I mean, yeah, we knew that nine years ago, but I think it’s worth coming back to.
The way I decided to do this was to go song by song and only write as much about the song as I could fit into the time it takes to listen to it.
The skits are funny, I don’t really deal with them because I NEVER listen to the anymore. I listened to them this time around to see how they flow with the album, and they work surprisingly well without destroying the pace, which happens less often than I like with rap albums.
We Don’t Care
As the first thing you hear from Mr. Kanye West on his debut album “We Don’t Care” is kind of brilliant. It lets you know what this album is sort of all about. It’s a rare thing these days. It’s a rare thing in general. All the themes about being broke, the things you do to survive, the facts of living in a culture of drug dealing without being an actual part of the drug dealing, the shit that is the American school system, and how much he likes his mom. It’s all here. Along with the desire for a much much better life.
That’s important. It’s important to this album and it’s important to the rest of Kanye’s career. “We Don’t Care” sets the stage for the just absurd level of stunting that goes on in “My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy.”
With music, the first song on an album goes a long way. It’s hard to come back from a terrible first track, and a brilliant opening can cover up a lot of mess. People still out here thinking Thriller one of Michael’s best albums largely on the strength of “Wanna be startin’ somethin’.”
All Falls Down
Thing 1. Lauryn Hill is amazing. This isn’t her, but that’s where it’s taken from, and any excuse to wax poetic about her is great.
Anyway, still on the college sucks tip and the first verse doesn’t take a step out of place. He doesn’t overstay his welcome on the subject (which is something a lot of dude rappers could learn). It isn’t that dudes can’t rap about the struggles of black women at all, but since it ain’t your struggle it really isn’t your place to be around dictating and shit, and this verse kinda gets that well. Then the focus turns onto Kanye and from Kanye to the world kanye grew up in. It’s really touching and hits you in the heart. Syleena is cool people too, much respect to her.
I’ll Fly Away
I said I wasn’t doing skits, but whatever. It’s not a skit, it’s an old church songs, and one of my favorites. It’s also noteworthy for making sense with spaceship coming right up next.
My. Fucking. Life.
But really, like anyone who’s been black and worked retail. It’s more universal than that, but the specifics really hit home to being black and all the fucking garbage you have to put up with just to make minimum wage. Managers stay on that racist shit up and leave you with this need to commit acts of violence but it’s all bluster because you know how poorly that’s going to go. That’s been at the root of the American black community power dynamics and domestic violence and all that shit from the start. I like how succinct it is put here. And the part about how they stay throwing you out at black customers like you gonna sprinkle magic negro powder on them to get them to buy stuff from you is so spot on and so annyoing.
This was my introduction to GLC, and to this day I’ve only ever heard him on other people’s stuff. I like him that way.
This is fascinating work. There was that time when rappers and R&B folks woud randomly appear on gospel tracks, and some would include super overt religious shit in their albums and a lot of it felt ham fisted and didn’t work. This is what so many of them were actually aiming for. This isn’t a song about religion. This is the kind of song skinny white people write and get praise and adoration for. This is that introspective look into Kanye’s relationship with jesus and the fact that it’s not preachy and not about how much he feels god working powers in his life all the time is a credit to him and this song.
Never Let Me Down
Hey it’s Jay-Z! He’s so doing that Jay-Z thing where he talks about how awesome Jay-Z is and how not awesome everyone else is and how he became awesome, and you know what? It still works. He’s a really really good rapper. The chorus kicks in and he just keeps rapping and it melds together so well.
Then comes fucking Kanye West. I love Kanye talking about his mom all the time. I like how appreciative he is of where his people come from. Not black people as a whole, but his in specific.
Hey it’s J Ivy. This is my entire view of what slam poetry is. The fact that kanye can turn J Ivy into a rapper is woderous. He’s just doing what he does and kanye fit the entire song around it and it all works. That and J Ivy is just speaking entirely in fire while he’s here takes the whole experience up a notch.
Hey! it’s Jay-Z again! I love when songs just keep going. Hey, Jay-Z; still awesome. And his history, still awesome. I love Jay-Z.
Kanye would break gospel music in half. All these gospel rappers and producers trying to get the kids need to just stop and go home. Bow at Kanye’s alter then end your careers.
Get ‘Em High
I’m not really into Talib Kwali. I know, as a fan of rap music, that I’m supposed to be into Talib, but he’s just never been my thing. In particular I don’t like this verse. I hate the reference to the birth control patch in such a sex shaming way. Like, this whole song is about men trying to go get sex and he’s shaming this woman for using birth control. It’s a big turnoff and puts a damper on the whole song for me.
Shoutout to Black Planet though. Does that website still exist? I’m not sure it does.
New Workout Plan
The intro to this is funny, and that’s a problem, because it shouldn’t be. There’s a lot of social stuff going on and the intro sits right on the line. The entire song sits right on the line. It’s totally an issue of it’s making fun of something that’s infinitely make funable, he just goes about it from a direction that I wouldn’t.
