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Sunday, August 12, 2007

The clip: Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Zach Galifianakis version)

The star of Kanye West's new video is a heavyset, bearded white man. He's on a tractor. "Wait till I get my money right / Then you can't tell me nothing right," he raps. The song is West's latest single, "Can't Tell Me Nothing," and the hillbilly in pajamas is comedian Zach Galifianakis.

How? Why? Apparently, West was taken with Galifianakis's lip-syncing in Michael Blieden's video for Fiona Apple's "Not About Love." West decided to give Blieden and Galifianakis carte blanche to create a rural rap odyssey on a North Carolina farm.

As he romps through fields, strikes a Jesus pose in a pond and says that he "ain't one of the Cosbys / I ain't go to Hillman," Galifianakis is joined by a group of gingham-wearing clog dancers and hairy-faced indie folkster Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

This is hardly a dorm-room camcorder parody of a pop song. It's an officially sanctioned Kanye West video. (So, yes, it is about getting Kanye's money right.) And while the clip's goofiness beguiles, it raises questions about racial humor: Isn't the "white guys enjoying hip-hop while spoofing its excesses" thing way past its expiration date? You also have to wonder about the future of Internet cross-marketing: Is a video starring Mos Def and David Cross up next?

-- Greg Zinman

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