Barry Bonds (song)

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"Barry Bonds"
Song by Kanye West featuring Lil Wayne
from the album Graduation
ReleasedSeptember 11, 2007
Recorded2007
StudioChung King Studios
(New York, New York)
Durt Factory Studio
(Norfolk, Virginia)
GenreHip-hop
Length3:24
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)

"Barry Bonds" is a song by American hip-hop recording artist and record producer Kanye West. It was released as the seventh song on the track-listing of his third studio album Graduation (2007). The track was co-produced by Norfolk record producer Nottz alongside West and contains a sample from a live recording of "Long Red" by the American hard rock band Mountain. The song is built on dense, loping reggae drums and has a spare trip-hop groove driven by moaning bass guitar. In addition to early 1990s hip-hop, it also harbors elements from funk and jazz. Although the arrangement primarily maintains a stripped-down approach, its ominous instrumentation assumes a bombastic combination of twinkling keyboards, minor-key synths, and Gothic organ stabs. The song features a guest appearance from rapper Lil Wayne, who provides the one single guest rap verse on the entire studio album. With the track, West uses former Major League Baseball player and home run king Barry Bonds as a metaphor for his ability to create music hits.

The song received mixed reviews from music critics who generally praised West for delivering the superior verses between the pair while panning Lil Wayne's lyrical performance. However, the track was very well-received by audiences, and even managed to chart without ever being released as a single. "Barry Bonds" peaked at number twenty-four on the U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. Although an accompanying music video was never produced for "Barry Bonds," a special video clip was made for the track. The video clip premiered during an album listening session West held for Graduation at the New World Stages in New York City. It was one of seven clips that were designed by Kanye West and edited by film editor Derrick Lee exclusively for the event. The video clip for "Barry Bonds" features a montage of scenes taken from the 2003 South Korean film Oldboy.

Background and release[edit]

"Barry Bond" was written American hip-hop recording artist and record producer Kanye West, who co-produced the track with Norfolk record producer Nottz.[1] The song was a late addition to the track-listing of West's forthcoming third studio album Graduation (2007).[2] West had almost completed putting the finishing touches on the album when he realized that he was in need of a street-oriented record.[3] After the name of Nottz, a record producer from Norfolk, Virginia came up during conversation, his manager sent three of his tracks over to West.[3] Nottz had been producing hip-hop beats for a roster of high-profile rappers since the late-1990s.[3][4] They include Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Killah, Scarface, Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, MURS and The Notorious B.I.G..[3][4] One of Nottz's beats caught West's ear and after making some adjustments, he chose to use it to write the lyrics for a rap song.[3] "Barry Bonds" was the latest in a string of recently released songs, including "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and "Stronger," where West declares his evolution into becoming the top lyricists in the music industry.[5] He playfully raps boastful rhymes over a tough, hard drumbeat and slow minor-key synths.[6][7] The song is named after Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds, who West uses as a metaphor for his ability to create music hits.[8]

The song was first heard by music listeners when the digital radio station BBC Radio 1Xtra hosted an exclusive "Audience With Kanye West" venue at the BBC Radio Music Theatre in London on August 13, 2007.[9] West guided a specially selected audience through Graduation, playing the album in its entirety directly from his MacBook Air laptop via a speaker system.[9] The premiere was part of an extensive promotional campaign that West embarked on for his third album during a trip to the United Kingdom.[10] Once he came across and played track for them, the audience enjoyed "Barry Bonds" so much that West cut off the next song, "Flashing Lights," roughly ten seconds in so that he could play it twice, which he didn't do for any other track on the album.[11][9] Upon asking which song from the studio album he should leak, West received "Barry Bonds" as their response. He then decided to release the track onto the Internet for free digital downloading.[9][12] Two weeks later, "Barry Bond" was one of the songs played when West hosted an album listening session for Graduation in New York City.[7] The late-night album listening session was held at the New World Stages on August 28, 2007. Inside an auditorium, West explained the influences and aspirations that went into the making of his third album.[7] Throughout the night, he played previews of its songs from start-to-finish without interruption, some with video accompaniment to match.[13][14] As West played "Barry Barry" scenes from the 2003 South Korean film Oldboy were broadcast on a screen.[14] West refrained from ever releasing "Barry Bonds" as an official single, and instead included it as a B-side to "Can't Tell Me Nothing."[5]

