Swagga Like Us

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"Swagga Like Us"
Swagga Like Us (Feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne) - Single.jpg
Single by Jay-Z and T.I. featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne
from the album Paper Trail
ReleasedSeptember 6, 2008
StudioRecord Plant (Hollywood, California)
GenreHip hop
Length5:27 (album version)
4:14 (single version)
Producer(s)Kanye West
T.I. singles chronology
"Wish You Would"
"Swagga Like Us"
"Ready for Whatever"
Kanye West singles chronology
"Put On"
"Swagga like Us"
"Stay Up! (Viagra)"
Jay-Z singles chronology
"Mr. Carter"
"Swagga like Us"
"Jockin' Jay-Z (Dopeboy Fresh)"
Lil Wayne singles chronology
"Official Girl"
"Swagga like Us"
"Mrs. Officer"
"Swagga Like Us" on YouTube

"Swagga Like Us" is a song by American rappers Jay-Z and T.I. featuring fellow American rappers Lil Wayne and Kanye West, the latter of whom also produced the song, constructing primarily around a vocal sample of "Paper Planes" by British musician M.I.A. It was released on September 6, 2008, in the United States as the fifth single from T.I.'s sixth album Paper Trail (2008). The track was also initially slated for inclusion on Jay-Z's eleventh album The Blueprint 3 (2009), however it ultimately failed to make the final track listing.

"Swagga like Us" received mostly mixed reviews from music critics: whilst many complimented T.I.'s performance and the production, most denounced the other three rappers' performances as lyrically uninspired and overly brash, with Wayne and West also singled out for criticism for the perceived overuse of Auto-Tune in their vocals. Commercially, however, the song was a success despite a premature leak to the internet: it debuted and peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100, and also charted modestly in a few overseas territories. It was nominated for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 51st Grammy Awards, winning the latter: the four rappers, alongside M.I.A. herself, also performed "Swagga Like Us" and the original "Paper Planes" during the ceremony.


Kanye West had originally wanted to work with British artist M.I.A. on his second studio album Late Registration (2005), but her busy schedule prevented this from happening.[1] However, his interest in her music grew further after he heard her 2007 song "Paper Planes",[2] which he decided to use in a hip hop music production—the first he had composed since the death of his mother, Donda West, in 2007 following complications during cosmetic surgery.[3][4]

"Swagga Like Us" was heavily remixed by various artists. Hip hop duo Clipse included their remix on their mixtape Road to Till the Casket Drops. Diddy recorded a remix titled "Swagger Like Puff" featuring Cassie singing the chorus, which managed to peak at number seventeen on the Deutsche Black Charts.[5] Trey Songz has also recorded a remix under the title "Swagga Like Songz". On November 10, 2008, Chamillionaire released his own remix of the song for his mixtape Mixtape Messiah 5, titled "Swagga Like Koop".

Apathy released a freestyle over this song called "Swagga Like Ap" on the third volume of the It's the Bootleg, Muthafuckas! series. Also, Drake, Fabolous, Freeway, Twista, Kid Cudi, Tinie Tempah, Flo Rida, Hot Rod and Tony Yayo have all performed or recorded freestyles over the instrumental. Rick Ross has also done his own freestyle remix, stated to be in retaliation for being left off the original song. Dolla created his own version featured on his last mixtape, The Miseducation of Dolla.

Jim Jones recorded "Jackin' Swagger from Us" with Twista, NOE and Lil Wayne which takes shots at T.I. and Jay-Z for allegedly stealing their styles. The song is a bonus track on his album Pray IV Reign.[6][7]


Having completed it with the assistance of fellow producer Mike Caren,[8] West specifically chose to send the production to fellow rapper T.I., who was recording material for his sixth studio album Paper Trail (2008). West offered him no other tracks to choose to record over.[4] T.I. accepted the production and originally planned "Swagga like Us" to be a collaboration only with West, writing two verses with West providing a verse of his own.[9] He decided, however, to make it an "event" record and send it to fellow rappers Jay-Z and Lil Wayne to record verses over, admitting to MTV News that it was a "very ambitious idea but a lovely one".[10] Once they both accepted and duly sent their (demo) vocals back to T.I., he wrote two additional verses, but only chose the last of the four he had written to actually perform on "Swagga like Us", as he felt it "stood out (better) than the others".[9]

All of the vocals on the final mix, with the exception of M.I.A.'s, were recorded at the Record Plant recording studio in Hollywood, California.[8] The song was mixed by Andrew Dawson at Pacifique Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California, whilst the mastering was carried out by Chris Gehringer.[8] West emailed one of the song's early demos to M.I.A. herself, which she proclaimed "really hot", but that the final version "sounded even better".[2] "Swagga like Us" was finally completed in July 2008: Jay-Z's satisfaction with the finished version of the song was such that T.I. claimed he wished to include it on his eleventh studio album The Blueprint 3 (2009),[10] although this did not transpire.


