What is Kanye West trying to say? Diamonds from Sierra Leone

Just like superheroes, every rapper needs an origin story.  It’s got to involve some hardship or another- usually some combination of being poor, being a drug dealer and/or gang-banger, being black, having a crazy drug addicted mother and an absent father or just starting from the bottom, wherever that may be.  For the record, I’m not trying to make a joke about these things- a lot of rappers probably had some terrible experiences growing up.  But making the origin story a virtual requirement for rappers, has occasionally meant that some people would experience a different, albeit less sympathetic, form of hardship- having to wrack their brains coming up with an origin story, with sometimes comical results.

I don’t know Kanye personally, so I’m just going off of Wikipedia, but Kanye had none of the classic challenges, other than being a young black man, to overcome.  He had a middle-class upbringing, with both parents at home.  So far as I know he never had to deal drugs.  He did drop out of college to pursue music full time in around 1997.  Within a couple of years he was a successful producer, who was also writing rhymes in his spare time.

While producing some huge hits for Jay Z’s Roc-A-Fella records- including a good deal of Jay Z’s The Blueprint- Kanye was shopping around for a record deal.  Finally he was able to convince Roc-A-Fella to release his first album, which they did in 2004.  Not bad right?  It only took him seven years, and by the time his first album was out he was already a very wealthy man.

But that’s Kanye’s origin story.  He had a hard time getting signed.  I know, it’s not much to go on, but every rapper must have an origin story.

I love this song and its subsequent remix.  It’s an old James Bond movie sample and Kanye telling his origin story and trying to explain the reasons behind the first of his awards show freakouts.

Award shows- everyone remembers how he grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift, but apparently he walked out of the 2004 AMAs after not getting the new artist award

I was sick about awards
Couldn’t nobody cure me
Only playa that got robbed but kept all his jewelry
Alicia Keys tried to talk some sense to them
30 minutes later seems there’s no convincing them

So Kanye didn’t get the award he wanted.  Oh well, right?  These are some of my favorite bars from him ever

What more can you ask for?
The international asshole
Who complain about what he is owed?
And throw a tantrum like he is 3 years old
You gotta love it though somebody still speaks from his soul

I love it because Kanye is doing two things at once- owning up to being a big baby and then taking pride in being a big baby.  I do admit, I love it that someone does speak from his soul.  Famous people are fucking boring.  You know with Kanye that he’s going to speak his mind.  Do I think I he is owed an award?  Not really.  I’m not even sure he thinks so.

And wasn’t changed by the change, or the game, or the fame,
When he came, in the game, he made his own lane

This is maybe the most important thing to take from his origin story- Kanye really did do something different.  By he made his own lane, he’s claiming to have carved out a new spot in hip-hop- something that was different than what Jay Z called “thug rappin’ & gimmicks”, the party rap that was coming out of the South or even the conscious rap of the 90s.  He did make his own lane.  That’s true.  Guys like Drake, Kendrick Lamar or J Cole owe it to Kanye for creating a space in hip-hop for them.

Speaking of conscious rap, Kanye went back after the original was released and recorded a remix of this song

This is part of why I like Kanye.  The original comes off as just another ode to being rich, Kanye brings that into context of what was going on in Sierra Leone at the time

The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses
I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless
‘Til I seen a picture of a shorty armless

What other big famous rapper would go out of his way to worry about where his jewels came from?  At that point I don’t think there was anyone who would have.  Part of why I like the guy.


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