Similar to "Can't Tell Me Nothing", even though "Barry Bonds" did not impact commercial radio, it was very well-received by rap fans.[12] Following its debut, British DJ and BBC Radio 1 radio presenter Mistajam gave the song a rave review. He stated, "If you're someone who hates on Kanye because he doesn't make that 'real' hip-hop, prepare to eat your words. ... Featuring Lil Wayne, this is something that will not be a commercial hit but will be one of any true hip-hop head's biggest tracks from the album. So boasty and full of swagger, it's "Brooklyn's Finest" but with a dude from the Chi and a dude from Norleans."[9] Sharing similar sentiments, Rajveer Kathwadia of RWD Magazine described "Barry Bonds" as being a "straight hip hop track" that contains West's "most lyrical performance."[11] The night of the album listening session, Shaheem Reid for MTV reported that the previously released song had "spoken volumes" for West and hit hard in advance of Graduation.[7] When Kanye West was crowned by MTV as the year's #1 Hottest MC in the Game, "Barry Bonds" was cited as a street-banger alongside the unofficial remix of "Flashing Lights."[15] Additionally, "Barry Bonds" has been accredited to being one of several tracks that affirmed Lil Wayne's place within the realm of hip-hop.[16] According to Kyle "KP" Reilly, head of the popular mixtape platform DatPiff, "Songs like 'Barry Bonds' and the success of his instrumentals are what made him a legend within the mixtape circuit and mixtape world."[16]

Recording[edit]

New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne is featured on "Barry Bonds." It contains the one single guest verse on the entire studio album.

A majority of the songs on Graduation had contained glossy, layered synthesizer-based productions influenced by West's excursion into electronic music.[17][18] Although with "Barry Bonds" the backing track retains a more conventional, straightforward hip-hop production.[19][20] West desired a simplistic boom-bap beat akin to kind typically used for the backdrop of a freestyle rap in order to place lyrical wordplay in at the forefront but was also club-friendly.[21][22][23] Nottz incorporated his signature dense drums and low-end Moog basslines.[3] Though synthesizer was used to fashion the chord sequence of the track, it maintains a patchy, analog aesthetic.[24][20] West integrated a cut-up vocal sample from a live recording of "Long Red" by the hard rock band Mountain into the chorus section.[25][1]

Recording sessions for "Barry Bond" took place at Chung King Studios in New York City and at Durt Factory Studio in Norfolk, Virginia.[1] Once the recording sessions were complete, the track was then mixed at Chung King Studios.[1] West stated that Roc-A-Fella Records founder Damon "Dame" Dash was in his thoughts while writing "Barry Bonds."[26] During an interview, after being asked about the status of his current relationship with Dame—mentioned in the chorus of the album's thirteenth track "Big Brother"—West replied that while Jay-Z is a brother to him, Dame is more like a father figure. He claims that when working on the track, he actually imagined Dame enjoying the music, doing the original Dame Dash Dance, and reliving the glory days of the record label.[26] Jay-Z himself was originally meant to also make a guest appearance on "Barry Bonds" alongside Lil Wayne.[27] In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jay-Z revealed that because it was late in the day, he didn't get a chance to get his verse in.[27] This makes Graduation the very first studio album released by Kanye West not to feature a full-length guest rap verse from Jay-Z.[11]

