Kanye’s Best Lyrical References: Volume One
*Disclaimer, I was going to try to post this all at once, but it’s too intense. It will be posted in increments every now and then.*
Choosing to be a fan of a pop culture figure or artist is a delicate and extremely interesting process. I don’t think we realize how much time we really commit to a musical artist when we choose to enter into their fandom. Pumping someone’s voice straight into your head is a pretty huge commitment if you think about it.
Anyway, it’s been hard for me to watch Kanye turn down the road he has, but it would be completely unfair of me to view Kanye like some entity that I own. Logically speaking, why would I expect Kanye’s style to remain idle? It’s a pretty cocky and ignorant move to be angry at an artist for changing. For example, that whole tweet exchange with Wiz was clearly a staged PR move, and that’s disappointing, but I’m going to stick to judging him by his music. (Also, in “Cold” off of Cruel Summer, he says Wiz is the only rapper he respects that dated his ex)
In his old songs (Gold Digger, All Falls Down, Addiction, etc.), he condemned the very lifestyle that he lives now. And while my initial response it to climb the nearest mountain top and call him out, I can’t do that if I look at myself first. Often we hate lifestyles that we secretly yearn for and that disdain can propel us to a point of success where we have to choose between what we’ve secretly been jealous of and the idealistic yellow brick road.
For example, I’ve hated ESPN for a while now, but it would be very hard for me to turn down a job offer from them. The same goes for Barstool Sports, I used to say I hated them too, but secretly I was jealous of their creative license and fearless attitude. Kanye pretty obviously felt this same way about the fashion industry and his current wife. That’s a strong judgment for me to make, but I’ve listened to so much Kanye at this point I feel like I know him.
Kanye is probably the funniest rapper I’ve ever heard, Ludacris is a close second but the intricacy of Kanye’s references put him ahead of Luda in my book. For example, the line “got caught with 30 rocks, the cop look like Alec Baldwin” from Gorgeous is ingeniously hilarious, yet so simple. The way the line is constructed is amazing, I don’t know how he thought of it (for those lost, a “rock” is street for crack and ’30 Rock’ was a popular NBC show starring Alec Baldwin). It’s so funny to me because I appreciate the creativity it took to think of the line and I could easily see a cop looking like Alex Baldwin.
The other day I just started thinking about how amazing some of the references in Kanye’s lines and verses are, so I decided to compile this list. I know this is something that people could get really worked up about, so let me be very clear: I don’t claim to be a Kanye expert and I’m definitely going to leave out some blatantly great references. I’m writing this for all the people who think Kanye is a bumbling idiot now. His music is still riddled with great lines, but I think people don’t even judge him by his music anymore, they judge him by his lifestyle.
So here they are, my favorite Kanye West verses/lines/references in no ranking or particular order…Enjoy!
Wouldn’t Get Far – The Game ft. Kanye West
This is a pretty great song, The Game’s verses are OK, basically all he does is slander women in this song, but Kanye comes in and absolutely slaughters his entire verse. (Kanye’s verse starts at the 1:10 mark) While the whole verse is good, these four lines are jaw-dropping:
Now ask yourself this question, umm
Would you be with Jay-Z if he wasn’t C-E-O?
Would you be with F-A-B-O if he drove a Neo?
Would you ride with Ne-Yo, if he was in a Geo?
I honestly think that is the most creative thing I’ve ever heard in a rap song. I laugh out loud every time I hear it. I used to love when Kanye would go after girls’ motivations, it used to be such a common theme in his songs and he was always spot on. To ask if a girl she would be with Jay-Z if he wasn’t CEO is both a valid question and not very creative in itself. But he had to start off like that in order to build up what comes next. Would you be with F-A-B-O (the rapper Fabolous) if he drove a Neo? is hysterical, here’s a picture of Fabolous and a picture of a Neo:
But to follow that up with Would you ride with Ne-Yo, if he was in a Geo? is the knock out punch. Game over. To even think about associating a Mazda Neo with the artist Ne-Yo is great, but to do it in this context is pure genius. It’s the funniest way I’ve ever heard a gold digger get called out. Also, Geo Trackers are probably the funniest car ever made.
