12. Through the Wire
Release Date: September 30th, 2003
Album: The College Dropout
Writer(s): Kanye West, David Foster, Tom Keane, Cynthia Well
“What if somebody from the Chi’ that was ill got a deal
On the hottest rap label around?
But he wasn’t talking about coke and birds
It was more like spoken word
Except he’s really putting it down?”
The backstory behind “Through the Wire” is some of the most genuinely inspiring stuff you’ll ever hear. Kanye’s battles to be taken seriously as a rapper culminated, in a way, with him getting into a severe car accident outside L.A. in 2002.
His brush with death acted as a lens through which his efforts at creating his first album were focused. Desperate to get to work, he produced “Through the Wire” from his hospital bed, then rapped his verses through his wired-shut jaw.
Those verses feel strained, particularly to those that have grown familiar with his unencumbered voice in the years since, but that’s exactly the effect he was going for. These rhymes and sentiments needed out, even if it meant being forced through surgically clenched teeth.
That urgency and desire translates throughout the song, making it one of Kanye’s best ever after all these years.
Next: 11. Black Skinhead