In comparison to previous albums, Graduation in its entirety contained fewer guest appearances from other recording artists.[11] West elaborated that they inspired a conscious decision to keep his guest vocalists at a minimum. This was a result from the various rock bands and musicians he was listening to at the time. During an interview with Reuters, West stated, "When I hear the records of my favorite bands – The Killers or Coldplay – you only hear one voice from start to finish."[28] The scant singers and rappers featured in individual tracks on the record were relegated to providing melodic choruses and quick hooks.[29] At one point, West intended for Graduation to be utterly devoid of a guest rap verse in order to showcase his improvement as a lyricist.[30] But West eventually decided make an exception and invite rapper Lil Wayne on the track "Barry Bonds".[5] The collaborative track was announced less than a month prior to the release date of Graduation.[2] At the time, the two had been working closely together, with West contributing to the production of Lil Wayne's acclaimed sixth studio album Tha Carter III (2008).[31][32] "Barry Bonds" stands as the very first song ever to feature both of the popular hip-hop artists together.[33]

Composition[edit]

The song is named after Major League Baseball player and home run king Barry Bonds. He is used a metaphor for West's music hit-making ability.

"Barry Bonds" is a hip-hop song that runs for a duration of three minutes and twenty-four seconds.[1] It is a gritty mix-tape track built on a loping reggae drumbeat and spare trip-hop groove.[30][34][35] The musical composition also retains elements of funk and jazz, resulting in a corrosive, bass-heavy sound that recalls early 1990s hip-hop.[36][37] Its has ominous, minimalist instrumentation consisting of slow synths, dense drums, thick organ, twinkling keyboards and pulsing bass guitar.[38][33][7][39] The dense beat of "Barry Bonds" is misty and bombastic, driven by low rumbling bass that swerves with languid aggressiveness.[34][17] The song starts out slow, opening with a moaning bassline intro and a stripped-down approach.[40][39] But then it suddenly swells to take on a sinister ambiance of gospel howls, glistening minor-key synths, and gritty drum breaks.[40][6] West demonstrates the eccentric use of confident rhyming coughs during the chorus.[25] Later on at its refrain, the track further expands to accommodate Gothic organ stabs before being brought back by its piercing, sinuous bass run.[38] The song's hook also contains rough shouting vocals from a sample of "Long Red" by the American hard rock band Mountain.[25][1]

West showcases his lyrical dexterity on "Barry Bonds", a competitive, playful battle-rap with Lil Wayne.[5] The pair casually exchange braggadocios rhymes regarding their success and dominance.[30][11] The track is named after former Major League Baseball player, seven-time MVP, and home-run king Barry Bonds.[41][8] West uses him as a metaphor in regards to his music hit-making ability, as the song has a chorus that goes: "Here's another hit, Barry Bonds."[32][8] Throughout the track, West ecstatically revels in the trappings of success.[29] His lyrical wordplay is imbued with brash declarations of strength and triumph as well as references to golden age hip-hop anthems and MCs.[42][43][34] He uses baseball to make an analogy for his string of hits and compliments himself for being a better sport in the past year.[44] Meanwhile, in a raspy voice with slow, gravelly flow, Lil Wayne reels off a litany of boastful free-associative punchlines and witty one-liners laced with numerous pop-culture references.[38][30] These include those pertaining to rapper Eminem, actress Meagan Good, singer-songwriter Keyshia Cole, former U.S. Presidents, and the Easter Rabbit.[45][22] West and Lil Wayne proclaim themselves as hit-makers in the same league. For the song's hook, West delivers the catchphrase uttered by sport commentator Duane Kuiper whenever a player hit a home run: "We outta here baby!"[46]

Critical reception[edit]

