At the end of an uncharacteristically tame monologue at the MTV Video Music Awards last night, Kanye West unveiled his sexy new video for “Fade,” which features, among multiple other oddities, singer Teyana Taylor turning into a cat. The sexy feline trope may seem decidedly basic for our generation’s so-called creative genius, but it taps into a weird bit of evolutionary science that suggests Yeezy’s choice of metaphor might actually be more inspired than it seems: On the level of our sex chromosomes, we’re not actually all that different from cats.
According to a study titled “Why cats are seXY” — yes, the capitalization is intentional — published in the journal Genome Studies in 1999 argued that the X and Y chromosomes of humans strongly resemble those of cats, despite the fact that our species have an evolutionary divide of 90 million years.
Brief interlude on WTF sex chromosomes actually are: X and Y, which carry the genes that determine whether we’re born male or female, emerged out of our genetic soup over 250 million years ago, when we were just evolving out of our reptilian ancestry. As evolution continued, the order of the genes on those (and other) chromosomes shuffled, and new species were formed. It would make sense that different species — like cats and humans — would have dramatically different sex chromosomes, and, indeed, scientists had predicted exactly that. But the study, carried out by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, found that the genes on our Xs and Ys are similarly arranged on cats, an evolutionary oddity that suggests that those particular genes had something to do with males’ ability to reproduce well.
In short: We’re more like cats than we think, but not quite to the point where we’re ever going to look like them.
Still, Kanye, ever the revolutionary, used his art to push the limits of what we believe is possible: As the burgeoning field of human-animal chimera research continues to blur the line between person and beast, Taylor’s sexy cat presents a genetic intermingling that science, in theory, could turn into a reality.
If you’ve got Tidal, you can watch “Fade,” which also features Cleveland Cavalier Iman Shumpert and some sheep, here.