Can't Tell Me Nothing

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"Can't Tell Me Nothing"
Can't Tell Me Nothing.jpg
Single by Kanye West
from the album Graduation
B-side"Barry Bonds"
ReleasedMay 15, 2007
Doppler Studios
(Atlanta, Georgia)
Sony Music Studios
(New York, New York)
The Record Plant
(Hollywood, California)
GenreHip hop
Kanye West singles chronology
"Classic (Better Than I've Ever Been)"
"Can't Tell Me Nothing"

"Can't Tell Me Nothing" is a song by American hip-hop recording artist Kanye West. It was released on May 15, 2007 as the lead single of his third studio album, Graduation.[1] The song was produced by Kanye West and Atlanta record producer DJ Toomp. It received acclaim from music critics and was listed amongst the best tracks of the year by several publications. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 50th Grammy Awards, but lost to another one of West's songs, "Good Life".[2] Since its release, West has continually reiterated that it is his favorite song he's done.[3] In 2012 Complex named it their song of the decade.[4]


The cover art of the single was designed by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Though "Can't Tell Me Nothing" didn't impact pop radio as significantly as the album's subsequent singles, West took pride in the fact that he had attained his very first street anthem with the song.[5][6] The song is featured as the sixth track on Now That's What I Call Music! 26. It was nominated for "Track of the Year" at the 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards. It was also featured in the movie The Hangover.

Music and lyrics[edit]

Despite not being re "Can't Tell Me Nothing" features slow, moody synth-driven production, exemplifying the new sonic direction that would come to dominate much of Graduation.[7] West stated that he drew inspiration from arena rock bands such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, elaborating that the song's chords are akin to that of a rock melody.[8][9] He also explained that, with the track, he wanted to make anthemic music and create a theme song for the people.[10] The song contains audio samples of ad-libs provided by Young Jeezy as well as background vocals provided by Connie Mitchell of the Australian electronic group Sneaky Sound System.[11][12]

Lyrically, "Can't Tell Me Nothing" serves as West's reflection on his fame and as such hovers between insecure and confrontational while marked by bitter regret and self-aware defiance.[7] West begins the song by expounding his conflicted feelings regarding wealth and desire, describing a compulsion to spend that overwhelms any and all other objectives in life.[13] He ties this into his perceived overall inability to keep himself together even as he grows into an increasingly prominent figure in the public eye with lyrics like, "I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny / And what do I do? Act more stupidly."[14]


PopMatters described "Can't Tell Me Nothing" as a "powerful single."[13] The Chicago Tribune chronicled West's performance as, "defiant, defensive, rueful, sarcastic and deadly passionate."[15] Entertainment Weekly named "Can't Tell Me Nothing" the sixth best song of 2007 while Pitchfork listed the song at number twenty-five in its "Top 100 Tracks of 2007" list and Stylus Magazine cited it as the thirteenth best song of 2007.[7][16][17] The song debuted at number eighty on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 7, 2007, where it eventually peaked at number forty-one.[18][19]

Music videos[edit]

Two separate music videos accompanied "Can't Tell Me Nothing", with the first aired on television and the second made available solely online. The first music video was directed by Hype Williams and released on West's official website on May 25, 2007.[20] To visually complement the thematically distanced, alienated feel of the track, the video was filmed in a desert.[21] It carries a minimal aesthetic, with scenes shot in a barren, wide-open desert landscape. For a limited time, the music video was available as a free download on the U.S. iTunes Store.

On July 25, 2007, West premiered an alternate music video for "Can't Tell Me Nothing" on his website. This version was directed by Michael Blieden and featured comedian Zach Galifianakis and folk singer-songwriter Will Oldham.[22] West had been introduced to Galifianakis' work through his personal trainer, and eventually asked him to perform in his second video after attending one of Galifianakis' stand-up shows in Los Angeles.[23][24] The unscripted, low-budget music video was filmed at Galifianakis' farm in North Carolina and features him and Oldham lip-synching to the song.[25] The alternate video was selected by Rolling Stone as the third best music video of 2007 while Pitchfork cited the version as thirtieth best music video of the decade.[26][27]

Live performances[edit]

