What are sounds that travel from the mouth into the ear? Some call them words. What words travel through the mind and form lines of poetry? Some call them lyrics. What lyrics come together rhythmically and coincide to form music? Some call that a song. The songs “Through the Wire,” “Stronger” and “Jesus Walks,” are only some of the reasons that over centuries Kanye West will always be remembered. These three songs all have a common meaning behind it which is to inspire. They have to do with striving for excellence, never giving up, and being boastful in what you believe in.
Kanye West was born Kanye Omari West, June 8, 1977, in Atlanta, Georgia. His name “Kanye” is Swahili meaning “only one.” He is the son of Ray West, (a famous photo/journalist that earned two master degrees) and Donda West, who was a college professor at Chicago State University and a teacher in Nanjing, China for a year (Kanye West). To earn money West would break dance in the streets for the public hoping that they would give his money. While in high school, West became friends with one of Chicago’s well-known rapper, Common. West received a keyboard at the age of 15, this is when he started making raps to beats and making beats, as well. While West was in his adolescent years he never got recognized for his rapping ability because of his preppy attire (Kanye West, Black History). Kanye West told Jim Farber of the New York Daily News “I was taught to think on my own,” (Kanye West, Black History).
West attended Chicago State University after being behind the scenes in the music industry for about five years; he finally got his opportunity when he convinced the CEO of (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella), Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter to listen to a track he had written. Kanye West started working with a lot of big name artists, such as Jermaine Dupri, Alicia Keys, Twista, and Ludacris. After signing West, Def Jam still really didn’t believe in him, so he decided to use his own money to shoot the video for his first song “Through the Wire” (Roc-a-Fella). “I was mad because I was not being taken seriously as a rapper for a long time,” West told Kot of the Chicago Tribune (Kanye West, Black History). He will become legend because of this song. Released in 2003, “Through the Wire” was ranked at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100 songs (Kanye West Singles). This justifies it as being a historical event. It was written two weeks after Kanye West was released from the hospital for having a broken jaw that had to be completely wired shut. This took place October 23, 2002, after leaving a studio session coming from trying to finish a new song. The recovery of his jaw took many months. The symbolism of his facial recovery and the title of the song indicate how he uses real life situations through his lyrics.
Verse One opens with the line “I drink a boost for breakfast, an ensure for dessert. Somebody ordered pancakes I just hit the sizzurp” (Kanye West, “Through the Wire”). This line indicates that in every aspect of Kanye’s life he has shown characteristics of him always being attentive and on the go. Like most rappers, competition plays a large role in their path to success; therefore, staying on the move insures that they will come out on top in the music business.
At this point we are at the chorus “Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall. For just the chance to be with you I’d gladly risk it all. Through the fire, through whatever come what may, for a chance at loving you, I’d take it all the way……… Right down to the wire, even through the fire” (Kanye West,” “Through the Wire”). The first line of the chorus talks about how he has been through many stages of adversity that he has overcome. The original intention of a song is always interpreted differently by the listener. Donda West was inspirational throughout Kanye’s life. Through the lyrics of this song you probably would be able to make the assumption that his mother was an important asset to his life. According to Kanye, he was basically willing to risk everything (house, money, cars, girls, etc.) for a chance to love his mother even through the fire.
Verse two opens with Kanye being in disbelief that he has been signed the hottest rap label around, Roc-A-Fella Records. According to Kanye the lyrics of his songs have serious meanings that everyone can relate to in some way. He talks about important issues such as how African-Americans have been through slavery, discriminated against, and even when African-Americans did not have the right to vote. Kanye feels that the majority of other rappers are usually rapping about cocaine, girls, cars, money, violence and other things that are meaningless. He feels that he should not be only model figure in the music industry; other rappers lyrics should be positive and uplifting.
Through his lyrics one can assume he feels that it is his duty to save someone else’s life so that they won’t end up in prison or even worse, dead. Kanye tries to relate to many people by describing how teens are too often found in the wrong place at the wrong time. He exercises these feelings through the line “What if somebody from the Chi that was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around? But he wasn’t talking bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word, except he’s really putting it down. And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory, and what we need to do in the game. Good dude, Bad night, Right place, Wrong time” (“Through the Wire”). Kanye brings a sense of reality to his lyrics. These lyrics are couple of justifications that Kanye West will become a legend over time.
The next song being discussed is a song that is mainly about using your mental strength to overcome periods of adversity. In addition, the title of the song is called “Stronger.” Throughout this song Kanye West talks about different stages of his life. The line “I know I got to be right now cause I cant get much wronger, man I’ve been waitin’ all night now, that’s how long I’ve been on ya,” West describes how people try to bring him down, always criticizing his thoughts and actions. He believes that he has to be aware of all the people that are around him due to his riches and fortunes. West wants people to be around him because of his character, not his fame.
Kanye West’s single “Stronger,” from his third album, Graduation Day, will be the reason for his longevity. Due to this song, West will be in the music industry for a long time. People of all ages can relate to Kanye’s music; however, this song more than likely relates to youth of today’s society. These youth are probably having problems at school, home, etc. It is not uncommon for youth to have someone constantly bullying them at school. There is always someone in your life that is going to betray you. This is why Kanye has trust issues with others. He feels he will always succeed. Kanye West sold more than 1.7 million copies of his album called “Graduation” (The Grammy go West). Winning a Grammy award is a prestigious feeling. Recently, Kanye West has received eight Grammy nominations (Kanye West Sweeps Grammy Nominations). Of the eight nominations, he received Best Rap Solo performance for the song “Stronger.”
