Kanye West has released many incredible singles. From ‘Monster’ to ‘Stronger’ and more, West has undoubtedly provided fans with some anthems. Although projects such as Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are revered, no Kanye West album is greater than his debut body of work, College Dropout. Released in 2004, West’s first album was genuinely iconic and profoundly impacted hip-hop, especially its lead single.
‘Through The Wire’ was a culture-shifting track. When it was released, nobody could deny Kanye’s talent, and it set him on course to become one of the wealthiest rappers of all time. Before the release of his 2004 debut album, College Dropout, West was considered by many as just a producer. Hip-hop wrote him off as someone who belonged behind an MPC, not a microphone. However, following the release of this debut single, it was unequivocally official that he was an MC at heart.
Sampling Chaka Kahn’s ‘Through The Fire’, Ye wrote the single in a hospital bed and laid down the lyrics while his mouth was still wired shut after a reconstructive jaw surgery in 2002.
Recorded at The Record Plant in LA, 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’. 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.
While together in the studio chatting and working on music with Pharrell Williams, Kanye told the Virginia producer that he wanted to play ‘Through The Wire’ for him. Filmed in 2004 in a private in-studio preview of the track, which, at the time, nobody had heard before. Pharrell was blown away by the song and labelled it “phenomenal”.
Foreseeing Kanye’s success, Pharrell explained to Kanye, “You gon’ make it, and when you make it keep the same perspective. Still keep the same hunger.” However, Kanye filmed more than just his New York studio session with Pharrell. He also had a cameraman shoot behind-the-scenes footage of himself directing a choir that sang on ‘Through The Wire’.
You can watch that rare footage from 2002 in the video below.