And no matter what, you'll never take that from me.
My reign is as far as your eyes can see."
Yenote (born Kanyenote Omari West; June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and fashion designer from Chicago, Illinois (born in Atlanta, Georgia). While he has become one of the most polarizing musicians of the 21st century, few can claim to have impacted the medium in the way West has, by means of both his artistic statements and a long, long list of controversial actions.
Originally a producer in the mid-90s for local Chicago artists, eventually making it big as arguably the secret ingredient to Jay-Z's Career Resurrection come the Turn of the Millennium, he started dreaming of becoming a rapper. However, the emphatically middle-class West—the son of a photojournalist and an English professor, and partly raised in the suburbs—didn't fit the profile for the Gangsta Rap popular at the time, and was long pigeonholed as an illegitimate "producer-rapper" before being reluctantly being signed to the label he was an in-house producer for, Jay-Z's Roc-a-Fella Records.
Everything changed on October 23, 2002, when he was involved in a car crash after midnight that shattered his jaw. This inspired his song "Through the Wire"; the song would eventually be re-recorded and included on his debut album The College Dropout, which opened to mass critical and commercial fanfare, jump-starting his career.
While his "sound" was initially solely defined as a "chipmunk soul" style composed of sampling old soul music and pitching it up, his sonic palette expanded in later works to include more experimental elements like lush orchestration (Late Registration), arena rock/house electronics (Graduation), cold R&B (808s), abrasive industrial (Yeezus), and gospel (Jesus Is King).
He married Kim Kardashian in 2014; the two filed for divorce in 2021. They have four children together — two born of Kim (Northnote and Saintnote ) and two born of surrogate mothers (Chicagonote and Psalmnote ).
In 2015, he announced his intent to run for president of the United States in the 2020 election, and to the surprise of many, his campaign as a third-party candidate indeed materialized on July of that year. It was largely unsuccessful — in part because he only qualified for ballot access in 12 states — but he's expressed interest in trying again for the 2024 election.
- 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 Pablo (2016)
- ye (2018)
- Kids See Ghosts (with Kid Cudi) (2018)
- Jesus Is King (2019)
- Donda (2021)
- Donda 2 (2022)
- Late Orchestration (2006)
- VH1 Storytellers (2010)
- The Prerequisite (2001)
- Get Well Soon... (2003)
- I'm Good... (2003)
- Welcome to Kanye's Soul Mix Show (with A-Trak) (2006)
- Can't Tell Me Nothing (2007)
Mr. West provides examples of:
- A Cappella: "I Love Kanye" stands out from the kaleidoscopic instrumentals of The Life of Pablo by featuring none, consisting of Kanye's rapping and nothing more.
- Album Title Drop:
- From "Last Call": "They expected that college dropout to drop and then flop."
- From "We Major": "They ask, 'Why you call it Late Registration, 'Ye?"
- 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".
- From "I Thought About Killing You": "Ye, Ye, Ye / season, nigga, we Old Bay."
- Donda eerily begins with "Donda Chant", which consists of nothing but "Donda" being repeated among a silent background for just under a minute.
- Alliterative Title: "Only One".
- all lowercase letters: How ye is formatted.
- Alternative Hip Hop: Although the general masses know Kanye as "just" a rapper and producer, the sheer breadth of genres and the degree of experimental ideas he incorporates in his music doesn't neatly fit a simple "hip-hop" label. Starting from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy onward, Ye continuously pushes the envelope with his production, with an increased fixation on noisy, abrasive, and raw sounds not found with many pop rappers.
- 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:
Kanye: In a French-ass restaurant—
- "Through the Wire", best shown in the Late Orchestration version: "If the Roc is in the building, say 'hell yeah!'"
- "Gold Digger":
- Everyone sings Jamie Foxx's opening part.
- Built into the song from the start: "So if you ain't no punk, holla 'we want pre-nup!'" ('We want pre-nup, yeah!')"
- "Hey Mama": "When I say 'Hey,' you say, 'mama!'"
