Latent Registration

Modern psychologists don’t put a great deal of stock in Sigmund Freud’s five-stage theory of psychosexual development anymore. It’s widely considered to be ‘pop-psychology’. So what happens when you apply it to actual pop? Can Freudian analysis explain Kanye West’s anal fixation? You bet your bottom dollar…

In the middle of the massive clusterfuck that has been Kanye West’s promotional campaign for The Life Of Pablo, one tweet really stole all the headlines.

Not the one where Kanye proclaimed Bill Cosby’s innocence. Not the one where he confessed that he was $53million in personal debt. The one that Amber Rose sent.

You know. That one.

The #FingersInTheBootyAssBitch one.

Kanye flatly denied the implication that he was into anything of the sort. In fact, he made a very clear point of claiming that he “stays away from that area all together”.

Someone is obviously lying here, but who? Is Amber Rose just getting a cheap shot in at her ex to bring him down a peg or two? Or is it more likely that Kanye is so embarrassed by his enjoyment of a little light buttstuff that he is fibbing to cover his arse?

Both have remained tightlipped about it since (almost as if this whole thing hasn’t been at the forefront of their minds all this time) but we were determined to get to the bottom of it.

So we pulled apart the lyrics of Kayne’s seven solo albums to see if he subconsciously dropped any any clues in his back catalogue – and what we discovered really surprised us. When you get right up in amongst it and look at all the dirty stuff in there, you find something very interesting.

The shift in swearing patterns over the span of Kanye’s artistic career almost perfectly mirrors the trajectory and profile of an anal-fixated personality type as put forward by Sigmund Freud in his theory of psychosexual development.

Don’t believe us? Let’s break it down.

Stage 1: Oral

The first of Kanye’s Higher Education trilogy, The College Dropout is widely considered to be one of the strongest debut albums of all time. It was hugely influential in developing a change in direction for hip-hop – shifting the focus from the bluster and bravado of gangsta rap, to a more emotive, reflective and personal type of flow.

Also, college is famously a time to experiment with sexuality, providing the perfect opportunity to venture an exploratory item up your bum – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Let’s look directly at the expletives Kanye uses in the album.

Most of the code here is fairly obvious. A stands for “Ass”, B for “Bitch” – the others should (hopefully) explain themselves.

As you can see, it is a fairly explicit album. 152 uses of coarse language (plus a couple of uncounted instances of milder words like “nuts”, “crap” and “ho”) across its running time – roughly one naughty word every thirty seconds.

The most prominent profanity in this album, by far, is the N-word.

Now, the history of that particular word and its place in the canon of hip-hop is an important and extremely sensitive one – and we don’t intend to trivialise any of that here by talking about Kanye’s butthole. However, it is interesting that this particular word is the most frequently used on Kanye’s first two albums – because it isn’t always the case.

The first stage in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is the Oral Stage. Among other things, it is here where a subject’s sense of body image is formed – where a person becomes aware of their appearance and their physical form.

Ideally, the oral stage should last about 18 months. If it ends too quickly, or goes on too long, Freud suggests it can lead to neurosis, manipulative behaviour and an oral fixation (habitual nail-biting, gum-chewing, smoking etc).

Kanye’s oral stage, we’re happy to report, was pretty much textbook. His second album, Late Registration, was recorded and released over those 18 months, and a breakdown of the profanity on that album shows that he is still focused predominantly on the same word.

He is developing exactly the way Freud suggests he should.

Stage 2: Anal

The second stage of Freud’s theory is the Anal Stage. Characterised by a change in focus from the mouth as the primary source of stimulation (feeding, sucking, biting, etc) to the anus and bladder (pissing, shitting, etc) – this is the point in the process where anal fixation can occur, and an anal-retentive or anal-expulsive personality can be forged.

Kanye’s third album, Graduation, was written and recorded smack bang in what would be considered the anal stage of his artistry – a stage which is supposed to take place between the ages of eighteen months and three years.

So what should we expect to see here? By Freud’s reckoning: a drop in use of expletives that refer to physical attributes, and an increase in expletives that refer to anal function.

Totally eclipsing every other word on the album – and absolutely in harmony with Freud’s theory – “Shit” suddenly starts being dropped with increased regularity; almost three times more frequently than the next most popular profanity.

Our boy is growing up! And doing it exactly the way he’s supposed to!

But then we move on to 808s & Heartbreak – an album almost entirely devoid of swearing.

What could have caused him to drop the profanity?

The year between the releases of Graduation and 808s & Heartbreak was an incredibly tumultuous one for Kanye personally. As the album’s title makes clear, heartbreak was very much at the forefront of his mind. Not only did Kanye split from his fiancée Alexis Phifer after six years, he also lost his mother in late 2007.

People who follow such things noticed that these events had a profound effect on the style of his music. 808s is a more muted and reflective affair than anything he’d given us previously.

Any childish impulse to shock with profane language his disappeared. Any adult impulse to express anger has been muted by the grief of losing two of the most important people in his life. This is Kanye at his most exposed and emotionally vulnerable.

