Official Lyrics To & Breakdown Of Kanye West’s Controversial Song ‘New Slaves’; Do You Understand The Powerful Message?

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In my opinion, Kanye West is a marketing genius and one of the most creative music artists ever. Last night, Friday (May 17), Yeezy premiere his ‘New Slaves‘ visual  on 66 buildings in 6 countries around the world-USA, Canada, France, UK, Germany & Australia. On the track, Kanye used a sample from Hungarian rock band Omega.

According to celebrity blogger Necole Bitchie, “Kanye dishes his thoughts on what he believes is modern-day slavery — artists becoming slaves to corporations for the almighty dollar, people becoming slaves to materialistic things and weak-minded individuals becoming slaves to what society has deemed acceptable versus treading their own lane. He also references the CCA, an organization that manages over 60 private prisons, teaming up with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) which makes for no coincidence that black men are the most incarcerated group in America.”

This track has already caused a lot of controversy. Personally, I like the message that Kanye delivers on this track. He makes a lot of sense! I also like how Kanye protects his art/craft while rapping a meaningful song.

Read the lyrics and the breaking/meaning below:

[Verse 1]

Lyrics:

My Momma was raised in an era when, Clean water was only served to the fairer skin

Breakdown:

Donda West, Kanye’s mum, grew up during an era of segregation. During this period there were separate water fountains for white people and African Americans. When Kanye refers to those with “fair skin”, he’s reflecting on the times of Jim Crow where whites and blacks had to drink from separate water fountains. The “fair skin” group would receive the cleanest drinking water, while everyone else had to use the more run-down faucets.

Lyrics:

Doing clothes you would have thought I had help

Breakdown:

His designs are so good, they look as if he had help from designing experts, although he actually did a lot of it himself. Everything he’s touched in fashion has had great success, including the Nike Air Yeezy 2 sneakers, which were the most coveted release of 2012. Additionally, after his latest stroke of fashion genius, the $6,000 pair of Giuseppe Zanotti heels, he’s most likely going to make the Paris news again.

Lyrics:

But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself.

Breakdown:

Ye delivers the punchline to his fashion critics. There was much speculation Kanye had help making his designs, especially for the 2011 womens collection. In turn, the critics slammed the collection. After the Taylor Swift incident, he took time off from music and worked overseas at multiple factories that cater for high end fashion boutiques.

Lyrics:

You see its broke nigga racism, That’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store”, And this rich nigga racism, That’s that “Come here, please buy more”

Breakdown:

Ye details the full spectrum of racism he has encountered in his life. Prior to being viewed successfully by society, Ye was told not to touch anything in stores because he was stereotyped as a black man who probably just wanted to steal something. Now that he’s rich and famous they want/need him in their store to “buy more”.

Lyrics:

What you want a Bentley, fur coat and dimond chain? All you blacks want all the same things

Breakdown:

He plays off of the typical stereotypes imposed on the black community, usually considered as hood dreams. Condescendingly, he uses the term “blacks” as a euphemism and expands on this idea when he says “I know that we the new slaves.” Furthermore, he channels people like Spike Lee who have criticized their own race for being too materialistic. Kanye himself recentlyreferenced this in “Clique”. I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign’ant, I know Spike Lee gone kill me but let me finish

Lyrics:

Used to only be niggas now everybody plain

Breakdown:

Ye has seen a shift over his career as his fan base and admirers have grown from “only niggas” to everybody across race lines. The “niggas” in this line is sampled from Curtis Mayfield’s “Don’t Worry if There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go”. It was also sampled in Ye’s 2004 hit, “Jesus Walks”. Steve Stoute’s “The Tanning of America” touches on a similar idea to Ye — the new generation in America is more “pan-ethnic”, “color blind” and cool.

Lyrics:

Spending everything on Alexander Wang

Breakdown:

Alexander Wang is a fashion house ran and operated by the man himself, Alexander Wang. It’s no coincidence he references him here. Wang’s menswear is currently hot property among fashion enthusiasts, the montoned, goth style is trending as of late — a trend which Kanye helped create. With this Ye implies not only do all the kids want to spend their money on high end fashion, but they’re biting his style.

