Influences: Aphex Twin, A Tribe Called Quest, Daft Punk, The Fugees, The Killers, John Mayer, Modest Mouse, The Pharcyde, Portishead, Radiohead, Sade, Wu-Tang Clan
"I'm a problem, that'll never, ever be solved.Hurry up an' describe Kanye here, 'cuz he can't wait much longer.Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977) is an American hip hop artist, songwriter, record producer, and fashion designer from Chicago, Illinois (born in Atlanta, Georgia). Originally a producer for Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, he started releasing his own music in 2004 with the Grammy-winning College Dropout. Some of his music videos reference and describe his experiences in the South Side of Chicago, including a music video where he rapped in front of a Harold's Chicken restaurant.Some know him for his controversies. Some of his actions that some may consider egotistical have arguably garnered more attention than his music. His polarizing line from 2005, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" was one example. And then there was—"Yo Taylor, I'm real happy for you, I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!"*Ahem.* As we were saying, there was also the infamous incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, in which he brusquely interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for winning Best Female Video with the above quote. Reporters, talk shows, and the Internet in general had a field day with this, and several people today (including Barack Obama) still won't let him off the hook. And amongst certain Daft Punk fans, he is infamously known for sampling "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". There's also that incident where Beck won the 2015 Album of the Year Grammy Award, which many predicted would instead go to Beyoncé. Kanye was a forerunner of the outcries that ensued after the snub, almost pulling another "Taylor Swift", and accused the Grammys of "not respecting artistry," saying that "Beck should've given his Grammy to Beyoncé." However, in an interview, he stated that he listened to the album that won Beck the award (Morning Phase) and admitted that it was quite good, before making an official public apology to Beck via Twitter.He's currently released seven studio albums: The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808's & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, and his most recent, The Life of Pablo. Kanye featured a Funny Animal named "Dropout Bear" on the front cover of his first three albums. He also released two different collaboraton albums: a collaboration album with Jay-Z titled Watch the Throne and a collaboration with his vanity label, G.O.O.D. Music, called Cruel SummerWest has received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for his "transformative, genre-defying work."At the 2015 VMAs, West announced that he intends to run for President of the United States in 2020. Time will tell whether or not Kanye's pulling another trick on us or he's actually serious about it, as he's not the only rapper who in 2015 announced a presidential campaign.note He's been married to Kim Kardashian since 2014. They have two children together.
And no matter what you'll never take that from me.
My reign is as far as your eyes can see."
And no matter what you'll never take that from me.
My reign is as far as your eyes can see."
— Kanye West, "Amazing"
- The College Dropout (2004)
- Late Registration (2005)
- Graduation (2007)
- 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
- Watch the Throne (with Jay-Z, under the name The Throne) (2011)
- Cruel Summer (with his label, G.O.O.D. Music) (2012)
- Yeezus (2013)
- The Life of Pablonote (2016)
Mr. West provides examples of:
- Adorkable: Certainly in his first three albums, and oh so much in the Late Orchestration concert DVD.
- Album Title Drop:
- From "Good Morning": "Homie, this shit is basic, welcome to graduation."
- From "I Am a God": "I just talked to Jesus / he said, 'What up, Yeezus?'"
- The Life of Pablo has no direct title drop, but Pablo is mentioned in "No More Parties In LA".
- Alternative Hip Hop: although the masses tend to view him as a pop rapper due to his use of auto tune, Kanye may be one of the few artistic rappers in the modern music industry and his work incorporates a large body of genres and progressive ideas.
- Arc Words: References to being 'cold' abound on 808s and Heartbreak, adding to the already icy and bleak atmosphere.
- Ascended Meme: The leaked version of "See Me Now" (a bonus track from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that features Beyonce) has Kanye ad-libbing for about a minute at the end instead of Big Sean's verse. Among the things Ye says is..."...and I'mma let you finish but I got Beyonce on the track!"
- When Britney Spears ' single "Hold it Against Me" beat Kanye and Jay-Z's single "H.A.M" to number one, Kanye posted a tweet which said "Yo Britney, I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you be #1, but me and Jay-Z's single is one of the best songs of all time!"...which he promptly deleted when people got upset.
- Ascended Fanboy: A common theme in his songs, most notable in "Touch the Sky" and "Big Brother" to Jay-Z, No I.D., Wu-Tang Clan, and Hip-Hop in general.
- Audience Participation Song:
I remember at the Kanye concert in Melbourne Australia, when "All Of The Lights" started playing Kanye wouldn't continue the song until he was satisfied with the amount of people saying nigga. He restored the part 4 times.
