We Dissect Kanye West's Poem About McDonald's in Frank Ocean's 'Boys Don't Cry'
  • MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

  • Posted by: Robert Steiner

If you went on the Internet at all in the past 72 hours, you probably know that Frank Ocean dropped a new album, Blonde, plus a magazine titled Boys Dont Cry. While the album has garnered a lot of well-deserved attention, the magazine also features some groundbreaking works of poetry, particularly a piece by the most important and influential artist of all time according to Kanye West, Kanye West. I have read Mr. West's profound poem about McDonald's, and I was left in pure shock at its existence. I was so moved that I felt it necessary to dissect Mr. West's poem to fully understand its greatness and why it's quite possibly the most important piece of writing of the 21st century.


McDonalds Man
McDonalds Man
The french fries had a plan
The french fries had a plan
The salad bar and the ketchup made a band
Cus the french fries had a plan


This first stanza kicks off this super-sized epic with a brilliant metaphor for the socially and/or artistically misunderstood outcasts and their struggle to find a place in an unaccepting world, much akin to the long-fought hustle of Mr. West himself. Here, we are also introduced to some of the main figures in this story: The "McDonald's Man," who can be interpreted as a Big Brother-esque demagogue that shapes all facets of this society in his McImage. The "French Fries" are the McDonald's Man's unwavering followers who act in the name of their leader and have a "plan" to ensure full conformity within this fast-food based society. Meanwhile, the "Salad Bar" and "Ketchup" are outsiders who form a "band" as a means of peaceful protest through music. By relaying their voices and opinions through art, these otherwise unnoticed figures in this society can state their distaste with the McDonald's Man's unfair dictatetotship in a way that can reach a large number of food groups.


The french fries had a plan
McDonalds Man
McDonalds
I know them french fries have a plan
I know them french fries have a plan


This section represents the paranoia brought on by speculation-induced fear, in this coming from an unnamed "I" character. The repeated lines claiming the French Fries "have a plan" implies the lack of self-assurance in our "I" character's statement. Do the French Fries have a plan? Is there even a McNugget of truth or validity in our protagonist's fears? This section is an apt representation of the internal fight between risking one's life to expose the salty truth while it remains unclear what exactly the truth is.


The cheeseburger and the shakes formed a band
To overthrow the french fries plan


Like the Salad Bar and Ketchup, the "Cheeseburger" and "Shakes" also form a band, but in this context, it could be argued that they are more rather "banding together" as a politically extremist group rather than a musical group, set to "overthrow the french fries [sic] plan" through violent means. Why might the Cheeseburger and Shakes feel compelled to take more forceful action, you might ask? Well, consider this" When you go to a fine eating establishment like McDonald's, what do you order? The answer is likely a burger or a milkshake, but more often than not, you skip over the salad, and you maybe get the ketchup as a compliment to your burger but never on its on. The Salad and Ketchup are second-rate, the proletariats of this world, while the Burger and Shakes are the patricians, the well-standing and hard-working bourgeois. With much more to lose from McDonald's Man and the French Fries' reign, the Cheeseburger and Shakes feel that their place in the social fryarchy is threatened by the French Fries and the McDonald's Man, and therefore will defend their honor and freedom by any beans necessary.


I always knew them french fries was evil man
Smelling all good and shit
I don't trust no food that smells that good man
I don't trust it
I just can't
McDonalds Man
McDonalds Man
McDonalds, damn
Them french fries look good tho


Here, we return to the "I" character's internal battle, and is quite possibly the most powerful and emotionally potent section of the entire poem. Initially, our protagonist uses the fact the Fries "smell good and shit" as justification for his/her fears of the McDonald's Man's McChokehold on society's frail, chinless neck. He/she feels that this unusually unique trait processed by the French Fries is good enough reason to think something sinister is awry, and therefore shows the Fries should not be trusted. However, by the second half of the stanza, our protagonist second-guesses himself/herself, eloquently sating that "Them french fries look good tho [sic]." In one simple line, we are reminded that our protagonist's faith in his/her own beliefs are not unmilkshakeable, which in turn makes us question our own trust in the protagonist as a narrator. Is the smell and look of the French Fries truly a cover up, or is it a genuine display of the French Fries', and by extension the McDonald's Man's, moral character? Who is really the enemy here? This section represents the fight we all must face in choosing what political alliance to support, and whether or not we will be on the sunnyside of history. A truly powerful and thought-proyolking stanza that could only be achieved by Mr. West.


I knew the Diet Coke was jealous of the fries
I knew the McNuggets was jealous of the fries
Even the McRib was jealous of the fries
I could see it through his artificial meat eyes
And he only be there some of the time


This stanza introduces secondary characters involved in the McResistance, which our protagonist uses as further justification for his/her belief in the cause. The truth lies in numbers, after all, so if enough people believe in the same goal, it has to be right, but at the same time, can these characters be trusted? The protagonist argues that these characters, particularly the McRib, only view the world through "artificial meat eyes," and are only involved in the cause "some of the time." This statement may imply that Diet Coke, McNuggets, and McRib only see what they want to see, and only contribute to the cause when it is convenient, which leaves our protagonist more lost than ever before.

Everybody was jealous of them french fries
Except for that one special guy
That smooth apple pie


In the final section of this story, we are introduced to the final player in this political chess match: The "special" and Messiah-like "smooth apple pie," who appears to be the neutral good of this story. Displaying no signs of jealousy or affinity for either side, Smooth Apple Pie decides to simply observe what will happen, acting as a watchman respected by all the other food products. This leaves our protagonist at a crossroads: Does he/she conform and join the McDonald's Man and the French Fries in the name of personal safety, does he/she join the fight against them in hopes of a better world, or does he/she take the high road forged by Smooth Apple Pie and find a way to avoid all conflict? Before we get a definitive answer, the poem ends, which leaves us as readers to personally decide what we would do if we were in the protagonist's place, leading to some highly introspective questioning of our own moral fiber. This might be one of Mr. West's most important work, and I'm sure it will be passed down for generations and forever change how we perceive literature, societal norms, and life's purpose in general.
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