And no matter what you'll never take that from me.
My reign is as far as your eyes can see."
Kanyenote Omari West (born on June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, artist, 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 (which is the most we'll say about them).
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's been married to Kim Kardashian since 2014. They have four children together — two born of Kim (Northnote and Saintnote ) and two born of surrogate mothers (Chicagonote and Psalmnote ).
* = studio albums, ** = live albums, *** = mixtapes
- The Prerequisite*** (2001)
- Get Well Soon...*** (2003)
- I'm Good...*** (2003)
- The College Dropout* (2004)
- Late Registration* (2005)
- Late Orchestration** (2006)
- Welcome to Kanye's Soul Mix Show*** (with A-Trak) (2006)
- Can't Tell Me Nothing*** (2007)
- Graduation* (2007)
- 808s & Heartbreak* (2008)
- VH1 Storytellers** (2010)
- 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)
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 "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."
- Alliterative Title: Only One
- all lowercase letters: How ye is formatted.
- 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-
- 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:"
Audience: Hurry up with my damn croissants!
- 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 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 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:
"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."
- 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".
- Butt-Monkey: Kanye is a subject to various memes and parodies, but is not exactly keen on them.
- 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!"
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- Say what you will about this pair: Kanye and Donald Trump, which can be seen more as a birds of a feather. In fact, there have been comparisons on how the two are so similar, thanks to the ego, as well as memes of their meeting.
- 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: Some of his songs exceed 5 minutes in length.
- 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), his longest song to date.
- 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" (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's 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).
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, Kanye had reportedly become a born-again Christian, along with word that "he is no longer making secular music. Only Gospel from here on out," meaning he could eschew this trope altogether in the future.
- 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.
- Obligatory Joke: Because R. Kelly appears in "To the World," Kanye sees fit to end his verse with a bathroom joke:''R. Kelly and the God of Rap
Shitting on you — Holy crap!
- One-Word Title: Multiple, for albums and songs:
- 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".
- 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".
- 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.
- 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?
- 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".
- 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".
- Max B's infamous voicemail message in "Silver Surfer Transmission".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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...thus rendering it devoid of the heart, or "heartless".