Verse Of The Week: Kanye West
Another Verse Of The Week is long overdue has arrived. This time, we’re headed back to Chi-Town for one of hip hop’s most flamboyant, confident, and controversial. Check the rhyme after the jump.
Because Kanye West has lately found himself the center of attention for one reason or another (e.g. his girlfriend, his fashion, his on and offstage rants), it’s easy to forget the early stages of his rap career. Before Taylor Swift, before Amber Rose, and before he sent one of the meanest jabs then-president George W. Bush had ever felt, there was simply the music.
That said, allow me to take you back to 2005.
In ’05, Kanye dropped Late Registration. His flow and lyrical skills experienced the greatest surge in growth that we have witnessed from Kanye so far (which may change when A Good Ass Job is released – we’ll see). The lyrical content, however, was basically the same. Kanye was the rapping everyman, talking about – among other things – family (“Hey Mama”), relationships (“Gold Digger”), politics (“Crack Music”), vices (“Addiction”) and faith (“Heard ‘Em Say”) from an insightful and honest point of view that people across cultural, racial, and geographical boundaries could relate to.
On Kanye’s first two albums, he spent a great deal of time talking about how important family is to him. On The College Dropout, he culminates this effort with the aptly titled “Family Business.” For Late Registration, Kanye represents for his fam with “Roses.”
The song tells the story of a trying time in Kanye’s personal life. His grandmother is sick and undergoing surgery in the hospital, and it is unclear if she will make it. Kanye not only has to support his grandmother and the rest of his family, but he now has to do so in the context of fame and stardom. He sums this up with two lines in the first verse.
“I asked the nurse, ‘Did you do the research?’
She asked me, ‘Can you sign some t-shirts?’”
With the foundation laid, I present to you the Verse of The Week, Kanye’s second verse of “Roses,” featured on his Late Registration album.
“They outside of the emergency room
You can feel my heartbeat, beat, beat
If she gon’ pull through, we gon’ find out soon
But right now she sleep, sleep, sleep
My momma say they say she could pass away any day
Hey Chick, what these doctors know anyway?
Let me see the X-rays, I ain’t no expert, I’m just hurt
Cousin Kim took off of work
Plus my Aunt Shirley, Aunt Beverly, Aunt Clay and Aunt Jean
So many Aunties we could have an Auntie Team
Feel like Amerie, it’s this “One Thing”
When they said that she made it you see they eyes gleam
I think we at a all-time high
To get there, we run, we fly, we drive
Cause with my family we know where home is
so instead of sendin’ flowers, we the roses.”
As the second verse begins, Kanye is outside of the emergency room waiting with his family to see what will happen to his grandmother. His heart rate is elevated due to his concern for her health. He remarks that she is asleep now, but that it will be clear soon whether or not the surgery was a success. His mother discusses the fact that the doctors have told them that she may die due to complications of the surgery (an unfortunate irony now, given the tragic death of Kanye’s mom, Dr. Donda West).
Kanye seeks to reassure his sleeping grandmother with the line, “Hey Chick, what these doctors know anyway?” Chick was Kanye’s grandmother’s nickname. He goes on to ask to see the x-rays, noting that he is not an expert but that he feels hurt and helpless at the sight of his grandmother’s present state. He lists the many family members who have gathered at the hospital, noting that it would be enough to form a sports team.
Kanye makes a reference to Amerie’s smash hit, “One Thing,” because he got news of the one thing that he needed to hear: his grandmother survived. The triumph was an emotional one for his family, causing their eyes to gleam (as in well up with tears). Kanye remarks that his family has reached a new height due to the good news, and notes that to be there for one another they travel by any means necessary, which sets up the final couplet.
In the last two lines, Kanye notes that his family knows what is important and chooses to “be” the roses instead of sending them. This means that his family chooses to send themselves to the bedsides of their family members in time of need instead of sending flowers or “get well soon” cards. They realize that the actual support of those to whom we are closest is more important than any gift that could be delivered, and choose to show that support in person.
I must also comment on the fact that Kanye sampled the Bill Withers song, “Rosie,” to make this record. Not only with his lyrics, but also with his sample choice, Kanye sends his message. The lyrics which are sampled in the song are
“I smile when Rosie comes to see me
and I’m sad when Rosie goes away
’cause Rosie brings the sunshine…”
If Rosie is replaced with “Roses” (meaning Kanye and his family) – which is the way the choir sings it toward the end of the track – the effect that the entire family had on his grandmother is clear. They gave her hope. Also, later in the original song, Bill Withers speaks of Rosie’s love as growing like flowers in his heart. The fact that Kanye says all this without actually saying it, embedding the unifying theme in his music, is the mark of true genius.
In today’s fast-paced society, it can be easy to lose one’s frame of reference and forget what’s most important. Let’s take a page from Kanye’s book and put family first. Be there for your family during the good times, and be “the roses” for your family during the bad times. A noteworthy sentiment, indeed.
Main Image: ThisIs50.com