- "All of the Lights":
- After the "MJ gone" bit, he then points the mic to the crowd to say "Our nigga dead!". According to some sources, not only is he alright with his white fans saying it, he assures them that this is their only chance to say the word, or restarts the song multiple times if not enough people are saying it. Donald Glover even touched upon it in his stand-up special Weirdo, as he once went to a predominantly white show of his in Texas where people had zero qualms saying the line.
- Everyone sings the Rihanna hook; sometimes, the song audio will be cut out entirely with just the crowd singing.
- The footage 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.
- And, of course, from "I Am a God":
Audience: Hurry up with my damn croissants!
- Sometimes Kanye doesn't even rap the first verse of "New Slaves" (or at the very least the first 4 bars) - the audience shouts it instead.
- Some performances of the legendary unreleased track "Mama's Boyfriend" have the audience shout out the final lines of the first verse.
- Auto-Tune: Adopted on 808s and Heartbreak to convey his loneliness and disconnect, which couldn't be properly communicated through rapping. 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 been speculated that the unintelligible vocals are intended to represent West's frequent difficulties in expressing himself verbally.
- Also used on his single "Only One," though not to the same degree.
- Used prominently on The Life of Pablo, most notably on "Wolves".
- Badass Boast:
- Half of "Power" is Kanye ruminating on the consequences of his fame and power, while the other half is his grand statement on completely lavishing in it.I'm living in that 21st century, doing something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music
- Almost the entirety of "Monster" consists of Kanye, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj boasting about their monstrous prowess on and off the mic.
- 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."
- Half of "Power" is Kanye ruminating on the consequences of his fame and power, while the other half is his grand statement on completely lavishing in it.
- Berserk Button: 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.
- Boastful Rap: Has a handful of songs based on this as he pretty much boasts about himself in real life. Watch the Throne involves a lot of him and Jay-Z doing this together (tempered by deep musings about what it means to be both successful and Black in America).
- 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".
- Because of Ye's born-again Christian beliefs, both Jesus Is King and Donda do not have any swear words on them unlike his old albums. Even "nigga" is edited out despite not being a swear word nor blasphemous, and not being offensive to most listeners because of his N-Word Privileges. This is a little jarring since all of the edited-out words are not replaced with anything but a brief silence is left.
- Brick Joke: From The Life of Pablo, in the track "Real Friends" — a rumination on Kanye's estrangement from his family and friends — Kanye mentions a cousin who stole his laptop and blackmailed him for $250 thousand. Later in the album, on the song "No More Parties in LA", he gets mentioned again:
- The Bus Came Back: "Jail" off of Donda marked a reunion of The Throne, the collaborative title between Kanye and Jay-Z originally used for 2011's Watch the Throne collaboration. Jay even mentions it in the lyrics: "This might be the return of The Throne / Hova and Yeezus, like Moses and Jesus".
- 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!"
- Late Registration begins with the spoken-word intro skit "Wake Up Mr. West", with the title words delivered by DeRay Davis (doing his best Bernie Mac impression). "Wake up Mr. West" was later brought back as the opening verse line of "Good Morning" on Graduation, and back again in the second chorus of "Famous" off The Life of Pablo.
- "Come to Life" off of Donda names "the ultra-ultralight beam" in its final verse, referencing the track "Ultralight Beam" off The Life of Pablo.
"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).
- Creator Breakdown on the Trivia page for details):
Kanye, in general, became this after a series of massive personal tragedies around 2008 (see
- 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.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is quite a bit darker and more serious than his first three records. Most of the songs focus on the ups and downs of fame, the humor is toned down substantially, and Kanye raps in a deeper and more melancholy tone than usual.
- 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.
- While The Life Of Pablo is probably Kanye's most positive and upbeat album in years, it's still decidedly darker and more serious than his first three.
- Donda can definitely be seen as this: Many songs off the album feel much more isolated, bleaker, and very introspective, especially with it being (in essence) a tribute to his late mother. Even the album cover flat out reflects this, being just a black cover, which makes it odd considering the original cover was more Lighter and Softer and gave off a much hopeful vibe.
- 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.
- The music video for "Flashing Lights" ends with a Bound and Gagged Kanye being stabbed to death inside a car trunk with a shovel.