Lyrics:

New Slaves

Breakdown:

This powerful token at the end of Ye’s verse (and the title of the song) is in response to the modern argument that claims black people are still slaves. One argument is that it’s the whips and chains, and material possessions that many in the black community long after that’s still keeping black people in a modern slavery. The other argument thinks the way in which the new black elitebehave is that of an animal, something less than a human like a slave (the racist argument).

[Hook]
You see it’s leaders and it’s followers/But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower
You see it’s leaders and it’s followers/But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower

Breakdown:

The world is divided among those who lead, and those who follow. Leaders who are too brazen or bold sometimes get flack for their audacity (enter Yeezy). Playing off dick/swallowing, Ye would rather step on toes (i.e. be a dick/jerk) and get criticized for it than swallow his words and not speak his mind.

Photos Credit:  | Instagram

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NEXT PAGE: VERSE 2: LYRICS/BREAKDOWN

[Verse 2]

Lyrics:

I throw these Maybach keys/I wear my heart on my sleeve

Breakdown:

Kanye is one of the hottest artists in the game so it does make sense for him to have some keys to a Maybach, like the 2004 Maybach 57 he wrecked with Jay-Z.

Lyrics:

I know that we the new slaves/I see the blood on the leaves

Breakdown:

Kanye’s being sincere. His passion and emotion are rarely concealed

Lyrics:

I see the blood on the leaves/I see the blood on the leaves

Breakdown:

Blood on the Leaves is a book published in 2004, written by Jeff Stetson. This book outlines African American retribution and the impacts of a prejudiced society. In the book, an African American prosecutor is faced with the task of prosecuting Martin Matheson, who is the prime suspect in a crime case that involved the murder of several men. These were the same men who were acquitted of their murders of African Americans in the 1960s.

Lyrics:

I know that we the new slaves/I see the blood on the leaves

Breakdown:

Portions of the rich and powerful have a monopoly on poverty. Making the poor and weak the new slaves. Ye sees the proof/truth in plain site because hes looking around for it; like blood on leaves. “Its not black against white no more, its us against them”- Katt Williams

Lyrics:

They throwing hate at me/Want me to stay at ease

Breakdown:

Mr West constantly receives media attention for some of the “rants”he’s gone on and public displays of passion. His media highlights range from stating George Bush doesn’t like black people in the wake of a natural disaster, to interrupting Taylor Swift during her award acceptance speech.

Throughout all of this, Kanye has stayed strong and true to creating G.O.O.D. music. He’s let nothing that’s said about him get under his skin top stop him from creating. Recently at the Adult Swim upfront show, he ranted on stage regarding the haters.

Lyrics:

Fuck you and your corporation/Y’all niggas can’t control me

Breakdown:

Kanye’s rebelling against big corporations (typically run by rich white folks) which, to a certain degree, control almost every aspect of our lives. It’s hard to escape businesses that are “too big to fail”, whether it be through the lack of choice in buying new products (they usually own all the “competition) or these corporations holding considerable influence in the government

Lyrics: 

I know that we the new slaves/I know that we the new slaves

Breakdown:

By repeating this phrase 4 or 5 times, Yeezy gets the point across effectively: while Blacks were once slaves to America’s “peculiar institution” until after the Civil War, they’ve now become oppressedby companies/businesses

Lyrics:

I’m about to wild the fuck out/I’m going Bobby Boucher

Breakdown:

In The Waterboy, main character Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) would channel his anger while out on the football field and tackle opponents with an immense hit. ‘Ye feels as if he’s about to act out this way himself.

Lyrics:

I know that pussy ain’t free/You niggas pussy, ain’t me

Breakdown:

You gotta spend money to get with women. He even wrote a song about it…

Lyrics:

Y’all throwing contracts at me/You know that niggas can’t read

Breakdown:

He references the common racist stereotype that black people can’t read. This serves as another reference to slaves, who either couldn’t read, had to hide the fact that they could or were straight up lied to. This new slavery involves complex lawyer language written up by the corporations in contracts, you’re just another black man signing a contract. These corporations know this and love it

Lyrics:

Throw him some Maybach keys

Breakdown:

Continuing on from the previous line, he implies that using deal sweeteners in contracts will get a black man to sign any contract. Common incentives such as money, cars and women are used in the music industry to control rappers.

