Man I love this video.
"The way Kathie Lee needed Regis/ That's the way I need Jesus" is one of my favorite hip hop lines of all time.
Besides being funny and surprising, it strikes me as brave for Kanye to identify himself with the woman in this metaphor. Of course, it's also a classic. From the Song of Solomon to the bhakti poems of the Hindu tradition, male writers have used the image of a woman's longing for her man to describe religious sentiment. Superficially, this convention can seem like a reinforcement of hierarchy, as if the male believer is saying, "God, I am so powerless in relation to you that I'm like a woman." But it's never affected me that way. I prefer to interpret the convention as a freeing one. As the saint/poet Dasimayya wrote in a poem addressed to Ramanatha, an incarnation of Shiva:
If they see
breasts and long hair coming
they call it woman,
if beard and whiskers
they call it man:
but, look, the self that hovers
is neither man
Divine love dissolves gender boundaries. In this beautiful hymn by the great Saint Anselm, Jesus is a mother who actually gives milk:
A Song of Anselm
Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you:
You are gentle with us as a mother with her children;
Often you weep over our sins and our pride:
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:
in sickness you nurse us,
and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life:
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness:
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead:
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us:
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness:
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
Kanye West may be the first writer in history, though, to liken longing for the divine to the longing of one TV co-host for another. Of course, Kathy Lee's love for Regis is a chaste one (we hope). Maybe this made the comparison more acceptable for a macho male rapper.
Interesting, too, that Kanye's rhyme is a feminine one. My love of feminine rhymes comes from listening to so much hip hop, especially Biggie, who was the master of it. Feminine rhymes are admired in hip hop, while they are considered sort of cheesy in serious poetry and mostly fit for comic verse. But how bad can feminine rhymes be if even Shakespeare used them -- and for one of his most "masculine" sonnets. . .
A woman's face with nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's eyes amazeth;
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing:
But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.