And this is where his development gets stunted.

Stage 3: Phallic

If 808s was the calm, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is very much the storm.

191 uses of explicit language over just 13 tracks – an average of 14.7 naughty words per song. Not only is it the most prolifically profane of his albums, it is the most diverse too, with “Dick”, “Pussy”, “Bastard”, “Piss”, “Jerk-off” and “Douchebag” all making appearances.

Whatever blockages were in his system have since been cleared.

The swearword of note here though is “Motherfucker”. Absent from both 808s and Yeezus (the two albums that bookend MBDTF) there is a sudden surge in the number of times Kanye uses the words “Motherfucker” and “Motherfucking”. He uses that particular curse on this album more than any of his others – almost twice as much as he ever did before, or has done since.

Why is that notable? Because the third stage of psychosexual development (the Phallic Stage) is where Freud’s famed Oedipal Complex is encountered: the time where people start thinking about fucking their mothers.

But though he has clearly progressed to the phallic stage, there is still clear evidence of an anal fixation. MBDTF is less indicative of a latent desire to have his butthole fiddled with, and more indicative of an absolutely all-encompassing brazen desire to have his butthole fiddled with.

The album (which, incidentally, had the working title Good Ass Job) includes such select lines as:

* “Tell ‘em hug and kiss my ass, x and o / Kiss the ring while they at it, do my thing while I got it” (Gorgeous)

* “Tell them Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass / More specifically they can kiss my asshole” (Power)

* “Lookin’ at my bitch I bet she give your ass a bone / Lookin’ at my wrist it’ll turn your ass to stone” (Devil In A New Dress)

* “Tell me what I gotta do to be that guy / Said her price go down, she ever fuck a black guy / Or do anal, or do a gangbang” (Hell Of A Life)

For someone who “stay[s] away from that area all together”, he sure does seem to talk about it an awful lot…

Stage 4: Latent

Once a person has dealt with their Oedipal issues, they can then graduate from the Phallic Stage and enter the fourth phase of development: the Latent Stage.

This is where a person’s desire for their parent(/s) will dissipate, and they will instead transfer their attention to form bonds with friends of the same sex. It is also a time when they are likely to sublimate or repress their sexual desires in an attempt to be socially acceptable.

If Yeezus – Kanye’s sixth album – was therefore going to represent his Latent Phase in any way we’d need to see: him drop the word “Motherfucker” from his repertoire (as his Oedipal issues are resolved); fewer lyrics about what he thinks people should do with/to his ass; and him turning his attention away from women towards men.

So what does he give us?

1/ Zero mentions of “Motherfucker” (we have closure on the Oedipal front)
2/ Fewer mentions of “Shit” and “Fuck” (though still similar amounts of “Ass”)
3/ The most popular word on the album, by a hair, is “Bitch”

“Bitch” was not a word that Kanye used a great deal in the early part of his career. It cropped up maybe a handful of times on each album, but not to anything like the same extent to which it is deployed on Yeezus.

Of course, this alone doesn’t quite fulfill the criteria Freud laid out. Just because Kanye is demonstrating a newfound habit of using aggressive and demeaning language to describe women doesn’t necessarily mean his attentions are focused on forming bonds with men instead.

In order to demonstrate something like that, he’d have to do something much more obvious. Say, for example, record and release an entire album’s worth of material with his best boy buddy, Jay-Z, and then go off on a world tour with him to promote it.

Would something like Watch The Throne count as evidence of that? Who’s to say…

Stage 5: Genital

The Latent Stage lasts for many, many years – and we can see that with Kanye’s latest album, The Life Of Pablo, he is still languishing in it. Still showing a residual interest in anal function, still a lot of sexual content, still calling women bitches. He’s probably got another album’s worth of this before he passes through to the Genital Stage – which constitutes a full maturation. But for completion’s sake, here is what The Life Of Pablo looks like.

There is a nice bit of symmetry here. Both The College Dropout and The Life Of Pablo rocking 152 rude words each. After 12 years of grind, seven albums in, how has the balance of those 152 words shifted?

Retention or Expulsion?

Freud reckoned there were two ways you could go if you suffered serious conflict during your Anal Phase. It can either make you anal-retentive or, what he charmingly called, anal-expulsive. If we agree that Kanye’s artistic career has endured a stunted Anal Phase (and the evidence is all there) which way did he turn out?

Anal-retentive personality types are essentially control freaks. Excessively neat, ordered and clinical. The way he’s been fiddling about with The Life Of Pablo recently – releasing it, reworking it, re-releasing; the album constantly evolving in public – you’d think maybe there was a touch of that to his personality. A desire to make things absolutely perfect.

But wait until you hear what they say about anal-expulsive types.

Anal-expulsive types are described as being: prone to emotional outbursts…


…loaded with self-confidence, often showing artistic tendencies…

…and cavalier with money.

So what can we conclude from this over-extensive foray into largely discredited pop psychology?

Not much. But Kanye definitely loves a digit or two up the wrong’un.

Course he does.