India Arie
Blessid Union of Souls
Tracy Chapman
Ani Difranco
Fisk Univ. Jubilee Singers
Gil Scott Heron
Ice Cube
Mason Jennings
Talib Kweli
Bob Marley
Curtis Mayfield
Prussian Blue
Public Enemy
Jill Scott
Tupac Shakur
The Band
Kanye West


8 Mile
A Time to Kill
American History X
Bend It Like Beckham
Boys Don't Cry
Gentleman's Agreement
G.I. Jane
The Green Mile
Hotel Rwanda
I Am Sam
Malcolm X
Mi Familia
Mississippi Burning
Out of the Ashes
Pleasantville (1)
Pleasantville (2)
Real Women Have Curves
Schindler's List
Something New
The Birth of a Nation
The Pianist
To Kill a Mockingbird

Kanye West

Kanye West is a multi-platinum selling artist who has released two very successful albums since his 2004 debut album College Dropout. However, he started in the business in the early 2000 on the other side of music, as a producer. He was signed to Roc-a-Fella Records by Damon Dash to produce hits for the company. West had other plans, however. He spent relentless hours in the studio recording rap music and showing how determined he was to have a successful first album. It wasn’t until a tragedy struck in his life that the record company realized his potential as a recording artist. West was in a horrible car accident on the way home from the studio late one night and had to have his jaw wired shut for eight weeks. Because he was a workaholic, he wanted to keep recording. He also wanted to illustrate the pain he was feeling through a song. The song was titled Through the Wire; he recorded it with his mouth wired shut. The song and music video rose to the top of the charts and he was nominated for an astounding ten Grammy Awards in 2005.  

West’s lyrics are very powerful. They get right to the point that he is trying to express. This is most apparent in All Falls Down, from his debut album College Dropout. One of the lines in the song says,

                   We shine because they hate us, floss because they degrade us
                   We trying to buy back our forty acres.
                   (© 2004 Roc-a-Fella Records; From:

The first line suggests that African American people wear nice things and take care of their appearances to spite others for the way others have treated them. The second line refers to promises made to slaves that they would receive forty acres and a mule after they gained their freedom. Another line states,

                   And for that paper, look how low we aístoop
                   Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coup.
                   (© 2004 Roc-a-Fella Records; From:

This suggests that black people are treated poorly, even if they are wealthy. Later, West states,

                   I say f**k the police, thatís how I treat Ďem
                   We buy our way out of jail, but we canít buy freedom.
                   (© 2004 Roc-a-Fella Records; From:

He suggests that African Americans are persecuted by the authorities, even if they havenít committed any crimes. And, no amount of money will provide them with the same rights and privileges given to others.

As these powerful lyrics indicate, West is an activist for the African American community. He speaks out on many issues. For example, he stated on national television that President Bush didnít like Black people because of the way that the government handled the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

West also has spoken out about the illicit trade in diamonds. West originally wrote Diamonds are Forever to commemorate the rebirth of the Roc-a-Fella dynasty (which is symbolized by the diamond-shaped hand sign). However, after he heard about the death and destruction caused by the conflict over diamonds in Sierra Leone, Africa, he said that he saw a different meaning in the song. He said he felt that God was using him to relay a message about the issue ďconflict diamonds.Ē Conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized African governments. The money made from these diamonds is used to purchase weapons and support opposition forces. As a result of this conflict, families get separated, children are forced to serve as soldiers and thousands lose their lives.

When West learned of this problem, he wanted to help promote awareness. He wants people to realize that when you purchase diamonds, you donít really know where your diamond came from. There is a chance that a small child paid the price so you can look glamorous. This rap song gives a bit of information about the diamond war in Sierra Leone. It is touching, yet its message is deep. While we might all love to wear five karats, those karats might have found their way to you because of the strife and conflict going on in South America. Any diamond purchase could support the existence of this conflict.

Regardless of the issues that West addresses in his music, his albums can be enjoyed by everyone. His music is not typical rap music. It is very stylish and has a lot of catchy beats, unlike much of the hardcore gansta rap music that is popular today.


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