Kanye West used to be the wealthiest man in hip-hop. However, according to the rapper himself, his net worth dropped by four billion dollars due to his controversial politics and outspoken ways. Irrespective of his billionaire status, the rapper has still made some great music during his career, and one of his most beloved bodies of work is his 2007 album Graduation.
Graduation is Kanye’s best-selling album and is often cited as the record that modernised hip-hop both sonically and aesthetically. With its pink and purple cute teddy bear artwork designed by Takashi Murakami, the electronic production and overall feel of futuristic hedonism is unparalleled, especially on its lead single ‘Stronger’.
‘Stronger’ was released in July 2007 and, along with ‘Flashing Lights’, is considered one of the pivotal songs that shifted the sonics of hip hop. ‘Stronger’ incorporated more digital and electronic sounds than a usual rap record. However, hip-hop began to embrace synthesis and sequencing, two things typically associated with electronic dance music.
‘Stronger’ is based on a sample taken from the Daft Punk song ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’. The original was released in 2001 and peaked at number 25 on the UK Singles Chart. The vocoded, robotic voice featured on Kanye’s track is an integral part of Daft Punk’s signature sound, which matches their futuristic aesthetic.
Recorded in Japan, New York and L.A., West had extreme difficulties getting the finalised version of the song to sound up to scratch. After working with 19 different audio engineers in the best studios around the world, the track had to be mixed over 75 times before West eventually took it to Timbaland, with whom he reprogrammed the drums. Kanye credited Timbaland and Manny Marroquin as the two engineers who actually took ‘Stronger’ over the finish line.
You can hear the amazing studio acapella for the track in the video below.