- In "All of the Lights", after the "MJ gone" bit, he then points the mic to the crowd to say "Our nigga dead!". Childish Gambino briefly discusses being in the crowd during this in his Weirdo stand-up special, being baffled and intimidated by the amount of white people at the concert who freely said the line without any restrictions with the slur. The following is a Youtube comment from the stand-up video:
Kanye: In a French-ass restaurant-Audience: Hurry up with my damn croissants!
- In some of his concerts, he even said "White people, this is your only chance to say that word!"
- "All of the Lights" also has the Rihanna hook that everyone sings. Sometimes, the song audio will be cut out entirely with just the crowd singing.
- "So if you ain't no punk, holla 'we want pre-nup!'"
- "When I say 'Hey,' you say, 'mama!'"
- The video that's surfaced of the Yeezus tour shows the audience enthusiastically singing along with and supplying lines from "I'm In It," "On Sight," "Blood on the Leaves" (the entire first verse, in fact), and various other tracks. It's kind of heartwarming, given how divisive the album has been.
- And, of course, from "I Am a God:"
- Some performances of the legendary unreleased track "Mama's Boyfriend" have the audience shout out the final lines of the first verse.
- Sometimes Kanye doesn't even rap the first verse of "New Slaves" - the audience shouts it instead.
- Everyone sings the opening part of "Gold Digger" sung by Jamie Foxx.
- "If the Roc is in the building, say 'hell yeah!'"
- Adopted on 808s and Heartbreak to convey loneliness and disconnect. Used on occasion from then forward, either for singing or rapping.
- The outro to "Runaway" uses this combined with effects pedals to make Kanye's voice sound like a distorted guitar. More than a few reviewers compared it to a Robert Fripp solo, which, given that West samples King Crimson on another song on that album, was probably exactly his intention. It's also speculated that the unintelligible vocals are intended to represent West's frequent difficulties in expressing himself verbally.
- Also used on his new single "Only One," though not to the same degree.
- Used prominently on The Life of Pablo, most notably on Wolves.
- Awesome McCoolname: Both Kanye himself and his daughter, North West.
- The new addition to the family, Saint West.
- Backhanded Apology: In an interview just before Yeezus dropped, Kanye claimed that Dark Twisted Fantasy was this to the entire country.
- Badass Boast:
"My presence is a present, kiss my ass."
- From "Monster":
- Kanye described The Life of Pablo before its release on Twitter by saying, "This is not album of the year. This is album of the life."
- "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex, why? I made that bitch famous" is definitely up there.
- Berserk Button:
- Don't be a paparazzo and annoy him. No seriously, don't. His distaste for them really took off when they started to abuse his privacy around his mother's passing.
- Being controlled, on any level. This led to "New Slaves", in which the loudest screamed line on it (and the Yeezus album proper) is, "Y'ALL NIGGAS CAN'T FUCK WITH YE!! Y'ALL NIGGAS CAN'T FUCK WITH YE!!"
- Used almost literally on "Champions" with "Pray for me, I'm about to hit the 'Ye button".
- Black Comedy: The bleakly funny "We livin' in hell here / hell yeah!" in "Jesus Walks."
- Blasphemous Boast: Subverted by I Am a God. Kanye claims to be "a god, even though I'm a man of God" and has a conversation with Jesus in the second verse.
- Bowdlerization: A couple instances on The College Dropout. Aretha Franklin would only clear the sample for "School Spirit" if Kanye guaranteed the resulting song would be clean, so it's edited even on the explicit version. Less clear is why this also happened to the single swear on "Through the Wire" (left in on the single version) and half of the principal's profane rant in "Graduation Day".
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite how much of a total jackass some might say he is, the music is commercially acceptable enough for his career to stay intact, and you have to admit that he's a brilliant and ingenious artist.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Gold Digger" and "Hey Mama."
- Live performances of "New Slaves" turn the bridge into this, with Kanye rapping "y'see, there's leaders and there's followers" and the audience shouting back "but I'd rather be a dick than a swallower!"
- Careful with That Axe: Does a few James Brown-esque screams on "I Am a God".
- Chicago: Kanye has name-dropped his hometown of Chicago on numerous occasions, perhaps most notably in the song "Homecoming."
- Cloudcuckoolander: As if we didn't already know, the video of Runaway seemed to prove this.
- Practically anything that comes out of his mouth certifies this.
- Contemptible Cover: The original banned cover art for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. (NSFW)
"Took her to the 'Bleau, she tried to sip the fountain◊
- You can hear Kanye chuckling a bit in "RoboCop" after he says "she said she ain't take it to this degree / well, let's agree to disagree".
