"Like a Prayer," Roc-A-Fella CEO Dame
Dash pleaded to MTV brass as if it were 1989 and his artist’s video was Madonna’s
religiously loaded and intensely controversial clip.
But Kanye West is no Madonna and, according
to Dash, the network offered only limited airplay to the second version of the
rapper’s video for "Jesus Walks," the latest single off his debut,
The College Dropout.
Much like the Material Girl’s video, West’s
own clip featured a burning cross and overt racial references. The uncompromising
video also included scenes where a slave is beaten while in a Christ-like stance,
cocaine packs in the trunk of car morph into doves when opened by police ("A
drug dealer’s dream," West quipped.), and a Ku-Klux Klan member is shown
carrying a cross. Nevertheless, Dash fought for its addition to video outlets
because he said West believed it was important.
West was already dissatisfied with the first
video, which cost $600,000 to film, and decided to film a second, which, according
to him, "if you never saw this video again you’ll remember that imagery."
But then MTV told Dash the second video, which cost $500,000, would only air
before 5 a.m. on any given day due to the controversial elements.
Though West relented, he initially wanted to
protest the decision.
"I was going to fight it like the stance
that Jay took [with MTV for "99 Problems"], but a lot of people like
the first video," he told a group of journalists and music industry members
gathered inside Tribeca Cinemas earlier this week for a screening of all three
videos. "I feel like God would want me to get the message out as best as
In the first version of "Jesus Walks,"
West makes an attempt to please God by portraying himself as his conduit-the
preacher. Dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and thin black tie, he
delivers his lyrics in a rousing sermon at a church. Throughout the Michael
Hausmen-directed clip, a drug dealer, an alcoholic, and a prostitute make their
way to the House of Kanye to be saved. West polled the audience on all three
videos and after the first version tallied the least votes, he sardonically
told the crowd: "MTV added the one we least voted on."
Of the Ku-Klux Klan scene in the second version,
directed by Chris Milk, West described it as "a form of baptism."
The Klansman carries a cross to the top of the mountain only to have God blow
it down once it was lit on fire. West then explained the KKK member was so determined
to express his hateful views that he grabbed the burning cross, but God still
spared his life by making it rain.
"I felt like the imagery on the second
one, you’ll never forget it," West said. "I’m not trying to go for
number one [on a countdown], I’m trying to go for number forever.
"I’m trying to make something that’s impactful,"
The third clip-"And the cheapest,"
joked Dash of the $50,000 video-was inspired by a vision West had while recuperating
in Los Angeles from his October 2002 car accident. In his revelation, Jesus
would actually walk with West as he traversed from his home, through the ‘hood,
and to the house of a family member. The audience laughed at the Coodie and
Chike-directed version as West is depicted attempting to sneak away from a napping
Presently, MTV will play the first version of
"Jesus Walks," while the second one will be relegated to MTV2 and
the third one will be available on MTV.com. While Dash appealed to the network-as
well as the Roc’s parent company to greenlight budgets- on behalf of West, ultimately,
he acknowledged, getting the rapper’s message out to the masses was the best
"Sometimes to a degree there’s a compromise,"
said Dash, who favored the third video. "And I’m a guy that never compromises.
But when MTV says they’re going to play three videos for you, let’s sacrifice
and compromise just a tad."
This isn’t the first time the censors at MTV
have taken note of West’s work. On his previous single, "All Falls Down,"
the network edited out the phrase "white man" when West raps: "Drug
dealer buy Jordans/ crackhead buy crack/ and the white man get paid off of all
of that." J. Ivy, a spoken word artist featured on West’s album who also
made a cameo in the third video, felt MTV was being too cautious in the post-Superbowl
era caused by Janet Jackson’s breast-baring halftime show.
"Let real be real," he said frankly.
"It’s all art, whether it’s spoken or whether it’s a visual. When you put
an image out there that’s real and to the heart like that, it’s a shame that
the industry is scared to show it sometimes."
Ironically, West cut a jewelry store scene in
the third video himself because he felt it fringed upon promoting his line of
Jacob The Jeweler Jesus pendants.
Added Dash on the MTV incidents: "The more
records he sells the more power he will have. You know, Kanye is very important
to the culture of hip-hop, because he shows it from a different angle and different
Dash went on to explain next album West will
be able to make all the videos he wants to about Jesus.
Just as long as papa don’t preach.