New Slaves

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"New Slaves"
Song by Kanye West
from the album Yeezus
ReleasedJune 18, 2013
Recorded2012–2013
GenreIndustrial hip hop
Length4:16
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)

"New Slaves" is a song by American hip hop recording artist Kanye West, from his sixth studio album Yeezus (2013). It was produced primarily by West, with additional production by Ben Bronfman, Mike Dean, Travis Scott, Noah Goldstein, Sham Joseph, and Che Pope. The song's lyrics discuss slavery and segregation, as well as racism in general, materialism, and stereotypes of African Americans in the United States.[1] It features vocals from American recording artist Frank Ocean, whom West previously collaborated with on Watch the Throne (2011). The song's coda features a sample of "Gyöngyhajú lány" by Hungarian composer Gábor Presser, who later sued West in 2016 over its use.

Before its release on the album, West promoted it extensively, projecting it on over 60 locations around the world, and performing it live on Saturday Night Live and at the Governors Ball Music Festival. Since release, the song has received widespread acclaim from music critics, with many praising its message, sample, and Ocean's appearance. Despite not being released as a single, the song charted in Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States in 2013. It was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards and appeared on several year-end lists. West later performed the song on The Yeezus Tour.

Background[edit]

In a 2014 interview with Zach Baron of GQ, West claimed to have engaged in numerous meetings that included what he dubbed as "Stay in your place" type conversations.[2] They were described as what lead him "to the point of creating 'New Slaves' and 'Blood on the Leaves' and the entire Yeezus album, and to make the album basically like a protest in music."[2] The conclusion of "New Slaves" features Ocean singing over a sample of "Gyöngyhajú lány" (1969) by Hungarian rock band Omega.[3]

In 2016, Hungarian composer Gábor Presser, who wrote "Gyöngyhajú lány" in 1969, claimed that West asked him for permission to use that composition as the outro of "New Slaves", and gave him a $10,000 check as a deposit toward a future agreement. The check was not cashed, and Presser filed a lawsuit against West, seeking $2.5 million.[4][5][6] After unsuccessful negotiations between Presser and West through 2016, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the US Southern District of New York rejected the rapper's attempt to dismiss the suit and to transfer the case out West in December. Just two days before West was slated to be deposed in the case, the hip-hop impresario reached an out-of-court deal with Presser on March 20, 2017. Details of the deal are not disclosed.[7]

Release and promotion[edit]

Projection of "New Slaves" on the W Hotel in Los Angeles.

"New Slaves" was released on June 18, 2013, as the fourth track on West's sixth studio album Yeezus.[8] Prior to the song's release, it was played at 66 locations whilst a black-and-white video of West performing it was projected on various buildings in various countries around the world,[9][10] including at Wrigley Field and the Royal Ontario Museum. Miriam Coleman said the simplicity of the video "provided a striking context for the rapper's searing lyrics on race and materialism".[11] Two projections in Texas (including the Rothko Chapel) were dismissed by police prior to commencing due to a lack of permit.[12][13] Another projection at Miami Beach, Florida was shut down by police,[14] but left fans excited and eager to see the song's then-upcoming performance on Saturday Night Live.[15]

West performed "New Slaves", along with "Black Skinhead", on Saturday Night Live on May 18, 2013.[16][17] During the performance, West stood in place and stared dead-eyed at the camera the whole time, performing "in front of a projection of eyes."[16][17] West also changed his lyrics to more TV-friendly, changing words such as "dick" to "prick."[17][18] West subsequently performed the song live at the Governors Ball Music Festival on June 9, 2013.[19] During the performance, West "paused and breathed audibly between scant verses, allowing interludes of emptiness to add to the corrosive aura."[20]

Critical reception[edit]

"New Slaves" has received widespread acclaim from music critics, with its message, sample, and Ocean's appearance receiving praise. Farber of the Daily News said the song has a "heavy metal girth that still swings" and called the sampling of "Gyöngyhajú lány" by Omega "the most cool, and obscure, sample" on Yeezus.[3] Robert Christgau of MSN Music cited "New Slaves", along with "Hold My Liquor", as the album's highlights.[21] Michael Madden of Consequence of Sound writes: "'New Slaves' has one of the clearer concepts on the whole album, about the relationship West sees between blacks of different classes and consumerism," calling upon the lyrics: "You see it's broke-nigga racism, that's that Don't touch anything in the store'/ And this rich-nigga racism, that's that Come in, please buy more."[22] Madden ultimately called "New Slaves" one of the album's "essential tracks," along with "Black Skinhead", "Blood on the Leaves", and "Bound 2".[22] Evan Rytlewski of The A.V. Club called the song "menacing" and praised its coda with Frank Ocean.[23]

