Biggie’s ashes rise from beyond the grave. Is it witchcraft? Demonic possession? Or the bouncy cadence of that Ray Charles sample on Kanye’s No. 1 single “Gold Digger?”
H.P. Lovecraft meets Yeezus in Kanye West—Reanimator, a Halloween treat unafraid to blaspheme two reigning icons of hip-hop and horror.
Master of horror Stuart Gordon gave us one iconic adaptation of the Lovecraft text in 1985’s big screen flick Re-Animator, updating the setting to modern-day New England.
In author Joshua Chaplinsky’s recent release (available on YOLO House Publishers), instead of Herbert West we have Kanye West, an evil genius on the boards and on the mic who’s remembered fondly and with dread by a once-sycophantic narrator. Credited to Lovecraft (and Chaplinsky), the latest in a line of postmodern literary mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies reimagines rap’s reigning titan in the classic 1922 tale of a missing mad scientist on the lam after a series of cadaver experiments that have gone horribly, horribly right.
This hybrid Lovecraftian antihero has one beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy: bring rap back to life with his diabolical musical experiments. Tracking West’s life and career from the Roc-A-Fella years through Kimye, Kanye West—Reanimator recounts the saga of a visionary on a mission to change the game.
One evening he starts plugging cords into corpses during secret late-night sessions, searching for the new-new. To our narrator, his presence is a present. But when Yeezy’s freshest sounds start bringing the dead back to life, his old pal starts to suspect he’s a motherfucking monster.
Kanye’s quest leads him down an alarming path. Subbing hip-hop luminaries into the Lovecraftian novella, Kanye West—Reanimator envisions ex-Roc-A-Fella exec Damon Dash as West’s nemesis Dr. Halsey, who meets an untimely end early on.
After a botched attempt to raise the ashes of Biggie goes awry, Kanye succeeds in auto-tuning his late mother Donda back to life with “Love Lockdown.” Yet: “In his mind, Kanye had never fully succeeded in reanimating a corpse because he had never been able to produce a track sufficiently fresh.”
“I started out by replacing the name Herbert West with Kanye West,” Chaplinsky explained via email. “But as the writing progressed, I saw a real correlation between the two, both of them being this kind of egocentric genius driven by a desire for greatness. So I tailored the narrative to Kanye’s career. There were so many parallels, it really was a perfect fit.”
Chaplinsky, who is the managing editor of LitReactor.com, isn’t sure if Kanye has perused the new release. “Well, I haven’t been sued yet, so I doubt it. I know people have tweeted it at him. I don’t think he’d appreciate me having him kill his own mother so he can try to bring her back to life, even if it’s make-believe, but I’d welcome the notoriety his wrath would bring.”
Below, read an exclusive excerpt from Kanye West—Reanimator in which Kanye marries Kim and encounters a prize specimen in Jay-Z, standing in for the doomed Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee.
Kanye needed bodies to achieve his life-work of reanimating the dead. This work was not known to the throngs of acolytic fans who had so swiftly built up his fame after he dropped out of college; but was only too well known to me, who had been his closest friend (some would say too close) and sole companion since the old days at Chicago State University. It was in those days that he had begun his life’s work, first in the musical realm and then on human bodies shockingly obtained. He inserted a cable into the veins of dead things, and if the tracks he played were fresh enough the bodies responded in strange ways. He had had much trouble in discovering the proper mix, for each person was found to have its own personal musical tastes. Terror stalked him when he reflected on his partial failures; nameless things resulting from inferior musical arrangements or from bodies insufficiently disposed of. A certain number of these failures had remained alive—one was in a mental health facility while others had vanished—and as he thought of conceivable yet virtually impossible eventualities he often flew into fear-rage.
Kanye had soon learned that absolute freshness was the prime requisite for life-giving music, and had accordingly resorted to frightful and unnatural expedients in body-snatching. In college and during our early days together, my attitude toward him had been largely one of fascinated admiration; but as his boldness in methods grew, I began to develop a gnawing fear. I did not like the way he looked at healthy living bodies. At first I thought it was mere jealousy. Then there came a nightmarish session in an L.A. recording studio where I learned that a certain specimen—his own beloved mother, in fact—had been a living body when he secured it. That was the first time he had ever been able to revive the quality of rational thought in a corpse; and his success, obtained at such a loathsome cost, had completely hardened him.
Of his methods in the intervening years I dare not speak. I was held to him by sheer force of loyalty, and witnessed sights that no human tongue could repeat. Gradually I came to find Kanye himself more horrible than anything he did—that was when it dawned on me that his once normal musical zeal for reanimating hip-hop had subtly transformed into a morbid and ghoulish curiosity and secret sense of charnel megalomania. His interest became a hellish and perverse addiction to the repellently and fiendishly abnormal; he gloated calmly over artificial monstrosities which would make most healthy men drop dead from fright and disgust; he became, behind his pallid intellectuality, a fastidious Bukowski of physical experiment—a languid Erick Sermon of the grave.