One thing that’s undeniable is that the background beat to this forces dancing. The drums and violins work in perfect unison to create a danceable beat, which is cool, because that’s how workouts work best.
My name is elle may, I’m from mobile alabama and since listening Kanye’s workout tape I’ve been able to date outside the family, I been able to date outside the family, I got me a double wide, and I rode a plane.” I’m sure that white rednecks are offended, but since I grew up around them I can’t possibly be concerned with their feelings.
The dance track that’s just randomly added on to the end of this great. I’ll never forget that time I went to the club and they played an extended cut of this that lasted for at least ten minutes and it was, indeed, one of the best workouts of my life.
Seriosuly, I know it’s getting tired, but Kanye is really good at productions. As far as rap songs go about romantic encounters, this one is pretty right. The idea of people (specifically kanye) knocking boots to minnie ripperton makes me giggle quite a bit. The way Jamie Foxx says Al Green is good times.
Twista is wonderful in cameo’s. Outside of “I ain’t that nigga” I don’t really fuck with Twista. He kills cameos though. It’s just the nature of how he raps. The speed with which he can string together lines is beyond admirable. I’m endlessly impressed with his ability to fit into this song so well. I defintiely can get with the entire point of this song though. I’ve been to too many awful parties where people never slow shit down, and it gets tired after a while. (Yes, this was in my past life before I turned 23 and became the oldest person alive). It also works as the pefect down note after New Workout Plan. The bridgework here is phoenominal. I generally prefore subtle bridges, but this works.
Breathe In Breathe Out
But now I’m rapping about money hoes and benz again. Yup. But even this is set apart from all the 4092380 other songs released in 2004 about the same subject matter.
Hey! You guys remember when Ludacris went hard and was respectable and shit? I miss those days, even if they weren’t real. Whatever. Kanye’s Ego just doesn’t ever stop. The innuendo in this song does that awesome thing where it makes itself beyond obvious without
I got weed drink and a handy cam. That’s the kind of night you hope never leaks online, or people don’t stop talking about it. Ask Kanye’s current girlfriend, who no matter what she does can’t get away from the fact that people watched her have sex with ray-j on a shit camera.
My Dad’s an alpha, both my moms are Delta, a lot of my cousins are Qs. I didn’t do the frat thing. I am never letting someone hit me so we can be friends. No thanks. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this song. I love all of kanye’s songs about how fucking stupid college is. As someone who’s been in college for eight years now going at one class at a time, I can’t get enough of it. He doesn’t dwell on it, but the line about the head of the class working at cheesecake says all that needs to be said. College has so much going on, and so little of it has anything to do with preparing kids for futures or even learning stuff. It’s a scam, but you have to do it in order to get some menial job that you could have done without the four year degree.
A couple of tracks on this album are definite precursors to what happens on Late Registration.
I love Mos Def. I feel like he handles the conceit of this song better than anyone else on the album. His cadence fits the two words thing so well.
Kanye kills it here too. I love the remembrance of source. I don’t think 5 mics means shit any more. I can’t remember the last time an album got 5 mics and anyone actually gave a shit. I basically know now we get racially profiled. Yup. The difficulty of the hustle is greatly increased when everyone already thinks you’re a criminal.
I miss freeways beard. Don’t say retarded though. There really isn’t a need for that. Be smarter.
back to the violin thing. It’s magic. This is really good, but it’s just setting the table for some nasty shit to be made out of a similar style on Late Registration.
Through the Wire
Yo. Kanye got his face broke. Listen to the version of this song that he records with his mouth wired shut. Fuck dude, that’s just amazing.
Chaka Kahn is amazing. Kanye’s decision to up the pitch works much better in real life than it does on paper. Because Chaka’s voice is just about perfect. That said, kanye is a genius.
My favorite part about this song, though is kanye talking through it. It’s a beautiful insight into
This song makes me cry. I’m a big softy. This is for the family that can’t be with us. I miss this kanye. Like, I’m glad he’s where he is. I really am. I just wish this Kanye was able to show up again, but he’s totally dead. At least we have this on record. It just brings up all these memories of my summer vacations with my families. (I got big family and it’s expanded and shit). The sort of gospel music feel of this song isn’t lost on me at all.
Let’s get stevie out of jail.
Fuck you Kanye first and foremost for making me do this.
Fuck you for being this good and warranting all this time I’ve spent listening and contemplating your albums.
This song is fifty seven minutes long. I love every minute of it, and I love that it gives me time to examine this album as a whole. The oral history of Kanye’s rap career is great. I just love the way he has dudes come in and say the lines of the story that they would’ve said laid over him talking. I mean. It’s just fun story telling. I can listen to stories this way. I wish there was more of it.
It’s been said, I’m not original in anyway. This is maybe the best Debut album of all time. I can’t think of a better one. Not just in rap music, but in general.