- 808s and Heartbreak ends with "Pinocchio Story", a brutally self-deprecating song in which he blames himself for his mother's death and tears down his life choices as the reasons that he will never find happiness. The decision to include a live version of the song, with his audience talking and screaming, oblivious to him trying to voice his suffering, makes it even more heartrending.
- 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: Many of his songs exceed 6 minutes in length.
- College Dropout had "Last Call" (12:40), his longest song to date.
- Late Registration had "We Major" (7:28).
- 808s and Heartbreak had "Say You Will" (6:14) and "Pinocchio Story" (6:03).
- MBDTF had "Monster" (6:18), "So Appalled" (6:38), "Runaway" (9:08), and "Blame Game" (7:49), not to mention some that were just under 6 minutes ("Gorgeous").
- Watch the Throne's deluxe edition had "Illest Motherfucker Alive" (8:22).
- Yeezus had "Blood on the Leaves" (6:00).
- Cruel Summer had "Mercy" (5:26), "New God Flow" (5:57), and "The One" (5:44).
- The Life of Pablo had "No More Parties in LA" (6:14) and "Saint Pablo" (6:12).
- Donda has "Jesus Lord" (8:58), and "Jesus Lord, Pt. 2" (11:30).
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: Kanyes music videos for All of the Lights and Niggas in Paris have lots of bright, rapidly flashing lights (the former as an homage to this trope's use in Enter the Void), so much so that the latter issued a warning at the start.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- Straight examples:
- The College Dropout: The choir of "Jesus Walks" echoes into "Never Let Me Down".
- Late Registration: The ending Title Scream of "Wake Up Mr. West" similarly echoes into "Heard 'Em Say".
- 808s and Heartbreak: There's a split-second where the end of "Say You Will" overlaps with the start of "Welcome to Heartbreak".
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: "Lost in the World" and "Who Will Survive in America", being that they're Siamese Twin Songs.
- The Life of Pablo:
- Both parts of "Father Stretch My Hands" are connected by the same sample (albeit in different keys).
- "Highlights" echoes into "Freestyle 4".
- 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" introduces the theme of desiring escape via flight that runs throughout the next song, "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.
- Straight examples:
- 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
- The Fashionista: Kanye is a male example. While his frequent raps about luxury clothing brands are par for the course for most rappers, Kanye himself has spearheaded the incredibly successful Yeezy line, which has become equally successful and part of his business as his music. Yeezy sneakers in particular are sought after even by people who aren't into his music.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: As of Jesus Is King, Kanye has consciously avoided including curse words in his lyrics, and while still generally "mature" and heavy, he's also abandoned the use of any sorts of crass sexual innuendo. In Donda, the featured artists are a little more prone to using profanity (including the N-word), but they officially remain censored via patches of silence.
- Growing Up Sucks: "Violent Crimes" discusses this as it applies not to his own future, but rather the future of his children and their innocence. With his daughters especially, he worries that they might grow up into the world of sexism and exploitation that he himself was a proponent of and had only renounced after he became a father.
- Heel Realization: The narrator of "Runaway" realizes that he treats everyone around him like garbage.
- Incredibly Long Note: Kanye belted out several at the end of a show at the Hammersmith Apollo, which was strange enough before they turned into full-on screams.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: The flip side of his notorious ego. His lyrics contain almost as much Self-Deprecation as Boastful Rap.
- 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.
- "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
- 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?!
- For example, this verse from "Niggas in Paris":
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!"
- 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.
- Jesus is King, being even more of a gospel album that The Life of Pablo claimed to be, could possibly go down as Kanye's lightest and softest album to date.
- 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.
- Longest Song Goes Last:
- The College Dropout ends with "Last Call" (12:40).
- Inverted with 808s & Heartbreak. The longest song, "Say You Will" (6:14), is also the opener.
- Donda ends with "Jesus Lord, Pt. 2" (11:30), though this is strictly speaking a bonus track (it's an alternate version of "Jesus Lord" with extra verses).
- 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 tighter 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.
