The 50 Best Kanye West Songs Ever

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6. Blood on the Leaves

Release Date: June 18, 2013

Album: Yeezus

Writer(s): Kanye West, Cydel Young, Ross Birchard, Elon Rutberg, Malik Jones, Tony Williams, Mike Dean, Lewis Allen

Producer(s): West, Hudson Mohawke, Lunice, Carlos Broady, 88-Keys, Arca, Dean

Notable Lyric:

“Let’s take it back to the first party

When you tried your first molly

And came out of your body

And came out of your body

Running naked down the lobby

And you was screamin’ that you love me”

The mark of a good artist, in any field, is the capacity to understand and utilize contrast. Kanye’s use of it can sometimes be relatively straightforward — “Amazing,” for instance, isn’t the uplifting song you might suspect from the title — but sometimes it can be something denser.

“Blood on the Leaves” stands out as the most significant example of the latter. It begins with a sample of a Nina Simone cover of the 1939 song “Strange Fruit,” a lyrical description of lynching a black man. From that dark place, Kanye’s voice — lightly Auto-Tuned — emerges.

If you’re expecting him to expand or dig deeper into “Strange Fruit” themes, you’d be wrong. Instead he details a tumultuous relationship that seemed as fueled by drugs as it was by desire.

On the surface, the damning legacy of slavery and a dramatic affair don’t seem like they would compliment each other. And perhaps they don’t. Kanye forces us into both narratives not necessarily because he thinks one speaks to the other, but because they don’t. The effect is mildly offended but titillated confusion, and when’s the last time you can say you felt all of that over the course of six minutes?

Next: 5. Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)