A hip hop song, "Swagga Like Us" is built around a sample of "Paper Planes" by British artist M.I.A., featuring the line, "no one on the corner had swagger like us".[11][12] Since "Paper Planes" itself samples the 1982 song "Straight to Hell" by British rock group The Clash, each of the writers of both songs are credited as writing "Swagga like Us".[8] West added a "sumo–heavy bass" and drum line similar to that of a marching band to the vocal sample:[12] the sounds combine to form a "noisy, warbling and exaggerated electronic melody".[13] Shannon Barbour of About.com considered it to incorporate the "leftover retro 80's electro-funk" found on West's previous studio album Graduation (2007).[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Brian Hiatt, writing for Rolling Stone, noted that "with a beat this hooky, everybody wins" although he criticized the individual performances of Lil Wayne as "lazy" and Jay-Z for "sticking in an over-obvious nod to his single 'Jockin' Jay-Z'", and also felt the use of the "Paper Planes" sample risked undermining M.I.A.'s artistry: "It's hard not to be slightly bummed by the prospect of one of the decade's most innovative artists being reduced to a hook girl."[11] Ian Cohen of Pitchfork felt that, "For better or worse, "Swagga Like Us" defines Paper Trail", arguing that T.I.'s then upcoming prison sentence "trigger[ed] an impulse to challenge himself" to improve the quality of his performances across the album. However, he too denounced the rappers as generally overconfident, concluding that "one-upmanship [gave] way to self-assured competence and Khaled-inspired complacence", although he complimented T.I. for "effortlessly best[ing] them all".[15] The Guardian's Angus Batey considered the idea of the four artists recording together to be better than the song itself, calling it "good-on-paper, less-so-in-the-booth".[16]


The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Song and won the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 51st Grammy Awards.[17][18] T.I., Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and M.I.A. (who was nine months pregnant at the time and supposedly due on the day of the performance) performed the song at Grammy Awards that year. This song was number 22 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008.[19]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[29] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United Kingdom September 4, 2008[30] Digital download Mercury Records
United States September 6, 2008[31] Mercury, Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam Recordings
November 18, 2008[32] Vinyl single Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam


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  2. ^ a b Reid, Shaheem (September 8, 2013). "T-Pain Proves His Rap Skills On Pr33 Ringz; Andre 3000 Wants You To Say He's Wack: Mixtape Monday". MTV News. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  3. ^ "Kanye West's mother dies after surgery". Today. NBC. November 12, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Dow, Danica (August 25, 2008). "T.I. Talks "Swagger Like Us," "It Was Kanye's 1st Beat Since The Passing Of His Mom"". SOHH. 4Control Media. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  5. ^ "Deutsche Black Charts". Trendcharts. Media Control. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Jim Jones Explains His ‘Swagger Like Us’ Response
  7. ^ Jim Jones feat. Lil Wayne, Twista, & NOE “Swagger From Us”
  8. ^ a b c d Paper Trail (Liner notes). T.I. Atlantic Records. 2008. 512267-2.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  9. ^ a b Graham, Andy. "T.I. discusses 'Swagga Like Us' and the 'proper application of bravado'". The Detroit News. MediaNews Group. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  10. ^ a b Reid, Shaheem (August 25, 2013). "T.I. Talks About 'Swagga Like Us', Leaked Since Featuring Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Kanye West". MTV News. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Hiatt, Brian. "Swagga Like Us". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Archived from the original on January 7, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Reid, Shaheem (December 30, 2008). "T.I.'s 'Swagga Like Us' Collabo And More Top Underground Songs Of 2008". MTV News. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  13. ^ Juon, Steve (September 30, 2008). "Feature for September 30, 2008 – T.I.'s "Paper Trail"". RapReviews. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  14. ^ Barbour, Shannon. "T.I. – 'Paper Trail'". About.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  15. ^ Cohen, Ian (October 2, 2008). "T.I.: Paper Trail". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  16. ^ Batey, Angus (November 21, 2008). "TI: Paper Trail". The Guardian. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  17. ^ "The 51st Annual Grammy Awards Nominations List". The Recording Academy. December 3, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
  18. ^ MTV News Staff (February 8, 2009). "Grammy 2009 Winners List". MTV. Retrieved February 9, 2009.
  19. ^ "The 100 Best Songs of 2008". Rolling Stone (December 25, 2008). Retrieved 2008-12-25
  20. ^ "T.I. Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  21. ^ ""SWAG"+are+douches.&cat=s T.I. and Jay-Z feat. Kanye West and Lil' Wayne – Swagga Like Us, Just a little foot note, people who say "SWAG" are douches.". Singles Top 100. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  22. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  23. ^ "T.I. Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  24. ^ "T.I. Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  25. ^ "Jay-Z – Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on July 6, 2016. Retrieved May 15, 2022.
  26. ^ "T.I. Chart History (Hot Rap Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  27. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs – Year-End 2008". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  28. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs – Year-End 2009". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  29. ^ "American single certifications – Jay-Z – Swagga Like Us". Recording Industry Association of America.
  30. ^ "Swagga Like us (feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne) – Single by JAY Z & T.I." iTunes Store. Apple. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
  31. ^ Rinaldi, Matt. "Swagga Like Us (Digital Download – Mercury / Roc-A-Fella) – Jay-Z". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  32. ^ "Jay-Z – Swagga Like Us LP". CD Universe. Retrieved May 29, 2013.