West himself has voiced his love for the song, tweeting that the second verse is the best rap verse of all time in July 2013,[24] and reiterating his opinion in a 2014 interview with GQ magazine.[2]

Accolades[edit]

On June 26, 2013, Time named "New Slaves" the "Best Song of 2013 (So Far)" and later on December 20, 2013, placed it first on its "The 25 Best Songs of 2013 (The Entire Year)."[25] On December 2, 2013, Complex named "New Slaves" the best song of 2013. Dave Bry commented saying, "Plenty of artists sold more records than Kanye West in 2013. No one did anything near to as artistically powerful. "New Slaves" is the best song of the year. And it's not even close."[26] NME ranked the song at number 36 on their list of the 50 best songs of 2013.[27] It was named the second best song of 2013 by Pitchfork.[28] They elaborated saying, ""New Slaves" is the hardened cartilage of Yeezus, the leanest and grisliest piece of music on an album without a single yielding surface. There isn't a wasted breath or unnecessary word; every single thought cleaves through the meat. [...] Yes, Kanye is a wealthy man, and yes, the particulars of his rage might be convoluted, involving his lack of access to the upper reaches of the fashion industry. But its source comes from an acute, unwavering awareness of a central fact: Even in the elite corridors of power where he now walks, some doors are still locked. On "New Slaves", he transforms into the hordes demanding entry. To paraphrase the words of his one-time mentor: The whole industry could hate him; he'll flail his way through."[28]

The song earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, ultimately losing to "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz.[29]

Live performances[edit]

Kanye West performing "New Slaves" at Odd Future Carnival in Los Angeles on November 9, 2013.

Before its release on the album, West performed "New Slaves", along with "Black Skinhead", on Saturday Night Live on May 18, 2013.[16] The performance introduced audiences to West's new creative shift for Yeezus and showed how musically different the album would be from his previous, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).[17][18] West performed the song again at the Governors Ball Music Festival on June 9, 2013, nine days before the release of the album.[19] Following the release of Yeezus, West performed the song live at the first concert of The Yeezus Tour at the Barclays Center in New York City.[30] West wore a jeweled mask during the show, which Jim Farber of New York Daily News believed contributed to "the industrial fusion he has injected on Yeezus."[30] When commenting on his performance of "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead", Farber writes: "West delivers [them] with the brutality they deserve."[30]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the Yeezus liner notes.[31]

  • Songwriter – Kanye West, Christopher Breaux, Cydel Young, Ben Bronfman, Malik Jones, Che Smith, Elon Rutberg, Sakiya Sandifer, Louis Johnson, Mike Dean, Gabor Presser, and Anna Adamis
  • Producer – Kanye West
  • Co-producer – Ben Bronfman
  • Additional vocals – Frank Ocean
  • Additional producer – Mike Dean #MWA, Travis Scott, Noah Goldstein, Sham Joseph, and Che Pope
  • Additional programming – Hudson Mohawke and Arca
  • Noises and vocal sounds creator and engineer – Ken Lewis
  • Engineer – Noah Goldstein, Anthony Kilhoffer, and Mike Dean
  • Assistant engineer – Marc Portheau, Khoï Huynh, Raoul Le Pennec, Nabil Essemlani, Keith Parry, Kenta Yonesaka, Dave Rowland, Kevin Matela, Sean Oakley, Eric Lynn, Dave 'Squirrel' Covell, and Josh Smith
  • Mix – Anthony Kilhoffer at Shangri-La Studios, Malibu, CA
  • Mix assisted – Sean Oakley, Eric Lynn, Dave 'Squirrel' Covell, and Josh Smith

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2013) Peak
position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[32] 99
France (SNEP)[33] 152
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[34] 97
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[35] 20
US Billboard Hot 100[36] 56
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[37] 17

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[38] Gold 500,000*

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Credited as co-producer
  2. ^ a b c d e Credited as additional producer

