How simple is it to convey messages about hate, racism, proving oneself, and success? The answer here: is not simple at all, unless you’re a genius. Kanye West conveyed these messages, broke social barriers, and created a memorable beat all in one song. “Gorgeous” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of Kanye’s greatest songs to date.
At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of “Gorgeous” due to the distortion effect added onto Kanye West’s voice, however, after focusing on the lyrics, sample, and chorus I have come to appreciate this song as my third favorite Kanye West song of all time. The distortion effect gives a special layer of emotion to Kanye’s voice as it matches the sample from Enoch Lights and the Glittering Guitars song “You Showed Me” which samples the Turtles song of the same name. With the guitar sample and effect in full, Kanye is able to dig deep into this song, especially when he recruits Kid Cudi for the venomous chorus. Kanye starts his verse by highlighting the racial injustice and blatant discriminative actions that plague the country. Kanye understands these problems but he takes it upon himself to warn others of the corrupt system and how they’re all a part of it whether they want to or not.
In this section, Kanye points out the necessity of hip-hop for teens as they need role models to follow similar to a religious practice. Kanye West has often proclaimed himself to be a god throughout his career and this verse seemingly shows that he wouldn’t mind leading the new generation as their God, going so far as to compare himself to civil rights leader Malcolm X when he says “Malcolm West had the whole nation standing at attention.” However, Kanye goes on to claim that being a role model isn’t the full extent of his goals and that he wants to be the greatest rapper that there can be. Kanye will stop at nothing to be the best but there are always going to be forces against him every step of the way.
In his final verse of the song, Kanye decides to talk about how he is determined to be the successive icon that he truly wants to become even if it has its problems. He even shows this by stating how his problems won’t leave him, referencing a Beatles track in the line “I was looking at my resume feeling real fresh today, they rewrite history, I don’t believe in yesterday.” This is Kanye stating how no matter how far he comes, history can be rewritten and it can all be taken away from him. He continues this sentiment with the now iconic line “What’s a black Beatle anyway, a fucking roach? I guess that’s why they got me sitting in fucking Coach.” This is Kanye continuing his Beatle reference from the previous line, and showing how even as a musician who’s accomplished as many musical feats as the Beatles, he will never be shown the same amount of respect, and that’s why he’s seated in Coach, behind First-Class. Kanye knows he’s back on the rise at this time in 2010 and doesn’t plan on stopping soon. Kanye seeks a lot in “Gorgeous” and whether it’s fame, success, or worship he is always set on achieving his goals. Kanye ends this verse by reaffirming his tenacity of becoming the best rapper in the world.
The last verse in Gorgeous is a guest verse from legendary Staten Island rapper Raekwon. At face value, one might mistake Raekwon’s appearance on this politically charged track to be redundant to the themes in the first three verses, but as a whole, it actually adds value to and perspective to verse three, as well to the themes of the album as a whole. Kanye spends his time on Gorgeous addressing America’s twisted views on African Americans and how it’s affected him personally. Raekwon uses his verse to paint a different picture, a black man who has risen above the racial injustice and become an icon himself. Raekwon starts off with “I done copped Timbs, lived in lenses, kid, Armani suits, fresh fruits Bally boots and Benzes.” Right away we can tell that Raekwon is somebody who’s successful. He lives a life of designer clothing and luxury cars, he also references his time in the spotlight, being followed by paparazzi and the media with the “lived in lenses” line. He would then go on to rap about Louis bags, and red Jaguars, to truly show the extent to which he has succeeded in his life. The tone of this guest feature changes and circles back to the themes addressed before when Raekwon calls back to his own time at the bottom of the pyramid with the line “Throwing dice for decimals the older head, bolder head, would train a soldier head, make sure he in the right field, not a soldier dead.” grimey, right? This is Raekwon making callbacks to where he would shoot dice for small amounts of money, and how the elders in his neighborhood would “train” the youth to know the ins and outs of the streets because a mistake could get them killed. Raekwon closes out his feature with this: “Keep grinding, keep shining, to every young man, this is a plan, learn from others like your brothers, Rae and Kanye.” This is a beautiful message to send the listener off with, a message from two prolific cultural leaders that if they keep at their passions, they will rise above the injustice in America and be okay.
Kanye West attacks the idea of racism, racial profiling, and racial inequality while bringing in his own experiences into the light. With Kid Cudi giving a ghostly chorus about being afraid to lose and a feature from Raekwon, Kanye West once again brought a wonderful trio together for this masterpiece. The song itself is a great piece of social commentary and gives those who don’t have a voice a way to be heard. While Kanye West isn’t a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or a Malcolm X, he still knows where the problems are and isn’t afraid to point them out to the world on “Gorgeous”.