On June 1, 2007, West made a surprise appearance at DJ Gomez Warren's set in Los Angeles, California to play "Can't Tell Me Nothing" to an audience which included Sanaa Lathan and Gabrielle Union.[28] He performed the song during his set at Live Earth 2007, before joining The Police and John Mayer onstage to perform "Message in a Bottle" for the concert's finale.[29] On July 7, West performed the song as during his gig at the Manchester Apollo for the Manchester International Festival.[30] West played "Can't Tell Me Nothing” alongside Common, Q-Tip, and Mos Def during impromptu jam session that took place on July 18 at S.O.B.'s in Manhattan hosted by Hot 97, where he served as a DJ battle judge.[31] West and 50 Cent later joined each other onstage to provide a surprise performance before an audience of over 20,000 people for a show held on August 22 in Madison Square Garden during Ciara and T.I.'s Screamfest '07 tour.[32]

On August 7, he performed a medley of "Stronger" and "Can't Tell Me Nothing" during an in-studio appearance on MTV's Total Request Live.[33][34] On September 11, West performed the song live during his appearance on BET's 106 & Park.[35] West performed "Can't Tell Me Nothing" for the opening of the 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards on October 13. He performed the song during his surprise appearance at L.A.'s Griffith Park as the launch party for the new T-Mobile Sidekick LX.[36] In midst of a brief European tour, West played the song at Le Zenith in Paris, France, where he expressed difficulty performing after succumbing to emotional distress following a failed attempt to perform "Hey Mama" on November 17, merely one week after his mother's death.[37] After a surprise appearance at a Kid Sister concert in New York's Museum of Natural History on January 26, 2008, West remained onstage to perform "Can't Tell Me Nothing," "Good Life" and "Flashing Lights".[38]

West performed "Can't Tell Me Nothing" alongside Jay-Z at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida for the opening of his Heart of the City Tour on March 22.[39] He performed the song live for the opening of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami's exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum on April 4.[40] Following a performance of their second collaboration "Put On", West and Young Jeezy performed "Can't Tell Me Nothing" at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia for the 13th annual Hot 107.9 Birthday Bash concert on June 13, 2008.[41] West performed "Can't Tell Me Nothing” during his appearance at the Knitting Factory in New York City on September 9.[42] "Can't Tell Me Nothing" was included within the setlist of West's conceptual Glow in the Dark Tour that began in 2008. During the concert, an LCD screen seated behind him displayed a fiery explosion that ignited on the "oh" hook.[8]

Near the end of the tour's North American leg, West performed the song during the final night of Lollapalooza 2008 in his hometown of Chicago, where he co-headlined the festival with Nine Inch Nails.[43] Dressed in an all red outfit, West performed "Can't Tell Me Nothing" during his set a Z100's Jingle Ball in Madison Square Garden on December 12.[44] He performed the song in Hyde Park, London while headlining the second and final day of the 2009 Wireless Festival.[45] West performed "Can't Tell Me Nothing" before an audience of 3,000 students during his free Stay In School benefit concert at Chicago Theatre on July 11, 2009.[46] On August 6 at the Casio G-Shock the World event at Cipriani's on Wall Street, he performed the song in front of a shifting digital display screen that counted down his time onstage.[47]

Remixes and other versions[edit]

The official remix featured Def Jam labelmate Young Jeezy and was later released as a B-side which accompanied Graduation's third single, "Good Life".[48] The extended remix features additional verses from Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, and was released July 25, 2007.[49] Another remix features West's Rocafella labelmates Beanie Sigel and Freeway. Francis and the Lights recorded a cover of the song for Engine Room Recordings' compilation album Guilt by Association Vol. 2, which was released in November 2008.[50]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download

  1. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" – 4:33

U.S. 12" single'

  1. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Album)
  2. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Instrumental)
  3. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Remix) (featuring Young Jeezy)
  1. "Barry Bonds" (Main)
  2. "Barry Bonds" (Instrumental)
  3. "Barry Bonds" (Accapella)


Information taken from Graduation liner notes.[12]

  • Songwriters: Kanye West, Aldrin Davis
  • Producers: Kanye West, DJ Toomp
  • Recorders: Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer, Tony Rey
  • Mix engineers: Mike Dean, Andrew Dawson
  • Keyboards: Darryl Beaton, Chris Rob
  • Additional vocals: Young Jeezy, Connie Mitchell

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format
North America May 15, 2011 (2011-05-15) CD, 12", digital download
United Kingdom May 29, 2011 (2011-05-29) CD, digital download
Ireland/International June 11, 2011 (2011-06-11) Digital download


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External links[edit]