New Slaves

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"New Slaves"
Song by Kanye West
from the album Yeezus
ReleasedJune 18, 2013
GenreIndustrial hip hop

"New Slaves" is a song performed by American hip hop recording artist Kanye West, taken from his sixth studio album Yeezus (2013). It was produced by West and Ben Bronfman, with additional production from Mike Dean, Travis Scott, Noah Goldstein, Sham Joseph and Che Pope. The song features vocals from American recording artist Frank Ocean, whom West previously collaborated with on Watch the Throne (2011).[1] The song discusses slavery and segregation as well as racism in general, materialism, and stereotypes of African Americans in the United States.[2] The song, despite not having been released as a single, charted in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and United States in 2013.

The song's conclusion features Ocean singing over a sample of "Gyöngyhajú lány" (1969) by Hungarian rock band Omega.[3] It was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.


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. Locations where it was projected include Wrigley Field as well as 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".[4] Two projections in Texas (including the Rothko Chapel) were dismissed by police prior to commencing due to a lack of permit.[5][6] The song also generated early interest when it was performed multiple times by West at venues such as the Governors Ball Music Festival[7] and Saturday Night Live.[4] On July 20, 2013, West tweeted out that the second verse is the best rap verse of all time and made this open to debate.[8]

Live performances[edit]

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

On May 17, West unveiled the previously unreleased song through video projections in 66 assorted locations.[9] "New Slaves" was performed along with "Black Skinhead" on May 18, 2013 on Saturday Night Live.[10] The song was performed live at the 2013 Governor's Ball Music Festival by West.[7]


Critical response[edit]

"New Slaves" received widespread acclaim from music critics. 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 cited "New Slaves", along with "Hold My Liquor", as the album's highlights.[11]


On June 26, 2013, Time Magazine 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)." [12][13] 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."[14] NME ranked the song at number 36 on their list of the 50 best songs of 2013.[15] It was named the second best song of 2013 by Pitchfork Media.[16] 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 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."[17]

The song earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards and ultimately lost to "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz.[18]


In 2016, Hungarian composer Gábor Presser, who wrote "Gyöngyhajú lány" in 1969, claimed that Kanye 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.[19][20][21] 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 20th, 2017. Details of the deal are not disclosed.[22]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2013) Peak
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[23] 99
France (SNEP)[24] 152
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[25] 97
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[26] 20
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 56
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[28] 17


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[29] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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


  1. ^ Diep, Eric (June 14, 2013). "Kanye West's 'Yeezus' Hits The Internet Four Days Early". XXL. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  2. ^ Kennedy, John (May 17, 2013). "Read The Controversial Lyrics To Kanye West's 'New Slaves'". Vibe. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Farber, Jim (June 14, 2013). "Kanye West's 'Yeezus' is as much industrial rock as rap: music review". Daily News. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Coleman, Miriam (May 18, 2013). "Kanye West Premieres 'New Slaves' With Video Projections Around the World - Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  5. ^ Boardman, Madeline (May 25, 2013). "Kanye West's Houston Projection Of 'New Slaves' Halted By Police". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  6. ^ Blistein, Jon (May 28, 2013). "Kanye West's 'New Slaves' Screening Fizzles at the Alamo". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Farber, Jim (June 10, 2013). "Kanye West unveils new industrial style at Governors Ball Music Fest". Daily News. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  8. ^ Rogulewski, Charley (July 20, 2013). "Kanye West Calls 'New Slaves' "Best Rap Verse of All Time. Period"". VIBE. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  9. ^ Battan, Carrie (May 17, 2013). "Watch: Kanye West Projects New Video "New Slaves" on Buildings Around the World". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  10. ^ West, Kanye (May 18, 2013). "Kanye West - Black Skinhead (Live on SNL)". YouTube. New York. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 2, 2013). "Odds and Ends 031". MSN Music. Archived from the original on July 5, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  12. ^ Locker, Melissa, "The 25 Best Songs of 2013 (So Far).", 26 June 2013, Time, Retrieved July 22nd, 2013.
  13. ^ "The 25 Best Songs Of 2013 (The Entire Year)". Time. December 20, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  14. ^ "The 50 Best Songs Of 2013". Complex. December 2, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  15. ^ Barker, Emily (November 26, 2013). "NME's 50 Best Tracks Of 2013". NME. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  16. ^ "The Top 100 Tracks of 2013". Pitchfork. December 16, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  17. ^ "The Top 100 Tracks of 2013". Pitchfork. December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  18. ^ X, Dharmic (January 24, 2014). "Here Are The Winners For The 2014 Grammy Awards". Complex. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  19. ^ "Kanye West is being 'sued for $2.5m over New Slaves sample". Metro UK. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  20. ^ "Kanye West getting sued for New Slaves sample". HipHopEarly. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  21. ^ "Kany West sued over New Slaves". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  22. ^ "Kanye West settles lawsuit over 'New Slaves' sample". Page six. 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  23. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  24. ^ " – Kanye West – New Slaves" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  25. ^ CHART: CLUK Update 29.06.2013 (wk25) (in German). Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  26. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  27. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  28. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  29. ^ "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]