The Food – Common ft. Kanye West
In my opinion, this is the best live rap song ever recorded. This is one of the few songs I’ve ever heard that actually gives me perspective of what it would be like to be a black person living in poverty. Common kills it, Kanye’s refrains are great, but my favorite part is Kanye’s verse at the end of the song (2:50 mark):
I – I know I could make it right
If I could just swallow my pride
But I can’t run away or put my gun away
You can’t front on me
I – no I can’t let it ride
No no not tonight
See I can’t run away or put my gun away
You can’t front on me
I think everyone can relate to that verse. Obviously we don’t all struggle with “putting our guns away” but we all have something that we just can’t seem to shake, something negative that we always try to justify.
All Falls Down – Kanye West
The actual studio recording of this song is really good, but listening to it in the setting of this Def Jam Poetry reading really makes you appreciate Kanye’s lyircs.
Man I promise, I’m so self conscious
That’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches
Rollies and Pasha’s done drove me crazy
I can’t even pronounce nothing, pass that versace!
Then I spent 400 bucks on this
Just to be like nigga you ain’t up on this!
And I can’t even go to the grocery store
Without some ones thats clean and a shirt with a team
It seems we living the american dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings
We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us
We trying to buy back our 40 acres
And for that paper, look how low we a’stoop
Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coop/coupe
Man I promise, she’s so self conscious
She has no idea what she’s doing in college
That major that she majored in don’t make no money
But she won’t drop out, her parents will look at her funny
Now, tell me that ain’t insecurrre
The concept of school seems so securrre
Sophmore three yearrrs aint picked a careerrr
She like fuck it, I’ll just stay down herre and do hair
Cause that’s enough money to buy her a few pairs of new Airs
Cause her baby daddy don’t really care
She’s so precious with the peer pressure
Couldn’t afford a car so she named her daughter Alexus (a Lexus)
She had hair so long that it looked like weave
Then she cut it all off now she look like Eve
And she be dealing with some issues that you can’t believe
Single black female addicted to retail and well
I say fuck the police, that’s how I treat em
We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom
We’ll buy a lot of clothes when we don’t really need em
Things we buy to cover up what’s inside
Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth
That’s why shortys hollering “where the ballas’ at?”
Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack
And a white man get paid off of all of that
Preeeeeeeeeeeeeeach. I can’t say anything else except preach. Also shout out to Mos Def for correctly calling Kanye the future of hip hop.
Late – Kanye West
Anyone who has ever tried to schedule college classes can relate to the verse below. How messed up is the college class selection process? We’re all paying a ridiculous amount to get the ticket that allows us to make money and not die and the way we choose classes is just pure first come, first served? Who invented that strategy, 2nd graders on ice cream day? College is kind of like BMWs now, it used to be really exciting and mean something, but now everyone does it and getting a degree is basically the new GED.
Stop all your bloodclot cryin, I was flyin
Made it to school with barely ’nuff time to sign in
Yeah I hear the alarm, yeah I hear you mom
Yeah yeah I don’t wan’ be broke when I’m 31
They said the best classes go to the fastest
Sorry Mr. West there’s no good classes, and that’s what yo’ ass get
Not even electives? Not even prerequits?
You mean I missed my major by a couple of seconds?
Now I’m in the shop class or the basket weavin
With all the rest of the muh’fuckers underachievin
Man, this is a insult
I went to junior high with all of them and they been slow
If I can catch the beat then slow down the tempo
Just notice at the end if I’m too late for the intro
Will I make it from the student loans to a Benz-o?
Like old folks pissin, I guess it all (Depends), oh, oh
What really makes this verse is the last line – “Like old folks pissin’, I guess it all Depends.” Perfect.
To be continued…