Dangers he met unflinchingly; crimes he committed unmoved. I think the climax came when he had proved his point that the glory of hip-hop could be restored, and had sought new worlds to conquer by experimenting on the reanimation of dead bodies. He had wild and original ideas on the independent music scene and vital properties of mainstream radio; and achieved some hideous preliminary results in the form of reanimated husks. All this research work required a prodigious supply of fresh music and deceased human flesh. It was the stress involved in the latter’s procurement that caused Kanye to become so unpredictable in his behavior.
The phantasmal, unmentionable thing which I am about to mention occurred late one night not long after Kanye’s marriage to Kim Kardashian, in a private studio at his home in L.A. I wonder even now if it could have been other than a horrific dream of delirium. There he worked like a butcher in the midst of his gory wares, cutting and pasting tracks in his laptop. I could never get used to the nonchalance with which he handled such situations. At times he actually did perform marvels of musical ingenuity; but his chief delights were of a less public and philanthropic kind, requiring many explanations to the neighbors of sounds which seemed peculiar even in light of his most experimental recordings. Among these sounds were frequent gunshots, and, just once, the barely intelligible exclamation, PUTTINONTHERITZ! (Kanye never forgave me for downloading that Taco album on his personal iTunes account.)
Looking back I should have seen it coming. Jay-Z was a splendid specimen—a man at once physically powerful and of such high musical standards that a receptive nervous system was assured. It was rather ironic, for he was the man who had mentored Kanye, and now he was destined to be the subject of his greatest experiment. Moreover, he had in the past been privy to the theory of reanimation to some extent under Kanye.
Jay-Z showed up in a bulletproof limousine, his preferred mode of transportation, so it made no sense for Kanye and Paul to ambush him upon arrival. They waited until he entered the studio. The attack was both spectacular and awful; Kanye struck the first blow by smashing Jay-Z over the head with his framed Platinum record for 808s and Heartbreak. Jay-Z was dazed, but having a good six inches on Kanye and a longer reach, soon obtained the upper hand in the grappling that followed. That was when Sir Paul [McCartney] joined the fray.
In a dark corner of the studio, Kanye had kept a full-size replica of the sword from George Condo’s cover art for the “Power” single, which ended in a crowned, papier-mâché bust of the rapper’s own head, like some Arthurian sword in the stone. It was this implement the charging Beatle wielded, Kanye head and all. It was too horrific. I had to turn away.
Jay-Z was unrecognisable afterward. The sword itself was blunt and McCartney not very strong, but the havoc yielded up the great rapper in a nearly decapitated but otherwise intact condition. Kanye had greedily seized the lifeless thing which had once been his friend and fellow-rapper; and I shuddered when he took the dull blade from Paul and finished severing the head, placing it on its own dissecting tray, and proceeded to treat the decapitated body on the operating table. He inserted the music cable into the neck stump and covered the ghastly aperture with duct tape. I knew what he wanted—to see if this highly organised body could exhibit, without its head, any of the signs of the mental life which had distinguished Jay-Z. Once the mentor of Kanye, this silent trunk was now gruesomely called upon to exemplify the mad genius’ work.
I can still see Kanye under the sinister fluorescent lights, a bloody bootprint stamped across his face, as he leaned over the body of his friend and said, “Auto-Tune isn’t dead, motherfucker. You are,” and pressed play on “Only One,” featuring keys by Paul. An eerie calm descended upon the gore-splattered studio. John Lennon must have been rolling in his grave, for there was madness in that room. For only madness could account for such supremely talented people producing such a shitty song.
Jay-Z, as Kanye repeatedly observed, had a splendid musical pedigree. Much was expected of his headless corpse; and as a few twitching motions began to appear, I could see the feverish interest on Kanye’s face. He was ready, I think, to see proof of his increasingly strong opinion that consciousness, reason, and personality can exist independently of the brain—that music could function as man’s central connective spirit. The body is merely a machine of nervous matter, each section more or less complete in itself. In one triumphant demonstration Kanye was about to relegate the mystery of life to the category of myth. The body twitched more vigorously, and beneath our avid eyes commenced to heave in a frightful way. The arms stirred disquietingly, the scrotum drew up, and various muscles contracted in a repulsive kind of writhing. Then the headless thing threw out its arms in a gesture which was unmistakably one of desperation—an intelligent desperation apparently sufficient to prove every one of Kanye’s theories. Certainly, the nerves were recalling Jay-Z’s last act in life; the struggle to get free of Kanye West and Paul McCartney.
What followed, I shall never positively know. It may have been wholly an hallucination from the shock caused at that instant as the entire recording studio went up in flames—in the excitement of the preceding melee, Kanye had forgotten about the pumpkin flavored Toaster Strudel he had put in the toaster oven and a cataclysmic electrical fire ensued—but who can gainsay, since Kanye and I were the only proved survivors? Kanye wanted to believe it was an hallucination, but there were times when he could not; for it was queer that we both had the same exact experience. The hideous occurrence itself was very simple, notable only for what it implied.
The body on the table had risen with a blind and terrible groping, and we had heard a sound. I should not call that sound a voice, for it was too awful. And yet its timbre was not the most awful thing about it. For it had come from the decapitated head that sat on the dissecting tray in the corner.
“I am Godzilla of these favelas, new God flow!” the awful thing shouted.