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Kanye West's album art: Banned in the U.S.A.? Perhaps 'banned' isn't the right word

October 17, 2010 | 10:52 pm

KANYE_ALBUM_ART_ Superstar rapper Kanye West has become a master of all media in creating anticipation for his upcoming release, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," unleashing songs free to the Web, conceiving show-stopping television appearances and prepping his first short film. Sometimes, as appears to be the case today, the artist's unpredictability has even caught his label off-guard, as the outspoken artist took to the Web and declared that the artwork for his upcoming album had been rejected for the U.S. market.

The artist has also been regularly baring his soul on Twitter, offering his thoughts on rugs, women's fashions, last year's MTV Video Music Awards fiasco with Taylor Swift, the overuse of the term "LOL" and plenty, plenty, plenty more.  On Sunday, the artist utilized Twitter once more, declaring that his desired album cover for "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was "banned in the USA!!!"

Kanye wrote, "They don't want me chilling on the couch with my phoenix!" and revealed a piece of graphic artwork in which a naked representation of the artist was in a sexually suggestive position with the mythological firebird in female form. In a follow-up tweet, West wrote, "In the '70s album covers had actual nudity... It's so funny that people forget that... Everything has been so commercialized now."

A source familiar with West's discussions with Universal Music Group's Island Def Jam on the cover art agreed to speak solely on the condition of anonymity, proclaiming that he did "not want to lose my job over this." The source seemed to indicate that the debate over the artwork was not one that was cut-and-dry. West was strongly urged to use alternate art, the source conceded, but added that West "was told if he wanted to do it, the label would stand behind him."

At issue, said the high-placed industry source, was whether or not mass-market retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart would carry an album featuring venomous nudes, and one that would no doubt inspire controversy. Though sales at mass merchants have been declining in recent years, data from Nielsen SoundScan for the last two years still had the likes of Best Buy and Wal-Mart accounting for at least 10% or more of physical CD sales.  

A potential boycott from a major retailer would no doubt have a massive impact on West's album sales, especially during the holiday season. "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is currently scheduled for a Nov. 22 release in the U.S. Though retail reps were unavailable for comment on Sunday evening, follow-up tweets from West seemed to indicate that concerns over retail acceptance played some part in his refusal to alter his intended cover.

Wrote West, "In all honesty ... I really don't be thinking about Wal-Mart when I make my music or album covers #Kanyeshrug!"

-- Todd Martens

Photo: A cropped screenshot of Kanye West's originally-intended album art for "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." Credit: Kanye West / Twitter.com

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