Chapter 1, “‘Welcome to the Jungle’: Essence and the Western Inheritance” centers on the album’s first track, “No Church in the Wild” (feat. Frank Ocean), while taking forays into related tracks such as “Welcome to the Jungle” (track 8). Through close sonic, lyrical, visual, and rhetorical analysis, the chapter establishes the themes of essence and transcendence that are central to both the album’s radical constructivist critique of our house-of-cards political economy (“what’s a god to a non-believer?”) and to my larger argument about the bourgeois category of “the human.”
By unpacking Jay and Ye’s litany of references to icons of Western civilization on the first two tracks, I ask us to confront Frantz Fanon’s landmark study, Black Skin, White Masks (1967), wherein the psychoanalyst and decolonial activist remarks pointedly, “The Negro is in every sense of the word a victim of white civilization.” Here, I also perform a close reading of the album art, which ranges from Givenchy gilded flowers to Jay and Ye depicted as catlike beasts—images that underscore the category of the “subhuman” that undergirds bourgeois ideology and the capitalist logics that rationalize exploitations of labor.
Music Video for “No Church in the Wild” (Dir. Romain Gavras)