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Chaka Khan hated being sampled by Kanye West

Sampling is an age-old practice in hip hop. In fact, some of the most popular songs in the genre contain other songs within their composition. Kanye West is undeniably considered the master of sampling, drawing many of his samples from 1970s and ’80s soul. On the other hand, Timbaland is also known for sampling but leans towards old Arabic music. Regardless of the type of music producers sample, it has always been an integral part of hip hop production.

Coming up under the wing of Chicago rapper and record producer No I.D., Kanye was primarily regarded as a producer, never a rapper. Having moved with his mother to Chicago when he was just a young boy West was a talented drawer but wanted to pursue music full-time. Eager to get into the business and ferociously networking with Chicago rappers, No I.D. saw Kanye’s potential and, throughout the mid-90s, invited him to his studio sessions so West could gain firsthand experience of the record-making process. But West wanted more and decided that Chicago was a dead end and that to reach the heights he wanted to reach, he had to relocate to the home of hip hop, New York.

Upon telling No I.D. that he was relocating to New York to ensure he was in good hands, the record producer (real name Ernest Wilson) introduced West to an associate he had in New York, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, who was A&R for Roc-A-Fella Records.

While living in New York, West produced beats for other underground artists on the come-up, including the likes of Talib Kweli, Papoose and more. Seeing the demand for West’s beats skyrocket in New York as a result of his ubiquitous presence on the mixtape scene, after his initial hesitancy, Joshua signed West to his Roc-A-Fella subsidiary management company Hip Hop Since 1978 strictly as a producer. But by 2002, West (as a rapper and producer) was officially signed to the main Roc-A-Fella label run by Dame Dash.

It was in 2002 that he began working on his debut album, College Dropout. Sticking to his signature “Chipmunk Soul” style of production for the bulk of the album’s material, one of the songs that Kanye stumbled across while in hospital after his fatal car crash in 2002 was Chaka Khan’s 1984 hit ‘Through The Fire’.

Asking Khan if he could sample it for a track, Khan said yes after he heard the heartwarming story about how it helped Kanye heal after the accident. Kanye then used ‘Through The Fire’ for his track ‘Through The Wire,’ a track which was vocalled during the period when his mouth was wired shut to allow his bones to heal from the reconstructive surgery he had on his jaw. So he was quite literally rapping through a wire that was in place to prevent more damage to his newly reconstructed jaw.

For the production of the track, Kanye pitched up the chorus segment of Khan’s track in order to create the chipmunk-style vocals and then beefed up the track with harsher hip hop, more punchy hip hop drums and an additional layer of bass.

When Khan heard the track, she said several times that she hated it and recalling her reaction when she first heard it, she told Andy Cohen, “I was pissed! I thought it was a little insulting”. Below you can watch a video of Chaka Khan saying she hates ‘Through The Wire’, hear the original and also Kanye’s re-interpretation.