Despite being very well-received by audiences, "Barry Bonds" received mixed reviews from contemporary music critics.[10] Washington Post staff writer Brett Johnson described the track as "addictive."[43] Going further, Nathan Brackett senior editor for Rolling Stone claimed the song has "a moaning groove that you could listen to for weeks."[39] Houston Press regarded "Barry Bonds" as among the brilliant moments of Graduation.[23] Complimenting the lack of skits and as well as the fact that guest vocalists "blend in rather than deviate from the main attraction," Noah Love of ChartAttack stated that any of the album's transgressions can be easily ignored thanks to songs like "Barry Bonds."[47] A columnist from Paste bestowed "Barry Bonds" with much acclaim and ranked it as West's fifty-ninth best album track. He writes, "Barry Bonds” is now a reminder of when Lil Wayne could do nothing but make hits, since this track predates Tha Carter III's popularity. "Barry Bonds" is little more than Wayne and West going head-to-head, knocking it out of the park with each verse."[48]

Substream Magazine's Murjani Rawls summarizes the track as "the lyrical stacking of verbal Jenga pieces with Lil Wayne, an artist who was within a remarkable run."[49] Mark Pylik of Pitchfork was taken aback by the inspired manner in which "West confounds the odds by drastically outsmarting an uncharacteristically lazy Lil Wayne on the mic."[24] Likewise, exclaim's Del Cowie remarked, "West invites Lil’ Wayne, regarded in some circles as the best rapper breathing, and verbally annihilates him on "Barry Bonds."[50] Rajveer Kathwadia of RWD Magazine was fairly indifferent towards song's lyrics but complimented its old school-inspired boom-bap beat.[22] Dave Heaton from PopMatters considered "Barry Bonds" as one of the songs on the album that gave off a "timeless hip-hop feeling." He inferred, "...you get the sense that he’s pushing for a legacy as a pop-star and as a true-school MC. When he calls himself a "top 5 MC", he’s not just bragging: he’s hoping that’s how he’ll be remembered."[34]

The Village Voice thought that "Barry Bonds" was interesting, but concludes that it didn't feel like a "massive event-song" and the impression left was a "low-key simmer rather than an epic blast."[30] The A.V. Club staff reviewer Kyle Ryan said that "Barry Bonds" was "undercooked" and stood out as one of a couple of the album's "real clunkers."[51] The Michigan Daily writer Brian Chen labeled the recording an "egregious misstep" and was critical of the simplistic beat and lyricism. He continued writing, "The production is inconspicuous to a fault; West lacks the lyrical chops to impress on wordplay alone ... And then there's Weezy's lackluster appearance. Normally, he would eviscerate a track like this, but here he drops an uncharacteristically anemic verse.[21] Jim Farber from New York Daily News was despondent of the change in West's lyrical content. He wrote, "Unfortunately, lyrically, West has lost sight of the worldly view, and outsider's character, that earlier made him a worthy critic of power. He's in the cat seat now, and boy, does he know it. ... On one level, he's kidding of course. But if those boasts can be funny, it's deflating that he's talking only about himself.[52] Samuel Anslema of XXL Magazine asserted, "While the Lil Wayne–featured “Barry Bonds” thumps like Sasquatch's feet, it’s an example of undeniable style over substance."[53] While she gave Graduation a highly favorable review, Hillary Crosley of Billboard believed "Barry Bonds" shouldn't have been included on the studio album, saying that it "would've been better saved for a mixtape."[54]

Chart performance[edit]

Even though it was not released as an official single, "Barry Bonds" still managed to chart.[5] The song made both its debut and peek at number twenty-four on the U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart, which acts as a twenty-five song extension to the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, for the issue date of September 22, 2007.[55]

Video clip[edit]

