There are two camps in the hip-hop universe: those who rap whatever comes to mind, and those that write their lyrics down and try to mold them over time. Kanye West claims he fell in with that first camp for his first four albums, shooting from the hip like his buddy Jay-Z.
In an outtake from Ice-T's new documentary, The Art Of Rap, Kanye talks about how his style has changed over the years. It wasn't until My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that he physically wrote his lyrics out, and he seems to have loved the increased work of structuring the words together:
"I didn't write my raps down for my first four albums - like all, I did it from the head straight to the booth. But on this last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I wrote it because I really put myself in the zone that my life was dependent on the success of this album. With that being the case, I said, 'You know what? No matter what anybody says about me, I can write something that can make someone that hates me the most have to really respect or love the song.' So even a song like 'Power,' I spent 5,000 hours writing it, and it's really the psychology behind the lyrics; it's not just blatantly, 'I've got all the powers' - [it's] 'No one man should have all that power.' It's word[ed] it in a really sensitive way that opens it up for everyone."
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