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kennedy, John (May 17, 2013). "Read The Controversial Lyrics To Kanye West's 'New Slaves'". Vibe. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Baron, Zach (July 21, 2014). "Kanye West's GQ Profile: A Brand-New Ye". GQ. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Farber, Jim (June 14, 2013). "Kanye West's 'Yeezus' is as much industrial rock as rap: music review". Daily News. Archived from the original on June 17, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  4. ^ "Kanye West is being 'sued for $2.5m over New Slaves sample". Metro UK. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  5. ^ "Kanye West getting sued for New Slaves sample". HipHopEarly. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  6. ^ "Kany West sued over New Slaves". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on May 23, 2016. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  7. ^ "Kanye West settles lawsuit over 'New Slaves' sample". Page six. March 23, 2017. Archived from the original on March 23, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  8. ^ Jeffries, David. "Yeezus – Kanye West". AllMusic. Archived from the original on June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  9. ^ Battan, Carrie (May 17, 2013). "Watch: Kanye West Projects New Video "New Slaves" on Buildings Around the World". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  10. ^ Sargent, Jordan (May 18, 2013). "Kanye West Debuts 'New Slaves' by Projecting His Face on Buildings All Over World". Spin. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Coleman, Miriam (May 18, 2013). "Kanye West Premieres 'New Slaves' With Video Projections Around the World – Video". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  12. ^ Boardman, Madeline (May 25, 2013). "Kanye West's Houston Projection Of 'New Slaves' Halted By Police". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  13. ^ Blistein, Jon (May 28, 2013). "Kanye West's 'New Slaves' Screening Fizzles at the Alamo". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  14. ^ Josephs, Brian (May 17, 2013). "Did Kanye's Viral Installation In Miami Get Shut Down?". Complex. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  15. ^ Nostro, Lauren (May 18, 2013). "Kanye West Performs "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" on Saturday Night Live". Complex. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Pelly, Liz (May 19, 2013). "Watch Kanye West Do "Black Skinhead" & "New Slaves" On SNL". Stereogum. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d Martins, Chris (May 19, 2013). "Watch Kanye West Usurp 'SNL' for 'Black Skinheads' and 'New Slaves'". Spin. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Lipshutz, Jason (May 19, 2013). "Kanye West Performs 'Black Skinhead,' 'New Slaves' on 'SNL': Watch". Billboard. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Farber, Jim (June 10, 2013). "Kanye West unveils new industrial style at Governors Ball Music Fest". Daily News. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  20. ^ Anderson, Stacey (June 10, 2013). "Kanye West Performs 'Yeezus' Songs at Governors Ball". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  21. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 2, 2013). "Odds and Ends 031". MSN Music. Archived from the original on July 5, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  22. ^ a b Madden, Michael (June 20, 2013). "Kanye West – Yeezus". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  23. ^ Rytlewski, Evan (June 17, 2013). "Kanye West: Yeezus". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  24. ^ Rogulewski, Charley (July 20, 2013). "Kanye West Calls 'New Slaves' "Best Rap Verse of All Time. Period"". Vibe. Archived from the original on November 9, 2018. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  25. ^ Locker, Melissa (December 20, 2013). "The 25 Best Songs Of 2013 (The Entire Year)". Time. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  26. ^ "The 50 Best Songs Of 2013". Complex. December 2, 2013. Archived from the original on December 5, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  27. ^ Barker, Emily (November 26, 2013). "NME's 50 Best Tracks Of 2013". NME. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  28. ^ a b "The Top 100 Tracks of 2013". Pitchfork. December 16, 2013. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  29. ^ X, Dharmic (January 24, 2014). "Here Are The Winners For The 2014 Grammy Awards". Complex. Archived from the original on January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  30. ^ a b c Farber, Jim (November 20, 2013). "Concert review: Kanye West startles, appalls during 'Yeezus' show at Barclays". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  31. ^ Yeezus (PDF) (Media notes). Kanye West. Def Jam Recordings. 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 3, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  32. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  33. ^ "Lescharts.com – Kanye West – New Slaves" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  34. ^ CHART: CLUK Update 29.06.2013 (wk25) Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine (in German). zobbel.de Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  35. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  36. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  37. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  38. ^ "American single certifications – Kanye West – New Slaves". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]