Within the pages of Frank Ocean’s new magazine Boys Don’t Cry lies a poem named “The MacDonald’s Man,” written by none other than Kanye West. Presented through a series of photographs in which the poem appears on retrofitted MacDonald’s drive-thru screens, “The MacDonald’s Man” is a typical Kanye West performance. It resists interpretations while, at the same time, inviting them. Among the discussed themes: paranoia, conspiracy, inequality, utopian Communism, conformity and Frank Ocean. Despite the lines, “I always knew them fries was evil man/smelling all good and shit,” MacDonald’s seems to think it’s just a friendly expression of appreciation for their fries and “smooth apple pies.”
I find it compelling how consistent the patterns of Kanye’s reception are. With each new step from West, waves of reaction and thought ripple underneath it. His new lyric is no different. As with plenty of other Kanye West moments, crowds of think pieces and commentaries and illustrations have risen to dissect it. More serious “literary” establishments and the ever-serious “literary” correspondents for pop culture rags now find themselves, like I am here, writing extensively in slight, ironic tones about a poem on French fries.
The effect of this is that you’ll often have articles more difficult to take seriously than the poem itself. Like Kanye’s work, sometimes this question of seriousness seems the intention. “On the Poetics — and Elusive Subtext — of Kanye West’s Poem About French Fries,” by Katy Waldman, paradoxically attempts a close reading of the poem even though the writer derides it as “artfully artless jibber jabber.” Meanwhile a satirical article at the Paris Review proposes that “if the ketchup/salad/burger/shake band represents the possibility of a labor movement, the pie represents total communism.”