"My teacher said I'se a loser, I told her why don't you kill me I give a fuck if you fail me/I'm gonna follow my heart/And if you follow the charts/Or the plaques or the stacks/You ain't gotta guess who's back." —Kanye West
Common: “Kanye had been talking to me for a while about being on his album. I was like, ‘Cool. I want to hear your album.’ After hearing songs like ‘Jesus Walks’ and ‘All Falls Down,’ it inspired me to be like ‘Alright ‘Ye. What you want me to do?’ He said ‘I got this song with Talib Kweli, and the beat is raw and I want you to get on this.’
“I was sitting in the room where I stayed in Brooklyn writing it, like, ‘Man, I’m about to kill this,’ because it was me coming right after I had done Electric Circus. I definitely had a lot to get off my chest. I’m an artist who likes to create and likes to explore, I did that with Electric Circus. I felt ‘Get Em High’ was me coming back around to the essence of who I am as an MC. That boom-bap MC, rap, shit-talking. To be able to go somewhere else and then come back to it, I think that’s what hip-hop is.
The verse wasn’t really a shot at Lil Jon, but for me, if I see some examples of rappers doing stuff, especially if its more than one and it just don’t seem authentic, then yeah you might be used as an example in my song. —Common
“When I said, ‘Y’all assumed I was doomed, out of tune/But I still fill the notes with real nigga quotes,’ I’m just saying I’m getting back to the essence. Like, I’m going to learn and stuff but I’m a man. If I’m on Electric Circus then I’m on that Electric Circus, if I’m on Be, I’m on Be, if I’m on ‘Get Em High,’ I’m on ‘Get Em High.’ There’s many dimensions to me.
“The verse wasn’t really a shot at Lil Jon, but for me, if I see some examples of rappers doing stuff, especially if it's more than one and it just don’t seem authentic, then yeah you might be used as an example in my song. But if I really want to call you out, I’m going to say your name. That’s the type man I am. It wasn’t specifically to Lil Jon—it was to whoever fit in that category. That’s just shit-talking rap, that’s part of being an MC.”
Talib Kweli: “When I was working on The Beautiful Struggle, Kanye came and played me some beats. By this time he was already one of the most successful artists in hip-hop. So our dynamic changed slightly. Before he would play me beats; now he was way more busy. He was like, ‘Yo, I don’t have any beats because I’ve been working so hard on this other stuff, but I’ll come over there and make some.’ I was just like, OK, you can do that, but what if what you make it and I don’t like? Are we going to be able to have another session?’ He was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll come over there and make something.’ So I watched him make the ‘Get Em High’ beat in 15 minutes.
“He was like, ‘Yo the hook should be like, ‘Throw, throw your motherfucker hands—get em high.’’ Which was a hook I had done previously in my career. I was like, ‘I don’t know, ‘Throw your motherfucking hands in the air?’ That’s not really where I’m trying to go.’ I slept on the simplicity of what he was doing. Then he was talking about smoking weed and I was like, ‘I don’t know If I wanna make a weed record. Is there something else?’ He ended up playing me some other things. I think I ended up picking ‘I Try’ in that session.
“He was like, ‘Well shit, this is hot, and if you’re not gonna fuck with it, I’m gonna fuck with it.’ A few months later he was putting the final touches on The College Dropout, and he called me and said, ‘I have to turn in this album in two days, but I cannot do this album without you being a part of it. I’ve got this song over this beat I had made for you, remember ‘Get Em High?’ I have Common on it, and I want you to come and hop on it with us, but you’ve gotta do it right now.’ I was on tour in Europe. So I went and found a studio, recorded my verse, and sent it to him, and he put it on the album.
“A couple of months later, when the album came out, I stopped at Target to pick up a copy of it. Back then, if I was on an album, I would listen to the whole album, rather than skip to the song I’m on to hear how I fit. So I’m listening to the album and I’m completely blown away by it. I’m like, ‘This album’s a classic. This is incredible.’ I’m waiting, I’m listening like, ‘I can’t wait to get to my song.’
"When ‘Get Em High’ came on, where my verse starts on ‘Get Em High,’ is an entire bar after where I really started it at. He didn’t edit the rhyme. He just started it a bar late. So it’s like, when you count to four and you’re about to rhyme like, one...two...three...four, imagine if you got to five and then you went.
Whoever flew it in when I sent it to him, flew it in wrong. So it mathematically was on beat, but it’s definitely not how I laid it. So I was very upset. I called Kanye and I was like, ‘Yo, this is crazy. How could you do this to me?' —Talib Kweli
“Whoever flew it in when I sent it to him, flew it in wrong. So it mathematically was on beat, but it’s definitely not how I laid it. So I was very upset. I called Kanye and I was like, ‘Yo, this is crazy. How could you do this to me? You gotta fix it for the second print of the album.’ He’s like, ‘Yo I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. But that shit sounds hot.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t sound hot and I don’t rap like that. I’m way doper than how you have me sounding.’ I was upset about it.
“Then people started calling and emailing me, telling me how much they liked it. I was very dismissive of it because I felt like people just liked it because Kanye is popular. You’re just proud of me for being on the album. If you would have heard how I really laid it, you would understand. But after a month or two I got over it, and learned to embrace the verse and embrace the happy mistakes.”
Plain Pat: “Every first run of Kanye, there’s always errors. Like, the credits were fucked up. Remember when it came out with the white cover? That’s the remastered one. We remastered it four times to get it right. It was so much later nobody even cared. [Laughs.] We were already working on the next album and there I was still approving roughs from the first album. That first brown version, that’s not really available anymore.
Coodie: “Those type of of songs I used to film him rapping so he could remember the verse because he didn’t write nothing down. So a lot of times I’d film him rapping and then show it back to him. I definitely remember doing that for that song.
“I’d never seen him write no [lyrics] down. He’d be walking down the street mumbling his raps. He’d be like, ‘Going to the car, they want to [mumbles],’ Then he’d come back with the other words and then he’d fill it in. Sometimes he would go in the booth and he’d start putting it all together right there and recording at the same time.
Every first run of Kanye, there’s always errors. Like, the credits were f**ked up. Remember when it came out with the white cover? That’s the remastered one. We remastered it four times to get it right. It was so much later nobody even cared. —Plain Pat
Chike: “He raps like how his barber Ibn cuts hair. Ibn cuts around your head and then he goes and fills it in and gets it all. Kanye raps the same way. He doesn’t rap the whole song. It’s amazing how he even remembers the other part. It’s almost like he understands that his voice is an instrument. He builds his lyrics similar to how he builds beats, he harmonizes them [over the track]. So even though there’s no words there, he understands that the sound is still a word and he’s eventually gonna replace the sound. The sound is like the placeholder. It’s crazy to see the process of how he raps.”
Plain Pat: “‘Get ‘Em High’ wasn’t on the album. It was one of the songs that was on a laptop he gave me [filled with songs]. Then John Monopoly heard it when I was playing it and that got added to the album pretty late.”
J. Ivy: “I was the one who said ‘You’ve got mail!’ That was me because he didn’t want to use the actual recording.”
Coodie: “Kanye had his girlfriend at the time [Sumeke Rainey] in the studio, so he’d have her go in and do the girl ad-libs.”