Although "Barry Bonds" doesn't have an accompanying music video, a special video clip was made for the track prior to the release of Graduation.[14] It was displayed for the very first time when Kanye West hosted a late-night album listening session for Graduation in New York City on August 28, 2007 at the New World Stages.[7] The video clip for "Barry Bonds" was one of seven that were designed by Kanye West and Derrick Lee exclusively for the event.[56] Derrick Lee was the editor of the music video for "Flashing Lights" and was able to edit all seven video clips in three days.[57] West presented the gapless playback with an evocative light-show across the stage that included theatrical smoke machines, laser beams, stage spotlights and other special effects.[56][14] The elaborate spectacle was all set in almost perfect time with the music.[14] While the music played, a large screen positioned in the middle of the stage flashed a montage of images edited to sync up with "Barry Bonds."[13][14] They are taken from scenes of the hammer-fight sequence from the 2003 South Korean film Oldboy.[14] Kanye West later made the video clip available for viewing on his official blog on March 26, 2008.[58]

Live performances[edit]

West provided a live performance of "Barry Bonds" while for an inaugural benefit concert promoting and raising funds for higher education.[59] The concert was sponsored by West's charity foundation and was held on August 24, 2007 at Chicago's House of Blues.[59] One of the initiatives funded by the concert is the Loops Dreams Teacher Training Institute, which encourages the incorporation of hip-hop into Chicago Public Schools curriculum.[60]

Cover versions[edit]

"Barry Bonds" has been covered and remixed by other hip-hop artists and record producers. Just six weeks after its release, Canadian rapper and singer Drake performed a freestyle rap over the instrumental of "Barry Bonds" and included it on his 2007 mixtape Comeback Season.[61] With largely braggadocios lyrics, Drake veered away from his charismatic melodic vocal style in favor of straightforward rapping.[62][63] The track was considered as one of the highlights of the mixtape and was noted by Jaysong Rodriguez of Rolling Stone for being a demonstration of how Drake was becoming more into as his own as a hip-hop artist.[62] A remix for "Barry Bonds" was produced by Eli Escobar and included on Sky High, a remix mixtape that was mixed and compiled by DJ Benzi and Plain Pat.[64] The mixtape features remixes by various DJs and record producers of songs taken from West's first three studio albums.[65] It was made in anticipation of the release of his fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak (2008).[64] The remix project was commissioned by Kanye West himself the year prior. He handed over a cappellas and other session tapes to DJ Benzi, who then spent his time trying to match different and DJs and producers to certain tracks.[64] ike every of the other tracks, "Barry Bonds" (Eli Escobar Remix) had at least five revisions recorded before being completely finished.[64] The song's instrumental was given a new club-friendly dance vibe.[64]

The Florida production duo Urban Noize dedicated to Kanye a remix EP entitled Mr. West that features eight remixes of his songs.[66] A remix of "Barry Bonds" was among them, and duo incorporates bass instruments into the track to engender a bluesy sound.[67] Visionary Music in-house record producer 6ix has used chopped-and-screwed technique on samples of West's vocals from "Barry Bonds" combined with a vocal sample from "My Chain" by Gucci Mane for the production of the tracks "My Chain" as well as "Life of a Don" for rapper Logic.[68] Like West, Logic uses confident lyricism to acknowledge his success, expounding that seemingly materialistic items serve to convey past accomplishments. He included the latter on his third mixtape, Young Sinatra: Undeniable, and released the former as a promotional single for his debut studio album, Under Pressure (2014).[68] Austin battle-rapper Phranchyze did a freestyle over the track under the new title "Barry Bonds Flow" for his Phranye West mixtape.[69] Odd Future rapper Earl Sweatshirt used samples from "Barry Bonds" to produce the instrumental track "Bary".[70]

Personnel[edit]

Information taken from Graduation liner notes.[1]

  • Songwriters: Kanye West, Dwayne Carter, Dominick Lamb
  • Producers: Nottz, Kanye West
  • Recorders: Andrew Dawson, Nottz Raw, D. Sloan
  • Mix engineer: Mike Dean
  • Assistant engineers: Anthony Palazzole, Andy Marcinkowski
  • Bass guitar: Vincent "Biggs" James
  • Keyboards: Mike Dean

Charts[edit]

Chart (2007) Peak
position
US Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles (Billboard)[55] 24

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