/ 28 May 2013

Kanye West’s ‘New Slaves’ screening shut down by cops

Kanye West.
Kanye West. (Gallo)

Police in Houston, Texas put a quick stop to a local promotional campaign for Kanye West's new album, Yeezus. Officers threatened to arrest fans that had gathered outside the city's Rothko Chapel on Saturday night, hoping to watch a video for West's latest song, New Slaves, which was expected to be projected onto the chapel's wall.

It was the second weekend in a row that West had organised screenings of New Slaves at sites around the world, projecting the new video on the walls of major landmarks. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday there were events in more than 20 cities, including Manchester and Glasgow.

In Houston, the rapper had scheduled three Saturday screenings, and none of them happened. At the landmark Rothko Chapel, whose interior includes 14 paintings by Mark Rothko, dozens of "upbeat, respectful" fans were sent home by police, according to the Houston Chronicle. Officials "pulled several cars on to the grass, flashed lights and sirens and demanded everyone leave or be arrested for trespassing", it reported. "Folks slowly dispersed when it was clear this wasn't part of the show."

Across town, another screening never got off the ground, and police prohibited organisers from proceeding with a third showing at the city's Central Library. "Just as [the technician] was about to press play … the cops said no," a witness told the blog Day and a Dream.

Anti-police content
While Houston police said the cancellations were owing to issues of permits and public safety, some observers have wondered if the content of the song caused the authorities to intervene. As West rages against institutionalised racism in New Slaves, he has some special words for the prison-industrial complex, in which police play an important role. "The DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] teamed up with the CCA [Corrections Corporation of America]," West raps. "They tryin' to lock niggas up/ They tryin' to make new slaves/ See that's that privately owned prisons/ Get your piece today."

Yeezus, West's sixth album, will reportedly be released on June 18. Described as "dark" and "very raw", the LP may include collaborations with Daft Punk, Skrillex, Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator, James Blake and Malik Yusef.© Guardian News and Media 2013