- 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.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Several of Kanye's albums have sparse to zero content as their cover art:
- 808s & Heartbreak consists of some text and a heart-shaped balloon on a teal background. The theme was recycled for the single "Heartless" which removed the heart, thus leaving it just text and pale teal.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy features a crude painting of either Kanye straddled by a naked harpy-like figure (the true official artwork), or of a black ballerina (an alternate version for physical retail copies) among a pure red background.
- Yeezus has no real artwork, and was simply released in a clear jewel case with a red tape and a sticker (online depictions of the album use a photo of this packaging). The scrapped album Yandhi was also proposed to have a similar cover, but of a MiniDisc with a purple shutter.
- Jesus is King depicts a blue vinyl record on a white background with the title and name printed in plain yellow text. Actual vinyl releases featured the exact same design.
- Donda is simply a black square, nothing more, which makes it ironic considering the original cover was more colorful.
- Momma's Boy: Kanye had a loving relationship with his mother, Dr. Donda West, once calling her his "best friend in the whole world," with the song "Hey Mama" off of Late Graduation being a direct tribute to her. He was naturally heartbroken by her sudden death in 2007, which ended up being one of the major catalysts in shaping the drastically cold, anguished tones of 808s and Heartbreak. In the many years since, Kanye has remained reverent of her, up to naming both his creative content company and his tenth album after her. It's often believed that her death is one of the factors to Kanye's erratic behavior (aside his later on diagnosed bipolar disorder), as he carries heavy dedications to her and even once said he blamed himself for her passing.
- 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.
- Narcissist: His song, "I Am A God" has him comparing himself to God and acting like a spoiled brat (hurry up with my damn croissants!).
- New Sound Album: Every album is different from the last to the point where some call Kanye the Hip-Hop equivalent of 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 very abrasive industrial production.
- The Life of Pablo is perhaps deliberately his most kaleidoscopic output yet, and has been repeatedly described by Kanye as a gospel album.
- ye returns to a stripped-down and minimalist sound comparable to 808s, but diverges in not being cold and bleak, but noisy and anxious.
- Jesus is King sees Kanye make a full-blown Christian music record, featuring his own take on modern Gospel Music. It's also his first album with zero profanity or sexual references.
- No Ending: On "Ye Vs. The People", the track cuts out entirely after Kanye ends with his final lines, which are both an invocation of the trope and a call to action:Alright, Tip, we could be rappin' about this all day, man
Why don't we just cut the beat off and let the people talk?
- 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.
- Not Christian Rock:
- Kanye frequently toys with this idea, freely incorporating his Christian faith and Gospel Music stylings in his music (tracks like "Jesus Walks" and "Ultralight Beam" being among his most well-known overtly Christian tracks), yet few would consider him a Christian rapper.
- Played With regarding The Life of Pablo, which Kanye frequently labels a gospel album. There are a few straightforward gospel tracks like "Ultralight Beam" and "Low Lights", but the rest of the album is much more experimental, with the label being more directed at the overall themes of personal grief and overcoming it.
- 2019 has had a lot of development in this regard, as Kanye began hosting Sunday Service performances featuring gospel-rap versions of his discography alongside traditional Christian ceremonies. With the buildup to the release of Jesus Is King in the same year, had reportedly become a born-again Christian, along with word that "he is no longer making secular music. Only Gospel from here on out." So far he's made on that promise, with Jesus is King and Donda containing traditionally religious overtones (even the latter despite its relatively stark and experimental aesthetic), so it could be safe to assume that Kanye may be eschewing this notion altogether.
- Obvious Beta:
- The Life of Pablo had an infamously rough initial release, having plenty of mixing errors and slapdash quality that it seem like it was assembled in a rush (the then-finale track, "Fade", was actually an early version of "Facts" that was uploaded by mistake). Kanye indirectly acknowledge that what had been released was effectively a rough draft, and that he'd be getting to work on "fixing" certain songs, describing the album as "a living breathing changing creative expression" — nowadays, any version of the album you'll obtain through streaming services has been thoroughly patched and remastered.
