The final version of the highly anticipated video, featuring artists Rick Ross, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj, was released this week, and has sparked a firestorm given its graphic content and “dead model” theme.
Minaj plays the roles of both a psychotic, whip-happy dominatrix, and a strapped up, pink-wigged Barbie. Ross is surrounded by attractive underwear-clad ladies hanging from nooses, all while he nonchalantly puffs away on a cigar from the comfort of his throne. A sharp-dressed Jay-Z does his rap interlude while standing close to a naked (if you don’t count her blood-red stilettos) woman lying lifeless on a leather couch.
West sings while being groped and clawed all over his face by a plethora of female hands with brightly-colored fingernails, and later climbs in bed with a couple of corpses, and rearranges their rigid limbs.
"While it's inaccurate to condemn all of hip-hop as misogynistic, the violent imagery and lyrics in Kanye West's 'Monster' video (featuring dead white model corpses juxtaposed by black female vampires) can't be read in any other way,” Yana Walton, of the Women’s Media Center told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. ”While I personally have liked much of Kanye's music, his imagery and lyrics go beyond legitimizing violence to women – they fetishize it. Since gender based violence is a daily reality in our country, I urge Kanye to examine the harmful effects of using his fame in this manner."
Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center, concurred that West’s latest work is simply “vile.”
“Women in nooses, dismembered body parts, blood everywhere, violent and foul lyrics. In a sane world, this wouldn't sell one copy,” said Gainor. “His latest video gives us a peek into his mind and soul and, frankly, it's a dark, disgusting place where women are victimized and their bodies are treated as props for the ‘monsters’ singing. Misogyny? Absolutely.”
But according to West, the video wasn’t meant to offend. It’s “art,” people.
"The following content is in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any group of people. It is an art piece and it shall be taken as such,” reads the disclaimer before the video.
But some just aren’t buying the “artistic” label as an excuse to objectify and demean women.
"Calling this video 'art' gives it more dignity than it deserves,” Gainor continued. “Michelangelo created art. What Kanye West creates is appalling."
Not everyone agrees.
“It is not misogynistic, it's self indulgent. Kanye is obviously not advocating violence against women. He’s trying to make a statement about money, power, sex and fame that’s been made a million times before,” argued Los Angeles-based entertainment and pop culture expert, Jenn Hoffman. “The blood red nails clawing at West’s flesh symbolize all the money hungry women who are trying to extract a piece of his fame. The model corpses represent women who are beautiful, but ‘dead inside.’ Minaj’s presence in the video explores the duality of the Madonna/whore syndrome, contrasting the predatory nature of women against our weaker role as soulless Barbie dolls bound by the expectations of culture. It’s a visually stunning video, but conceptually it’s nothing new.”
Indeed it seems controversial music videos are becoming commonplace as stars try to outdo each other with the most explicit content.
Last week Rihanna came under fire for her video “Man Down,” as the popular songstress engages in an implied rape scene with a man she later guns down in an act of premeditated murder, before fleeing the scene. Last month, outspoken entertainer Lady Gaga drew criticism from religious groups for her raunchy portrayal of Mary Magdalene in the video “Judas.” Last year M.I.A’s “Born Free,” which showed genocide of those with ginger hair, was banned from YouTube.
“This is a new low for Kanye and that's the essence of the pop culture right now -- everything has to out-shock the thing that came before,” said Gainor. “In this case, Kanye did his best to out-vile the competition. What next? Live human sacrifice?”