Songs of 2014 – “Au Revoir” by Chancellor Warhol
by S.L. Fevre
If Jay-Z is the Catholic Church of rap gods, old, opulent, and claiming to be the one and only true choice, then Kanye is Jesus. Kanye sacrificed himself to redeem the rest of the gangsta rap gods’ sins – champagne, bitches, guns. He killed the image by burning down his own.
Now, rap is a post-apocalypse of movements trying to build from the ashes. That’s not a negative. Rap is the only genre looking at itself and not liking what it sees. Its soul is being freed from a withering body. This year, rap started believing it can change the world again.
Have everything you’ll ever want? That’s too bad. Today, extravagance is a maladjustment, and boasting only assures others how ashamed you are.
“Au Revoir” opens by boasting about Chancellor Warhol’s stuff, like the “Look at all my shit” moment in Spring Breakers, but it’s not long before he’s confessing his sins (“If you did the shit I did you’d pray for a son, too”) and denying himself via REM (“I’m losing all religion, I think that’s me in the corner”). He tries to justify his excess to God:
“Please Lord forgive me for being Lord of the Flies
But I remember the days I couldn’t afford to buy,
Couldn’t afford to drive, couldn’t afford a ride,
I couldn’t afford the bus or the time passing me by.
Is it too much to ask to chill with model faces?
Ass in high-waisted, feeling they highly wasted.
Know it sound shallow for avant garde,
But I’m from Les Miserables where they learning to rob.”
He admits to God that he’s making up for lost time, and trying to make his earlier struggle feel worthwhile by rewarding himself with excess. This is directly followed with:
“Take the Tokyo Sonatas play em over Sinatras,
I’m trying to take all my sins and turn em in to an opera.”
Tokyo Sonata is the award-winning Japanese film in which an unemployed father pretends to remain employed in front of his family. Similarly, Chancellor Warhol is chasing icons in order to be one, trying to fulfill a gangsta rap image that’s a lie. What’s worse, he’s created this from personal experiences both real and imagined.
Juhi’s beautifully sung chorus keeps returning to challenge him:
“Time is forever, momentary bliss
Now how can you last with a heart like this?”
The closing repetition,
“Who’s gonna save me now
Cause I’m so underwater now,”
reveals how lost he feels in a world made up of image and disposable things – guns, cars, people.
Casey Culver’s exceptional music video reflects this when Chancellor Warhol boasts about all his possessions in the middle of a desert. At the end, he and Juhi wander populated city streets without making any human connection.
The words “Au Revoir” themselves don’t just refer to a character’s contemplation of suicide at the end. They say goodbye to a certain image and way of life in rap. Chancellor Warhol recognizes not just how badly mainstream rap has taught young men, but how much achieving that rap god image can take away from the artist himself. It’s time to retake rap before it kills itself, he says. I agree.
Have You Heard… is a stream of song recommendations, many of which may be new to you. It’s also the kind of analysis that’s missing in a music industry obsessed with image and celebrity instead of the music itself.