- At the end of this line in "On Sight":
That when David Grutman kicked her out
But I got her back in and put my dick in her moooooouuuuuth"
- Darker and Edgier:
- Late Registration's "Crack Music", which is the bleaker Spiritual Successor to the uplifting "Jesus Walks". The church chorus is still present, but the subject matter and tone doesn't inspire optimism like its predecessor (though that may be the point).
- 808's and Heartbreak (yes, the entire album) is both this and Lighter and Softer at the same time. On the one hand, it's far less profane and more R&B oriented than his prior albums (in fact, only one song on the album contains any real rapping). But, on the other hand, it's also quite a bit more serious and introspective than prior albums. This was done less out of artistic intent and more as a result of his epic Creator Breakdown (see the Trivia page for details).
- He's out-darked himself with Cruel Summer, to a point where the lead single's main sample is a pitch-shifted description of the devil.
- Yeezus (again, the entire album) is probably his darkest piece of work yet, due to the more abrasive production and heavier subject matter.
- Two days before Yeezus was due in the record label's hands, Kanye hadn't written lyrics for five songs – half of the album's worth. As he was going to be spending those two days in Milan, he managed to write and record all five vocals within two hours before leaving to catch his plane.
- Kanye recorded a song with his jaw wired shut. That is all you should have to hear.
- Downer Ending: The music video for "Touch the Sky" has this, with Evel Kanyevel attempting to jump the Grand Canyon in a rocket...and crashing badly, with the rocket exploding. Kanyevel is then seen in the clouds, presumably in Heaven.
- Dream Team:
- Every song he's done with Jay-Z, from "The Bounce" on The Blueprint 2 to "Clique", and everything in between (including the entirety of Watch the Throne).
- Kanye, Jay, Lil Wayne, T.I. and M.I.A. on T.I.'s "Swagger Like Us"
- Kanye, Jay, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver on "Monster"
- Kanye, Rihanna, John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, and Elton John on "All of the Lights"
- Kanye and Rihanna on the official "Diamonds" remix.
- Kanye and Rick Ross on "Devil in a New Dress", as well as the Ross song Ye did in return, "Live Fast, Die Young," both of which were preceded by "Maybach Music II" on Ross' Deeper Than Rap which featured Kanye and a high-of-his-powers Lil' Wayne.
- Kanye and Coldplay's Chris Martin on "Homecoming".
- Every song Kanye has done with Common.
- Drake, Kanye, Lil Wayne and Eminem on "Forever".
- With Paul McCartney for several songs on SWISH and Rihanna's "FourFiveSeconds".
- Kanye and Kendrick Lamar on "No More Parties in LA".
- Kanye and Kim Kardashian.
- The production of Yeezus was handled by a School of Gifted Youngsters that included Hudson Mohawke, Arca, Travis Scott, Brodinski, Gesaffelstein, and Evian Christ.
- Kanye's G.O.O.D Music label contains a diverse spread of talents who appeared in several combinations on "Cruel Summer."
- Drunken Song: "Hold My Liquor," "Drunken Hot Girls."
- Early-Bird Cameo: Listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Now go back and watch the Runaway' film. The film contains 11 of the 13 tracks featured on the album in either a snippet or its full track. The only two tracks on the album that aren't in the film are 'Monster' and 'So Appalled,' which were released as part of his G.O.O.D. Fridays project. So if you heard the two "G.O.O.D. Fridays" and watched the film, you heard the album before it got released in stores.
- Epic Rocking:
- College Dropout had "Spaceship" (5:24), "The New Workout Plan" (5:22), and "Slow Jamz" (5:16), but most notably had "Last Call" (12:40).
- Late Registration had "We Major" (7:28), "Hey Mama" (5:05), and "Gone" (6:02).
- Graduation had "Stronger" (5:11) and "Drunk and Hot Girls" (5:13).
- 808s and Heartbreak had "Say You Will" (6:14) and "Pinocchio Story" (6:03).
- MBDTF had "Gorgeous" (5:57), "Monster" (6:18), "So Appalled" (6:38), "Runaway" (5:52), "Runaway" (9:08), "Hell of a Life" (5:27), and "Blame Game" (7:49), not to mention some that were just under 5 minutes ("Power" and "All of the Lights").
- Watch the Throne had "Murder to Excellence", which was EXACTLY 5 minutes long. The deluxe edition had "Illest Motherfucker Alive" (8:22) and "The Joy" (5:17).
- Yeezus had "Hold My Liquor" (5:26) and "Blood on the Leaves" (6:00).
- Cruel Summer had "Mercy" (5:26), "New God Flow" (5:57), and "The One" (5:44).
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The College Dropout: "Jesus Walks" → "Never Let Me Down".