- Donda 2 was released in an even messier state — appearing to have been crunched to make a "2.22.22" release (bear in mind, Donda was released less than a year earlier and been years in the making, including over two years of missed release dates), 2 has some very shoddy production, lyrics, and vocal delivery, which comes off as unfinished even compared to the intentionally stark and raw sound of the first Donda. Once again, it's been suggested that the album will end up seeing further post-release developments.
- Odd Friendship: Though he knows many, many music industry figures, perhaps his most surprising is his long-running friendship with Justin Vernon, lead singer of indie-folk band Bon Iver. Though their music is nothing alike, he has featured on quite a few Kanye songs such as on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. Vernon has also said they grew apart because of their differing political views (Kanye's support of Trump who Vernon strongly dislikes) but they are still friends.
- Only One Name: As of October 2021, he's legally recognized as simply "Ye". Interestingly, his music has still been released under the name "Kanye West", making him an unusual inversion where his birth name is treated more like a Stage Name, while the mononym is treated with official legal weight.
- Out-of-Genre Experience:
- Yeezus embarks a lot more into industrial territory.
- "Only One" is a heartfelt yet heartrending soul ballad.
- Painting the Medium: In "Love Lockdown", Kanye's voice is deliberately distorted when he says "system overload".
- Pals with Jesus: "I Am a God" not only contains a conversation between Kanye and Jesus Christ, but also credits God as a guest feature.
- Piss Take Rap: Invoked for "Lift Yourself", which consists largely of an instrumental beat whose biggest vocal contribution from Kanye is a hilariously half-assed "Whoopdedy-scoop, whoopdedy-whoop-scoop-poop". Kanye later revealed that Drake had originally wanted to use the beat for himself, but as the two had bad blood at the time, Kanye decided to release it in a way that nobody could ever take it seriously ever again.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Has gone on record as comparing his embracing of Autotune on 808s and Heartbreak as this, analogously referring to a moment in his childhood where he liked the color pink until someone told him that "it was gay".
- In a literal sense too: He was known for wearing pink shirts quite a lot in his early days, which he mentions on "I Am a God" (Pink-ass polos with a fuckin' backpack) and also mentions on "Touch the Sky".
- 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.
- 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 divisive 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 Mann's 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 symphonic 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.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Yikes" documents Kanye's mental health issues which flared up around late 2016, from his long-term hospitalization, his opioid addiction, and various other erratic behaviors that put himself in serious danger. The song also marks the first time he publicly confirmed that he suffers from Bipolar Disorder.You see!? You see!? That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! That's why I fuck with Ye! See, that's my third per— that's my bipolar shit, nigga, what!? That's my superpower, nigga, ain't no disability! I'm a superhero! I'm a superhero! AAAAAAAAGHH!
- In "Power", he refers to himself as the "abomination of Obama's nation."
- "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
- His portrayal of himself in this Saturday Night Live skit.
- 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
- Another standout is I am a God, wherein Kanye proclaims his divinity, which includes lyrics like the following:I am a god
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
- Self-Referential Humor: Kanye gets a lot of this out with "I Love Kanye", invoking a smattering of popular comments and criticisms about himself that he's received over the years, from fans preferring the "old Kanye", preferring the "new Kanye", his narcissism, and even the plausibility of him making a song about himself about missing the "old Kanye".
- 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.
- Sequel Song:
- "Ghost Town" off of ye was succeeded with "Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)" off of Kids See Ghosts. Both tracks are collaborations between Kanye and Kid Cudi, both are psychedelic Boastful Raps centered around breaking from mental anguish, but while "Ghost Town" is a heavily soul-inspired number with a rock edge, "Freeee" dives entirely into epic Rap Rock.
- Four tracks off of Donda feature a "pt 2" that play at the very end: "Jail", "Ok Ok", "Junya", and "Jesus Lord". However, this is generally seen as not a real example of the trope as they're effectively the original tracks but with additional guest verses, perceived more as bonus tracks than a proper finale to the album.
- Donda itself received a sequel album, Donda 2, released exclusively through the Stem Player audio device that was being sold around the rollout of the original album.
- 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.
- The album cover for 808s & Heartbreak takes noticeable influence from the sleeve art for New Order's 1983 single "Blue Monday, featuring a simple shape against a stark single-color background with a bar of colorful blocks on one side. Reviewers noted that the album seemed to draw heavy influence from New Order's unique brand of Gothic Synth-Pop, so the allusion to "Blue Monday" on the cover is quite apt.