Kanye West really wanted to give thanks through his spiritual aspect with the song “Jesus Walks.” When this first came out you could hear it on airwaves everywhere. This was very surprising to him he thought if he talked about his beliefs that no radio station would play his music “If I talk about God my record wont get played” (Jesus Walks). In this song he expresses to the listener how thankful he is that Jesus has been with in throughout his life. West describes that Jesus is not only with him but walks with everybody, from drug dealers, prostitutes, killers, and even strippers. Kanye expresses through his lyrics that Jesus is mighty powerful and loving. This being true West describes how much he needs Jesus, because the devil is trying to frustrate and destroy him. Kanye West created two music videos to this song, both being televised daily on Videos Hits 1 (Vh1), Black Entertainment Television (BET), and Music Television (MTV).
The most inspirational songs that are influencing consist of Kanye West’s “Through the Wire,” “Stronger,” and “Jesus Walks.” Kanye uses symbolism in every aspect of his music. “Through the Wire,” symbolizes when his mouth had to be completely wired shut. Being attentive and on the go have always been characteristics of him. The song “Stronger” confirms that Kanye strives to encourage people to press through their issues no matter what they are faced with. Through “Jesus Walks” he has made history by publicity. Kanye West will one day be considered legendary. The listener always interprets a song different from what it was intended to mean. “But I’m a Champion, so I turned tragedy to triumph. Make music that’s fire spit my soul through the wire” (“Through the Wire).
Work Cited Page
Gail Mitchell, AyalaBen-Yehuda. “The Grammys Go West”. Billboard. New York: 15
December 2007. 24 March 2008. Vol. 119, Iss. 50;pg. 7, 2pgs
http://wf2dnvr2.webfeat.org/ “Kanye West.” Artist Chart History. 17 March 2008.
“Kanye West.” Black History.20 March 2008.
http://gale.cengage.com/free_resources/bhm/bio/west_k.htm “Kanye West.” View the Music Artists Biography online. 17 March 2008.
http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/west_kanye/bio.jhtml “Kanye West Sweeps Grammy Nominations”. Jet. Chicago: 24-31 December 2007. Vol.
112, Iss. 25; pg. 57, 1 pgs
"Through The Wire"
Yo G they can't stop me from rapping can they?
Can they, huh?
Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you, I'd gladly risk it all
Through the fire, through whatever come what may
For a chance at loving you, I'd take it all away
Right down through the wire, even through the fire
I spit it through the wire man
To much stuff on my heart right now man
I'll gladly risk it all right now
It's a life or death situation man
Y'all don't really understand how I feel right now man
It's your boy Kanye to the....
Chi-Town what's going on man
I drink a boost for breakfast, and ensure for dizzert
Somebody ordered pancakes I just sip the sizzurp
That right there could drive a sane man bizzerk
Not to worry y'll Mr. H 2 the Izzo's back to wizzerk
How do you console my mom or give her light support
When you telling her your sons' on life support
And just imagine how my girl feel
On the plane scared as hell that her guy look like Emitt Till
She was with me before the deal she been trying to be mine
She a delta so she been throwing them Dynasty signs
No use me tryin' to be lyin'
I been trying to signed
Trying to be a millionaire
How I use two lifelines
In the same hospital where Biggie Smalls died
The doctor said I had blood clots
But I ain't Jamaican man
Story on MTV and I ain't trying to make the band
I swear this right here is history in the making man
I really apologize how I sound right now man
If it's unclear at all, man
They got my mouth wired shut for like I don't know the doctor said for like six weeks
You know we had reconstru....
I had reconstructive surgery on my jaw
Looked in the mirror half my jaw was in the back of my mouth man
I couldn't believe it
But im still here for yall right now yo
This is what I gotta say yo
Yeah, turn me up yeah
What if somebody from the Chi was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around
But he wasn't talking bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word
Except he really putting it down
And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory
And what we need to do in the game
Good dude, Bad night, Right place, Wrong time
In the blink of an eye his whole life changed
If you could feel how my face felt you would know how Mase felt
Thank God I ain't to cool for the safe belt
I swear to God drive two on the sue
I got lawyer for the case to keep whats in my safe; safe
My dawgs couldn't tell if I
I look Tom Cruise on Vanilla Sky, it was televised
All they heard was that I was in an accident like GEICO
They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael
I must gotta angel
Cause look how death missed his ass
Unbreakable, would you thought they called me Mr. Glass
Look back on my life like the ghost of Christmas past
Toys R Us where I used to spend that Christmas cash
And I still wont grow up, I'm a grown ass kid
Swear I should be locked up for stupid shit that I did
But I'm a champion, so I turned tragedy to triumph
Make music that's fire, spit my soul through the wire
Know what im saying
When the doctor told me I had a um.. I was goin to have a plate on my chin
I said dawg don't you realize I'll never make it on the plane now
Its bad enough I got all this jewelry on
Can't be serious man
[Chorus repeats till fade]
“Kanye West Sweeps Grammy Nominations.” Jet.24-31 December 2007:
Vol.112 pg 57.
Gail Mitchell, Ayala Ben-Yehuda. Billboard. 15 December 2007:
New York: Vol. 119, pg 7.