- Late Registration: "Wake Up Mr. West" → "Heard 'Em Say", "Skit #1" → "Drive Slow".
- 808s and Heartbreak: "Say You Will" → "Welcome to Heartbreak".
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: "Lost in the World" → "Who Will Survive in America".
- The Life of Pablo: "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" → "Pt. 2", "Highlights" → "Freestyle 4".
- Besides all of these, Kanye likes to make songs that function as intros for the songs following them that may not necessarily transition into them. On The College Dropout, "I'll Fly Away" serves as an intro for "Spaceship". On Late Registration, the first skit serves as an intro to "Drive Slow" (primarily with the skit's last line, "So we ain't drivin'!"). On MBDTF, "All of the Lights" is prefixed by an orchestral rearrangement.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: His Power video portrays Kanye as Yahweh, Horus andnote Allah with The Sword of Damocles over his head. Complete with being flanked by Isis and Hathor as well as two Seraphim Aquarius and Half the Major and Minor Arcana. note
- Feghoot: His verse on Kid Cudi's "Erase Me" is all just a set up for him to make a rather corny diarrhea joke.
- Freestyle Version: Has recorded a few of these, although considerably less than most rappers. He did one over Kelis' "Milkshake" called "Better than Yours", and a number of freestyles in his early years over Jay-Z beats (most of which he produced). He also recorded a freestyle over Rich Boy's "Throw Some Ds", which turned a song about money and cars into a song about breast implants.
- Freudian Excuse: Implied. In a magazine, Kanye admits that before he became a famous rapper, many people said that he couldn't rap and that it hurt that nobody believed in him. So his egotistical behavior may be a way of covering up his insecurities.
- A God Am I: One of the major themes of Yeezus, which includes a song called "I Am a God." It's not actually intended to be blasphemous, as Kanye's a Christian — it's based on a Bible verse (Psalms 82:6, to specify) — but the shock and controversy of it was certainly not an accident.
- Even as early as Late Registration, Kanye's name was stylized as kanYeWest, echoing the name Yahweh (or Jehovah), one of the Jewish names for the Judeo-Christian God.
- Good Morning, Crono: Late Registration opens with "Wake Up Mr. West", although the trope doesn't really come into play until the end, where it's revealed that Kanye has fallen asleep during class, leading for the title to be shouted.
- Greeting Gesture Confusion: This gif◊ of him meeting John Mayer (actually a deliberate White Dude, Black Dude joke).
- Heel Realization: The narrator of "Runaway" realizes that he treats everyone around him like garbage.
- The Illuminati: Ye's membership is proposed by a significant portion of the Fan Dumb. For example. the casual conspiracy theorist who has no knowledge of Roc-A-Fella Records might think that his◊ is an anodyne sign. Helping the theories are the fact that Kanye's among the many popular artists to use Masonic symbolism and other Illuminati references (all seeing-eye, Pharaohs and Egyptian symbolism, pyramids, chessboard etc...).
- Insult Backfire: "Jesus Walks" includes the lines "'We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast' / Y'all eat pieces of shit?", which is a reference to Happy Gilmore.
- Interface Screw: Two videos from 808s & Heartbreak feature this.
- "Love Lockdown" appears to be in a 16:9 ratio, until one of the tribesmen jumps out from the black bars.
- "Welcome to Heartbreak" also appears in 16:9, until a rock is thrown towards the camera, shattering the glass and revealing a 4:3 aspect ratio for several seconds. "Heartbreak"'s video is also an exercise in using compression artefacts to create interesting visual effects (think of a poorly loaded, low-quality streaming video.) Both videos appear to be in windowbox format on Youtube, because of the 4:3 ratio teases in each video.
- It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: His infamous and endlessly parodied interruption quote from the VMAs.
- "I Want" Song: "Spaceship"I've been working this grave shift
And I ain't make shit
I wish I could buy me a spaceship and fly
Past the sky
- Jesus Was Way Cool: The point of "Jesus Walks".
- Large Ham: Kanye loooooooves attention, and his unfiltered passion for things that he likes veers heavily into this trope.
"She said, Ye, can we get married at the MAAAAAAAAALLLLLL?!I said, look you need to crawl 'fore you BAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!Come and meet me in the bathroom STAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!And show me why you deserve to have it AAAAAAAAALLLLLL!"
- For example, this verse from "Niggas in Paris":
- Lesser Star: Rick Rubin's finishing production job on Yeezus reduced many of the big-name contributors to this status. Rubin, already known for his reductive production philosophy, stripped many of the songs down to base arrangements, leaving entire instruments and sections of songs on the cutting room floor. It's not possible to tell that Daft Punk contributed to four songs unless the liner notes are read.
