54. Kanye West "Everything I Am" (2007)
Producer: Kanye West
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
First and foremost, Common took an L for passing on this beat. Ye’s piano-heavy slow roller with cuts by Primo, was oh-so Chicago. It was the perfect backdrop for Kanye to kick nonsensicals like: “Be light as Al B. or black as Chauncey/Remember him from Blackstreet?/He was as black as the street was/I’ll never be laid back as this beat was.”
But the song had a deeper purpose. Early in the record, Ye professes that he “Played a big role in Chicago like Queen Latifah,” so it was fitting that he addressed the violence that plagues the Chi on a daily basis: “Just last year Chicago had over 600 caskets/Man, killin’s some wack shit” and later “He got changed over his chain a block off Ashland/I need to talk to somebody pastor.” Kanye belonged to the world, but he was still looking out for his home turf.