"I got a problem with spending before I get it/We all self-conscious, I'm just the first to admit it." —Kanye West
Kanye West: “Biggs called me [to tell me Lauryn Hill had declined.] He sounded like he had a frog in his throat. He said, ‘Man, you got a Plan B?’ Dame called Lauryn’s house and someone else picked up the phone and said Lauryn Hill would call back. [But no did].
“The song actually came out sounding better than the original. I wasn’t satisfied with how the original had came out. That’s why I was thinking about using a different single. Syleena really had that soul in her voice, she had the perfect voice for it. The song is actually way better. I still love Lauryn Hill and the music that she made. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t happen but if it wasn’t in God’s plan you can’t force anything.”
GLC: “Kanye was always the guy who took risk on fashion. People would be like, ‘Man, he crazy,’ or ‘This motherfucker gay.’ When we was shorties he was wearing Calvin Klein clothes, he tried to pull it for like three months at the most, but he couldn’t take the jokes and ridicule. [Laughs.]”
That’s the kind of pressure I used to put on him, be like, ‘Yo, football jerseys and Polo is basic. I do that.’ [Laughs.] 'You got to go ahead and show me something different if you want to impress me on a fashion level.’ —Dame Dash
Dame Dash: “[The Pink polo] wasn’t nothing to me because Cam was already wearing pink and we was already wearing Polos. I never been impressed with anyone’s Polo selection because that’s too easy. That’s the kind of pressure I used to put on him, be like, ‘Yo, football jerseys and Polo is basic. I do that.’ [Laughs.] ‘That’s not hot. You got to go ahead and show me something different if you want to impress me on a fashion level.’ I was educated at Savile Row, so that was nothing to me.
“Him and Just Blaze, they didn’t come fly. They became fly after they were around things that educated them and they had enough wherewithal based on what they were doing to buy shit. But they had to be educated. He always wanted to be doing things outside of the urban, that’s kind of like how I am. I saw him evolving, but he was never ahead of the game to me because I’m in Paris, I brought him to London. He wasn’t doing nothing super fly to me, no.”
The original version of "All Falls Down" with the
Lauryn Hill sample
Hip Hop: “Lauryn Hill wouldn’t clear it because she didn’t like her version of the song. That’s why she wasn’t against us using it completely because she could have not cleared [the lyrics] as well. Her main thing was she didn’t like her performance of it. She wanted that song to come out, it was only a [live] version, so I think she envisioned that coming out but and she didn’t want [Kanye’s songs] coming out before it.”
Gee Roberson: “I was losing my mind at having to cut parts [because of the sample] to make the due date. Ironically, life finds a way. [One of Kanye’s managers] John Monopoly was also an A&R rep for Jive records. Syleena Johnson was signed to Jive and John was her A&R. He was like, ‘I got someone to do it, she could kill it, and she’s from Chicago.’”
"All Falls Down" samples Lauryn Hill's "Mystery of Iniquity" (2002)
Syleena Johnson: “The Kanye that you all see now was not that Kanye that I saw then. He wasn’t like what you think. He was nice and sweet which I know is hard to believe now. He probably still is, there are people in the industry who provoke you to do certain things.
“I knew of Kanye for a while, we’re both from Chicago. My A&R guy at the time, Wayne Williams, he formally introduced and he worked on my third album, Chapter 3: The Flesh, on a song called ‘Bullseye.’ While we were working on that song, it turned into him saying, ‘You, know Syleena...I have to meet deadline.’
Lauryn Hill wouldn’t clear it because she didn’t like her version of the song. That’s why she wasn’t against us using it completely because she could have not cleared [the lyrics] as well. —Hip Hop
“He wasn’t happy with what he was getting from other singers so he asked me to try it. I sang it exactly how it was on the record. He was like, ‘Well, sing it exactly how you would sing it. Try it the way you want to try it.’ That’s when I just added in a different flavor to it. He was like, ‘We’ll just talk to you later. We’ll see and let you know.’ They called me the next morning and they were like, ‘We love the song and we’re going to do the video and it comes out this week.’ I guess he was at a real deadline because a week later, I heard the song on the radio.
“He wanted the video to look continuous, he didn’t want the video to look like all the rest of the wack videos that were out. You saw me in the video at the beginning, I was supposed to come back at the end with Common, but nobody said nothing, so I just put my clothes on. People always like, ‘Well, why aren’t you in the video?’ I am. I’m just the flight attendant.
“People love that song, I hear about it all of the time. Probably because that’s the song that launched him into superstar status. So, forever I will be that girl that sang on the song. That was a big song, not just for him, but for a lot of people. It changed the tide for hip-hop in a way.”
The video for "All Falls Down" was directed by Chris Milk and shot at Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California. It stars Dame Dash's cousin, Stacy Dash.
Consequence: “Anything that you can do on Def Poetry Jam and it still sounds as good over a beat—you know that’s something that does work.”
Kanye West performing "Self Conscious" on Def Poetry Jam