- Lighter and Softer:
- Graduation was poppy and anthemic, compared to the more serious Late Registration.
- Played with by his new single "Only One". The song itself is much softer than his previous album Yeezus, but the lyrics about speaking with his deceased mother are by no means lighter. It's been implied that his entire new album will consist of a softer tone.
- The Life of Pablo, while poignant at times, is rather cheery and optimistic.
- Lonely at the Top: Name-dropped by Kanye when summarizing 808s & Heartbreak; considering the influence that Kanye's loneliness and wish for normality and companionship had on the album, it's not an incorrect statement.
- Loudness War: Most of the albums are brickwalled to a certain extent, but it's particularly egregious on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Thank you, Vlado Meller. The official video clips in places like Youtube generally don't suffer from this problem as being built as web content have no need for the type of loudness and clipping that analogue formats require.
- Yeezus's dynamic range squishes even tigher than Fantasy's does, averaging at 4dB of range. Unlike MBDTF, Yeezus features heavy amounts of clearly audible distortion, but this was probably on purpose, considering the material on it.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- Despite the dark, crushing, minimalist and creepy instrumentals behind "I Am A God," The lyrics are all mostly quite funny, or at the very least don't leave anything to imply the intense darkness that the beat carries.
- On the other hand, there's "All of the Lights", a cheery-sounding song with a catchy chorus and an upbeat riff about the narrator's utter failure as a father and his desperate attempts to fix it.
- Meaningful Name: "Through The Wire" is about a car accident that Kanye was in, and was recorded while his jaw was wired shut. (And the song also samples Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire".)
- Messianic Archetype: Seems to think of himself like this, as evidenced when he portrayed himself as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone, the Runaway film and in his album Yeezus.
- Metal Scream: Several times in Yeezus, most notably "I am a God" and "Black Skinhead." Live performances take this to another level.
- Mic Drop:
- At the end of a live performance of his verse on "New God Flow". One Youtube user described this as "as Kanye as Kanye can get".
- At the end of his 2015 VMA speech after announcing his plans to run for president in 2020.
- Mondegreen: In "Famous", "I loved you better than your own kin did" has been misheard as "I loved you better than your own candy".
- Mood Whiplash: "Blame Game" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye painfully recounts falling out with a woman (possibly Amber Rose) and mentions overhearing a conversation when her phone automatically dialed him back. The other man she's seeing is none other than Chris Rock. The phone call goes all the way up to hilarious ("You took your pussy game up to a whole 'nother level! This is some Cirque du Soleil pussy now!") to downright tragic again at the end.
- New Sound Album: Every album is different from the last to the point where some call Kanye the Hip-Hop Radiohead.
- Late Registration had lusher, more textured production than College Dropout, and wasn't as reliant on samples.
- Graduation consists of more uplifting, anthemic music with Kanye utilizing electronics as well as sampling from a larger range of music genres.
- 808s & Heartbreak has a drastically different sound due to embracing cold, bleak minimalism and shifting away from hip-hop to genres like electropop and R&B, with the whole album being sung rather than rapped, due to extensive use of Auto-Tune.
- MBDTF was seen by many as an amalgamation of all of his past albums' defining features, as well as having its own sense of grandiosity.
- Yeezus is Kanye's most experimental release yet, with abrasive production.
- No Indoor Voice: For awhile, at least, his Twitter was written entirely in ALL CAPS. Eventually this was dropped.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Graduation Day", "The Glory", "Dark Fantasy", "Gorgeous", "Devil in a New Dress", "Good Friday", "Gotta Have It", "Otis", "Black Skinhead" (the words 'black' and 'skin' appear, but 'skinhead' doesn't), "Guilt Trip", and "Murder to Excellence".
- In the case of "Murder to Excellence," the words appear in the song but the title refers to the fact that it's basically two songs in one track.
- Notable Music Videos: He approaches his video clips with the same outlandish expression that he does his music.
- All Of The Lights is stuffed to the brim with bright, vivid Epileptic Flashing Lights and ends with nothing but strobing colors for visuals.
- "Niggas in Paris" had similarly epilepsy-inducing visuals, although not of the same type.
- A lot of his recent videos ("I Wish You Would", "Cold") have done so as well.
- "Mercy" was widely acclaimed as one of the best videos of 2012.
- For My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he made a 30-minute movie containing most of the albums' songs - all about himself falling in love with a phoenix.
- The music video for "Power" consists of the camera starting on a zoom of Kanye's face as it slowly zooms out for a minute and a half, the video's surreal elements becoming more evident as the zoom out continues. Frequently parodied, and one of the most prominent music videos of the year.
