6. Kanye West f/ Syleena Johnson "All Falls Down" (2004)
Album: The College Dropout
Producer: Kanye West
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
“The prettiest people do the ugliest things/For the road to riches and the diamond rings.” Truer words have never been spoken. But on a rap song? Now that’s saying something.
On the second single from The College Dropout, Kanye spoke on America’s obsession with material wealth and other societal ills. A major label single dealing with self-esteem issues? It was a risky move for a rookie rapper, but then again, everything about Kanye’s career has been unorthodox. Even as a new jack in the game, Ye understood that when the walls come crumbling down, not many would be around to help you pick up the pieces.
“All Falls Down” was built around a sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity.” Early versions of the record actually contained Lauryn’s vocals, but in order to get the track on The College Dropout, Ye had to get official clearance from Ms. Hill. Kanye’s manager at the time, John Monopoly, recently spoke of the time he and Kanye drove around Miami searching for Lauryn hoping to gain clearance. Eventually they found Rohan Marley who gave them Lauryn’s email address. Long story short, Lauryn cleared the sample, but wouldn’t clear her vocal use; so Syleena Johnson, who happened to be recording in a studio across the hall from Kanye, filled in at the last minute.