Tuesday, May 10, 2011

POWER - Kanye West

Rollingstone voted Kanye's 2010 release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy the #1 album of the year.  The hit from album, POWER, was called a "contemplation on fame and obsolescence," by Spin Magazine's Chris Martins.

The tune samples King Crimson's 1969 release 21st Century Schizoid Man , off the album In The Court of The Crimson King.  Kanye plays off this theme repeatedly (see lyrics explained below.)
The song also samples Afromerica by the funk band Continent Number 6, and It's Your Thing by funk band Cold Grits.

The music video for the song (link above) has caused a lot controversy, with supposed Illuminati symbolism.

My analysis is highlighted in red.

I'm livin in that 21st century  
(hinting towards sampled theme)
Doin something mean to it    
Do it better than anybody ever seen do it  
(Kanye believes he is the best rapper alive)
Screams from the haters,
Got a nice ring to it       
(Kanye enjoys the 'haters' criticisms)  
I guess every superhero need his theme music  
(hinting at Keenan Ivory Wayan's comment on rapper KRS-1: "Its my theme music, every good hero should have one.")

No one man should have all that power,
The clocks tickin I just count the hours
Stop trippin I'm trippin off the power
(21st Century Schizoid Man)

The system is broken
The schools closed the prisons open
(possibly stating that during budget shortfalls public schools often loose funding first while prisons loose funding last)
We ain't got nothing to loose motherf***er we rolling
Huh, motherf***er we rolling
with some white skinned girls
and some Kelly Rowlands
(Kelly Rowlands is the 'darkest' skinned member of 90s pop-trio Destiny's Child)
In this white man's world
I'll see you in the morning
Huh I'll see you in the morning
This is way too much, I need a moment

No one man should have all that power
The clock's tickin I just count the hours
Stop trippin I'm trippin off the power
Til then f*** that the world's ours

(21st Century Schizoid Man)

F*** SNL and the whole cast
Tell em Yeezy (what Kanye calls himself) said they can kiss my whole @$$
more specifically they can kiss my @$$hole
(quoting '99 Problems' by Jay-Z)
I'm an @$$hole, you n****s got jokes
(Taylor Lautner of SNL joked about Kanye's MTV Video Awards stunt in which the rapper interrupted Taylor Swifts acceptance speech; Kanye is 'joking' back)
Your short-minded n**** thoughts is Napolean
My furs is Mongolian, my ice brought the goalies in
(a fashion statement followed by a hockey pun...)
And I embody every characteristic of egotistic
Ya know, he's so f***in gifted
I just need time alone with my own thoughts
(time alone is a reference to Kanye's year long seclusion in Hawaii following the Taylor Swift incident)
Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault
My child-like creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catching up with me
Taking my inner child, I'm fighting for custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my diamond encrusted piece
(With the amount of jewelry Kanye has this could be interpreted as his necklace depicting Jesus on the cross, or it could refer to a diamond encrusted firearm, in which Kanye wonders if ending his life would solve his problems; again, no one man should have all that power....)

No one man should have all that Power
The clocks tickin I just count the hours
Stop trippin Im trippin off the power
Til then f*** that the world's ours

Colin Powell, Austin Powers
Lost in translation with a whole f***ing nation
(This is a reference to Kanye's televised blurt "George Bush hates black people," in which he was standing next to Mike Meyers, who plays Austin Powers; Kanye has said in interviews that the public mistook his message that day)
They say I was the abomination of Obama's nation
Thats a pretty bad way to start the conversation
(After the Taylor Swift incident Pres. Obama called Kanye a jackass)
At the end of the day
Godd*** I'm killing this sh*t
don't need your p***y b*tch I'm on my own d*ck
I ain't on a power trip, who you goin home with?
How Ye doin?
I'm surviving
I was drinking earlier now I'm driving
Where the bad b*tches
Huh Where they hiding?
I got the power to make your life so exciting
(the echo of 'so exciting' it begins to sound like suicide; foreshadowing the outro about suicide)

Now this will be a beautiful death
(I'm jumpin out the window, lettin everything go)
(Kanye is at the top, there is no where to go but down)
You got the power to let everything go?
(Kanye's ends the song by speculating what real power is...)

(21st Century Schizoid Man)

Kanye's piece refers to several events of the past year, mostly surrounding his own fame and celebrity stunts.  Kanye questions his existence and suicide, accurately embodying the title of the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  
Most rappers find power in jewelry, guns, drugs and a 'gangsta' lifestyle.  Kanye turns this piece into more than that, into a study of what it means to be powerful.  His conclusions define power as allowing your perfect image to be dismissed and work toward ones own goals.


  1. I didn't realize there was that much to his lyrics; I always thought they were just a little bland.


  2. I can understand your perspective; a lot of people complain about Kanye's flow as being thick and his word choice too simple. Kanye however, raps in a 'Chicago styled' flow, accenting the strong down beats and using eighth note rhythms. Since Kanye is from the Chicago area, it is easy to understand why his flow is styled differently from say, MF Doom, who has a NYC jazzer's flow.

  3. hope to read more interessting posts!