- All Of The Lights is stuffed to the brim with bright, vivid Epileptic Flashing Lights and ends with nothing but strobing colors for visuals.
- Odd Friendship: With Elton John, Elly Jackson of La Roux, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Aziz Ansari.
- Occidental Otaku: Surprisingly. The video for "Stronger" features a few video cuts from a few anime. Hilariously, he once claimed in an interview to like anime porn.
- Out-of-Genre Experience:
- Yeezus, if you're one of the people who classify it as Industrial Metal.
- "Only One" is a heartfelt yet heartrending soul ballad.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: When the Saturday Night Live staff altered his stage he just exploded.
- Papa Wolf: His decision to shield his children from the limelight. North made only sporadic appearances on her mother's show as an infant, and baby Saint is being kept off the air entirely, both at Kanye's insistence.
- Reversed in "Wolves".
- Real Men Love Jesus: Assuming you take Kanye for a real man, "Jesus Walks" is evidence.
- Refrain from Assuming: Kanye insisted on naming "Niggas in Paris" as such (instead of "Ball So Hard" like Jay-Z wanted, or "That Shit Cray", both repeated throughout the song) because the song's about them being in Paris.
- Sacrificial Lion: Could be seen as this for Hip-Hop, he has a track record of speaking on behalf of the wider community at moments when others would have conformed and stayed silent. With... mixed results.
- Sampling: One of Kanye's earliest trademarks was sampling from old R&B/soul/funk records and pitching them up until the vocalists sounded like chipmunks. He himself admitted this technique was borrowed from RZA. After this, Kanye's sampling portfolio grew ever bigger (and stranger); the sheer number of samples Kanye has used in his career has made him sampling's poster boy and inevitably leads to a Love it or Hate it reaction from people who like the original material.
- Graduation included samples from Elton John, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Can, Laura Nyro and Daft Punk.
- 808s, being a weird album, has some weird samples: The Alan Parsons Project, Tears for Fears and... the soundtrack to the '90s Great Expectations movie.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy included samples from King Crimson, Aphex Twin, Manfred Manns Earth Band, Black Sabbath, Mike Oldfield, Gil Scott-Heron and Bon Iver.
- Ironically, the one song on MBDTF that sounds most like his Dropout era work ("Devil in a New Dress") is the only one that's not self-produced - it was produced by Bink!, one of Kanye's producer friends from the Blueprint period.
- Watch the Throne samples Phil Manzanera, Spooky Tooth, Nina Simone, Otis Redding, James Brown, Cassius, Quincy Jones, Public Enemy, and, er, the theme from Chariots of Fire. A sample of 70s smyphonic rock band Orchestra Njervudarov's song "Tristessa" appears several times throughout the album.
- Cruel Summer features a few reggae samples, often as sound effects in the background of the tracks. There's also an interpolation of one of the songs in My Fair Lady.
- "Mercy" turns the intro of the cheerful reggae song "Dust a Sound Boy" into a fear-inducing scream.
- Yeezus includes samples from Hungarian progressive rock band Omega, the Holy Name of Mary Choral Family, Nina Simone, and Beenie Man, amongst several others.
- This trope was taken to its logical extreme with the track "Comfortable" by Lil Wayne, which is a sample of Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name", which he produced and sampled from a song by The Main Ingredient. In other words, Kanye sampled himself using a sample.
- Self-Parody: By the time of Yeezus, Kanye seems to have realized how comically overblown his ego is. While a number of the songs are completely serious (such as "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead"), some of the other songs on the album take common rap boasts and make them as over-the-top as possible, such as the line above under Corpsing and this entry, also from "On Sight":Real nigga back in the house again
Black Timbs all on your couch again
Black dick all in your spouse again
And I know she like chocolate men
She got more niggas off than Cochran
I am a god
- Another standout is I am a God, wherein Kanye proclaims his divinity, which includes lyrics like the following:
So hurry up with my damn massage
In a French-ass restaurant
Hurry up with my damn croissants
I am a god
I am a god
I am a god
- Sensory Abuse:
- The music video for "All of the Lights". That epilepsy warning at the start is not kidding.
- Kanye and Jay-Z's video for "Niggas in Paris" contains a similar warning and both videos share a director: Hype Williams.
- And a fan-made lyrics video for the Kanye West version of E.T.
- Some of the more abrasive sides of Yeezus can be this. The very beginning of the album comes to mind.
- Serial Escalation: Done on the first leg of the Watch the Throne Tour with "Niggas in Paris". Kanye and Jay-Z would cut the song off after the "they goin' gorillas" line, and then would play the song again from the top. The resulting crowd explosion apparently convinced them to one-up themselves throughout the tour until they were performing it eleven times back-to-back at the end of the tour (in Paris itself, natch) — and not once did the audience get tired.