- "Black Skinhead" features a percussion section inspired by that of "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode, particularly the latter's interlude featuring thumping and rhythmic breathing.
- These lines from "Jesus Walks":
But if I rap about God, my record won't get played, huh?
- In "Family Business", Kanye raps "I can't deny it, I'm a straight rider"
- The song "Robocop" on 808s & Heartbreak is named after the film RoboCop (1987) and he also references the character on "No More Parties in LA".
- Kanye is a fan of Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story series and mentions him in "Jesus Lord". (He also owns a rather large statue of him.)
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Lost in the World" and "Who Will Survive in America" are connected by the same melodies and themes and together serve as the finale of MBDTF.
- 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".
- Most of his albums have at least one track on them that's a skit. These were well received on his early albums, since in the 90s and 2000s, rap albums were infamous for having a bunch of crappy skits that added nothing to the music but made the runtime longer.
- Malik Yusef's free verse recital at the end of "Crack Music".
- Nicki Minaj's introduction to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
- His own recital of a Chloe Mitchell poem during the bridge on "Blame Game".
- Gil Scott-Heron on "Who Will Survive in America".
- The Kings of Tomorrow acapella sample on "Low Lights".
- Max B's infamous voicemail message in "Silver Surfer Transmission".
- At the end of "30 Hours", he takes a break from rapping the verse to take a phone call from his publicist (the guy he says is Gabe).
- His own harrowing spoken word intro to "I Thought About Killing You".
- The whole title track "Donda" is built around a sample of a speech by his mother, Donda West.
- The ending of "Jesus Lord" is yet another phone call, this one from Larry Hoover Jr. who is calling Kanye to thank him for his support for the campaign to free his father from prison. (This part became a meme among fans in the form of an emojipasta, for no apparent reason.)
- 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?
- 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!:
- 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!"
- "Gorgeous" contains the line "choke a South Park writer with a fishstick", as a reference to the episode "Fishsticks".
- 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".
- 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.I bet me and Ray J would be friends
If we ain't love the same bitch
Yeah, he might have hit it first
Only problem is I'm rich
- Take That, Critics!: "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.
- Talking to Themself: Much of the album ye is built on Kanye doing this, establishing the theme of his then-recently-diagnosed Bipolar Disorder by conversing with or otherwise referring to himself as another entity, one whose morals, thoughts, and tone often conflict drastically with his actual self. Case in point, "I Thought About Killing You" sounds at first like Kanye rambling about wanting to kill you, the listener, but is in fact directed at himself.See, if I was tryin' to relate it to more people, I'd probably say "I'm struggling with loving myself," because that seems like a common theme
But that's not the case here
I love myself way more than I love you
And I think about killing myself
So, best believe, I thought about killing you today
- 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, while ye instead features text reading "I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome" [sic]. Donda also has no text on the cover.
- 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 this was abandoned as the direction of the album took a massive turn with 808s and Heartbreak.
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Leaders and followers, according to "New Slaves" (and, before that, "Gossip Files" in 2004). By extension, there are also dicks/nut-busters and swallowers.
- Visual Pun: The cover from the album 808s and Heartbreak was a deflated heart-shaped balloon on a pale blue background. The single for "Heartless" featured an identical background cover, but without the balloon, thus rendering it "heartless".
- Vocal Evolution: A variant with regards to Kanye's singing voice — in his earliest days, he mostly let the singing up to his samples or guest features, and even when he did sing, it was pretty amateur-quality (though not surprising given that rap is his main forte). Starting from 808s and Heartbreak, he became more accustomed to performing with Auto-Tune — a stylistic choice (matching the cold, desolate atmosphere of the rest of the music) and a practical one. Over the years he's given it more attention, weaning off the Auto-Tune to sing much more confidently. Compare his performances between "Spaceship" and "Come to Life", and it's clear he's come a long way.
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: The lyrics for "Drunk and Hot Girls" depict this. It doesn't end well for the song's protagonists.