheme proved beyond doubt that rap and hardcore porn are fundamentally incompatible. So think long and not-so-hard, Kanye. If you think your music is as good as sex, you’ve got another thing (ahem) coming.