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
- The video for "Stronger" heavily references AKIRA, from the motorcycles and their light trails, to the heavily stylized operating table and hospital gown that West appears in.
- The set in the video for "Love Lockdown" is based on Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Psycho. West's performance was also influenced by the character. West later directed a promotional short for his album Yeezus, featuring a re-creation of American Psycho's infamous scene in which Bateman murders associate Paul Allen while conversing about Huey Lewis & The News' "Hip to be Square", replacing that song with "New Slaves", and the actors with Scott Disick and Jonathan Cheban.
- The animated music video for "Heartless". The Rotoscoped animation, Pop Art-influenced backgrounds and a few of the scenes in the video pay tribute to Ralph Bakshi's film American Pop. Posters of The Jetsons and other Hanna-Barbera characters appear on the wall of West's apartment in the video as well.
- The video for "All of the Lights" features rapid-fire typography and neon strobing colours in an homage to Gaspar Noé's film Enter the Void. Due to a response from British group Epilepsy Action, the video was re-cut without these effects but retains the technicolour floods of light of the source material.
- The "Bound 2" video shares the kitschy eroticism of Jeff Koons' "Made in Heaven" photo shoot.
- These lines from "Jesus Walks":
But if I rap about God, my record won't get played, huh?
- Shockingly Expensive Bill: In February 2016 he declared he's $53 million in debt and asked Face Book's Mark Zuckerberg for a billion dollars.
- Sincerity Mode: Inverted. His online apology to Taylor Swift (in all caps) contained statements such as "I'm sorry Taylor... Beyoncé had one of the greatest videos of all time!" Many argued whether or not he was truly being sincere (including the rather sincere 100+ tweet apology on Twitter) but Kanye confirmed in 2013 with the New York Times that he felt pressured into apologizing and he actually doesn't feel sorry for the incident.
- Spoken Word in Music: A technique he often uses.
- The principal from the intros to The College Dropout and Late Registration, as well as "Graduation Day".
- J.Ivy's poem from "Never Let Me Down".
- Nicki Minaj's introduction to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
- Gil Scott-Heron on "Who Will Survive in America".
- The Kings of Tomorrow acapella sample on "Low Lights".
- Stealth Parody: A few people believe Kanye West is the hip-hop equivalent of Andy Kaufman. But they also think because of the fact he's a rapper, it's no stretch to believe people think Kanye is dead serious.
- One of the things that makes him so fascinating to many is how he deconstructs the stereotypical hip-hop boastfulness in his music, while deliberately amplifying and exaggerating these traits in his public persona.
- The "Bound 2" video. Because of Kanye's general reputation, nobody got the joke until Seth Rogen and James Franco re-created the video starring themselves.
- Stealth Pun: "I Am a God" was inspired by the Bible verse Psalms 82 - "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High." Get it? Ye are gods?
- Stylistic Suck: In "Love Lockdown", Kanye's voice is deliberately distorted when he says "system overload".
- Super Group: "Child Rebel Soldier/CRS" with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams. Though work has cooled on that front (they've released all of 2 songs together - although one of those featured Thom Yorke from Radiohead.
- Kanye and Jay-Z forming The Throne for their album and tour, Watch the Throne.
- Take That!:
- Examples from Kanye:
And I'll admit, I had fell in love with Kim
- In a rare move for Kanye, he responded to SNL in his first post-VMA single "Power" : "Fuck SNL and the whole cast / tell 'em Yeezy said they could kiss my whole ass / more specifically, they can kiss my asshole / I'm an asshole? You niggas got JOOOOKES" before launching into a verse directed at all the haters. He rewrote the verse when he actually performed the song on SNL - then tweeted "Love to SNL and the whole cast!"
- In "Power" he refers to himself as the "OBAMAnation of Obama's nation."
- "Gorgeous" contains the line "choke a South Park writer with a fishstick".
- 808s & Heartbreak and MBDTF are full of shots at his ex-fiancee Alexis Phifer and his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, respectively.
- When Kanye performed Stronger live at Coachella in 2011, he changed the lines talking about how "I'd do anything for a blond dyke" to past-tense ("I did anything for a blond dyke"), subtly turning them into a shot at Amber Rose, who was at the fest with her new hookup Wiz Khalifa.
- In a beautiful example of adding insult to injury, Kanye absolutely skewers Kris Humphries on "Theraflu".
'Round the same time she had fell in love with him
Well that's cool, baby girl, do ya thang
Lucky I ain't had Jay drop him from the team
I bet me and Ray J would be friends
- Kanye completely shuts Ray J down in "Highlights", particularly for his statement concerning Kanye's wife Kim that he "hit it first" (what with the leaked sex tape and all), to which Kanye replies that he hit it right.