Lyrics:

Fuck it, c’est la vie

Breakdown:

French for “such is life”

Lyrics:

I know that we the new slaves/Y’all niggas can’t fuck with me

Breakdown:

In today’s era, people are continually made slaves to advertisements for the newest product. They feel as if they are incomplete without a new ______ and so they are in effect slaves.

Lyrics:

Y’all niggas can’t fuck with Ye/Y’all niggas can’t fuck with Ye

Breakdown:

The corporations can’t fuck with Ye because he doesn’t give in to their capitalism and contracts. He just does his own thing and creates dope music.

Lyrics:

I move my family out the country /So you can’t see where I stay

Breakdown:

Kanye has had numerous run ins with a paparazzi. In order to make them mad and to live a more secluded life, Ye
Will take Kim and baby Ye out of the USA.

Lyrics:

So go and grab the reporters/So I can smash their recorders

Breakdown:

Alluding to Yeezy’s long lasting problems with the paparazzi and celebrity culture. However he has had issues with the paps in the past, with long time friend Don C being charged with felony vandalism for breaking their cameras, and also being arrested for a scuffle with a paps later that year.

Lyrics:

Yeah they confuse us with bullshit/Like the New World Order

Breakdown:

Kanye feels the media is always distracting us with crazy conspiracies such as the New World Order.  As he states in the next couple of lines, while the media does this, real threats like the rising black male prison population are ignored. This also plays on the use of “new” throughout the song—the idea of a “New World Order” is actually something pretty old and potentially damning in Ye’s opinion.

Lyrics:

Meanwhile the DEA/Teamed up with the CCA

Breakdown:

The Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA for short, is a United States federal law enforcement agency that is in charge of combatting drug smuggling and usage in the USA. Although their intent is supposedly good, there have been many reports of racism and unconstitutional acts surrounding this institution.

Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA is a company that owns and manages prisons and detention centers. CCA is the largest private corrections company in the United States and manages more than 60 facilities with a designed capacity of 90,000 beds

Lyrics:

They tryna lock niggas up/They tryna make new slaves

Breakdown:

Kanye’s talking about institutional racism in the prison-industrial complex. A topic covered by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow.

Lyrics:

See that’s that private-owned prison

Breakdown: 

Opening a prison seems like a pretty lucrative investment. There is an entire prison-industrial complex which reaps untold riches from jailing minorities and using them for free labor. Not to mention the surveillance and security contracts.

Lyrics:

Get your piece today

Breakdown:

Do you want your very own Jesus piece, a cross or crucifix worn around the neck, namely by hip hop artists?

Lyrics:

They prolly all in the Hamptons/Braggin’ ’bout they maid

Breakdown:

They bougie so they probably all up in a summer cottage or something. These bougie folks are the ones investing in companies like the CCA and are proud of it too. Ye is saying fuck’em.

Here, Ye uses a homophone on maid:

  • ‘Braggin’ on how they made’, as in, how much money they have.
  • Braggin’ about the fact that they have maids to clean their mansions.

Lyrics:

Fuck you and your Hampton house/I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse
Came on her Hampton blouse/And in her Hampton mouth

Breakdown:

The Hamptons—known for its density of wealth, seersucker suits, and douchebags—annoys Kanye. He will fuck yo bitch.

Lyrics:

Y’all ’bout to turn shit up/I’m ’bout to tear shit down

Breakdown:

This track is gonna get the public hype and intrigued with Kanye’s rawness — That’s real hiphop. When you like a track, you turn the volume up.. — Literally.

Lyrics:

I’m ’bout to air shit out

Breakdown:

Air shit out = Clean up the rap game from what it’s become (reference previous 2 lines, usage of “Turn Up” that’s overused now). Get rid of all the bullshit music that is polluting hip hop. Like Kanye said in “So Appalled”.

Lyrics:

Now what the fuck they gon’ say now?

Breakdown:

Kanye ends this epic song in a microphone-dropping fashion — asking what other rappers could possibly say to him, respond to him, or try to top the rhymes he spits in both these verses and the upcoming verses that are “about to tear shit down.”

New Music: Kanye West “New Slaves”

Video via Miss Info

Breakdown via Rap Genius 

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