For better or worse, we’re all in this together.
Married to the Music is a weekly section borrowing the ridiculous and enjoyable tradition brides endure before getting married. Each week we feature 4 selected songs:
Something Old: A song that is at least 20 years old.
Something New: A song that is less than 3 months old.
Something Borrowed: A cover song.
Something Blue: A song that is melancholy, dark, depressing, or just plain sad.
Grav | “Line for Line” (feat. Kanye West)
The song that started it all.
Underground Chicago rapper Grav is credited with being the first person to put Kanye on an official album back in 1996 when Kayne was just 18 years old.
In a recent interview, Grav recalls being approached by Kanye after a Fugees concert and being relentless about playing beats for him:
“This young kid runs up to me like, ‘Yo, I heard you got a record deal. Yo, you should let me get some beats on your album. You should just come to the car and let me play some beats for you.’ … That cat is — I know what they be sayin’ on the news — but I’m telling you, the boy was a child prodigy way back then.”
Grav’s debut album Down To Earth featured Kanye’s production on 9 of his songs with “Line for Line” being the sole track where Kanye actually rapped. His beat and flow show hints of his early backpack rapper signature style.
20 years and multiple reincarnations later much has changed about Ye, but his boastful lyrics and witty wordplay remain an essential part of any Kanye persona.
Kanye West | “30 Hours”
On and off the last several weeks, Kanye instituted G.O.O.D. Fridays, a series where he would release a new song on a Friday without any warning or hype, but that slowed down and eventually stopped altogether once the massive Yeezy hype machine focused on the release of his new album. After yesterday’s Yeezy Season 3 joint album and fashion release party at Madison Square Garden, the world thought that Kanye finally pinned down a tracklist but, nope, think again.
Today Kanye announced there would be a new tracklist featuring additional songs he did not play at the album release party. The one that happened literally less than 24 hours ago. Without the restraints of major label interference, the instant possibilities of the internet, and Kanye’s flare for spontaneity and perfectionism he is able to drastically change his art overnight however he deems fit.
“30 Hours” has a beautiful sample of Arthur Russell’s “Answers Me” and some hilarious, incredibly Kanye-esque rhymes covering his favorite subjects as of late including current thoughts on his exes, his fashion launches, and late night sexual exploits.
Kanye West | “Blood On The Leaves” (Nina Simone and TNGHT samples)
Craig Werner, author and professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, described “Blood On The Leaves” perfectly as “that apparent dichotomy that makes the song a powerful example of West’s signature melding of the Sacred and the Profane.”
Yeezus‘s most haunting track and probably the darkest song Kanye ever created blends Nina Simone’s 1965 rendition of Billie Holiday’s jazz classic “Strange Fruit” with TNGHT’s ultra-aggressive instrumental “R U Ready” and a shout out to C-Murder’s 2000 song “Down for My N’s.”
This song encapsulates what is so special about Kanye West: a seemingly crude cocktail of the melancholic song synonymous with social injustice and lynching has its context transformed from quiet, hopeless despair to unbridled rage by adding the fury of TNGHT’s beat as Kanye venomously raps about his own personal pain and never-ending quest for vengeance and acknowledgement.
Kanye West | “Welcome To Heartbreak” (feat. Kid Cudi)
Kanye’s relationship with fame has been documented on many of his songs throughout his career but may be at his most self-aware on the 808s & Heartbreak standout “Welcome To Heartbreak.”
My friend showed me pictures of his kids
And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs
He said his daughter got a brand new report card
And all I got was a brand new sports car
One of Kanye’s constant themes is how he understands his hypocrisies and his public perception as he gets more and more famous. He is not exactly one to let his art simply speak for itself. His over-the-top ambitions may be what skyrocketed him to his perch high on top of the mountain that is pop culture, but the times he steps back to examine his vulnerabilities and what he values most reminds his audience that he is not oblivious to how his actions affect his life, but that he is addicted to confidence, competition, and his lavish lifestyle.