If we ain't love the same bitch
Yeah, he might have hit it first
Only problem is I'm rich
- Examples towards Kanye:
- When Beyoncé won her award she called Taylor up onto the stage and told her that she deserved to share this moment too, due to the first time of it being soiled by a certain SOMEONE. The certain someone part wasn't said, but she apparently made it quite clear that despite Kanye's opinions about her video, she was plenty ticked at him too. A competing team on America's Best Dance Crew also did a routine to Taylor Swift music, which ended with one of them assuming the role of Kanye and doing his famous rant. Before he could finish, another member turned around and punched him repeatedly before kicking him in the nads.
- When Taylor Lautner hosted Saturday Night Live, his monologue included an apology to Taylor (his then girlfriend) for not standing up for her, ending with a demonstration of his black-belt level Tae Kwon Do on a Kanye West cardboard cutout.
- Also, when Barack Obama, the President of the United States, calls you "a jackass", you really need time to think how you can be a better American citizen. This is considered by some to be the one thing Obama has said that both parties can agree on.
- The 49th annual Country Music Academy Awards also had "Little" Jimmy Dickens interrupt Brad Paisley's award acceptance speech by pulling Kanye's famous rant, except by ending it with complimenting Taylor. This was followed by a joke about how a short, 87-year-old man could get past their security. Which is actually a good question for the MTV Awards.
- Another jab pointed his way came up in the 2010 CMT Awards. Kid Rock (the host) said that if anybody tried any "Kanye-Westing" or stealing microphones from nice young ladies, he and Hank Williams Jr. would punch their face in.
- Taylor Swift managed to get in at least one shot at him when she hosted SNL shortly after the awards; since she was both host and musical guest, during the part of the monologue where the host says "We have a great show for you tonight, [musical guest] is here!", she instead said, "We have a great show for you tonight, Kanye West is NOT here!"
- Three years later at the BET awards, Jay Z did it to Kanye, ironically for an award they beat Beyonce for.
- Examples from Kanye:
- Take That Me: "Runaway", which has him admitting faults in a relationship that didn't work out:Never was much of a romantic
I could never take the intimacy
And I know I did damage
Cause the look in yo eyes is killin' me
- Take This, Haters: "Stronger" and "Power" are two songs that directly bash common criticisms of him at the time. Also, aforementioned "Stronger" quotes the trope's name word for word once in the lyrics.
- Textless Album Cover: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer. Yeezus has no cover and the actual sticker put on the album case has no text on it.
- Theme Naming: His first three albums, The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation: all to do with, well, college. The next album was originally supposed to continue the trend and be named Good-Ass Job, but its title track was cut and the album was renamed to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
- Unexpected Character: Each album generally has at least one. Graduation involving Chris Martin, 808s and Heartbreak involving Lil Wayne and Cruel Summer involving Ma$e probably take the biscuit though.
- The College Dropout had DeRay Davis as the principal, poet J.Ivy on "Never Let Me Down" and Jamie Foxx on "Slow Jamz".
- Late Registration had DeRay Davis (again), Lupe Fiasco ("Touch The Sky" was his breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and - a major surprise considering Jay-Z was in a major feud with him at the time - Nas.
- Graduation had Chris Martin, and — dependent on how you viewed Kanye's music at the time — T-Pain.
- 808s and Heartbreak had Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, who despite both being involved in the production of Graduation, few expected to feature on a breakup album.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Justin Vernon of indie rock band Bon Iver (who few had even heard of at the time, let alone knew what to expect from them).
- Watch the Throne featured Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously), alongside Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame. It also featured Swizz Beatz, to the chagrin of a sizable portion of West's fanbase.
- Cruel Summer had most of its cast like this. R. Kelly, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef, Jadakiss, MA$E... Few expected these collaborations.
- Yeezus involves Chicago rappers Chief Keef and King Louie, Daft Punk, Justin Vernon, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, Evian Christ, and techno producers Brodinski and Gesaffelstein. West even used several of these people in unexpected ways, such as Chief Keef singing the hook on "Hold My Liquor", and Daft Punk basically producing horror sounds for "Black Skinhead" and "I Am a God".
- Kanye himself is this on GOOD Music labelmate Pusha T's "Hold On." Despite being uncredited, his incomprehensible, autotuned moaning is a big part of the beat.
- Visual Pun: The cover from the album 808's and Heartbreak was a deflated heart-shaped balloon on a pale blue background. The single for "Heartless" featured an identical cover, but without the balloon.
- Which Me?: The video for "Mercy".
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