Despite its arrogant title, this song finds West coming to realize his place within the grand scheme of things. The cut is based on Psalm 82 vs 6-7 in the Bible:
"I said, 'You are 'gods,' you are all sons of the Most High.
But you shall die like mere men;
You will fall like every other ruler."
The Psalmist is addressing the rulers of Israel, calling them 'gods' because they represented God in executing judgment.
Some theologians believe there is a parallel meaning also alluding the promise to the righteous that they will be transformed to a spirit existence after death and become children of God. They maintain that Jesus, himself used these verses to defend his claims to be God (John 10 34-36). (Christ argued that if God would call mere men 'gods', why was it blasphemous for him, the true Son of God, to declare himself equal with God?)
The album itself has a controversial, potentially blasphemous title being a combination of Kanye and Jesus (albeit with a 'z' rather than a 's.') West clarified during a playback of the record his reasons for naming it 'Yeezus'. "I want to explain something about the album title," he said. "Simply put, 'West' was my slave name and 'Yeezus' is my God name."
Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys) served as the executive producer of Yeezus. The pair worked on minimalizing some of the album's excesses, rerecording vocals and sometimes writing entire new verses. Prior to the record's release, West updated his official website to feature a short video clip of him recording this song while Rubin lays back on a chair and responds to Yeezy's query as to whether he should be stacking 'billions' or 'millions.' The fuzzy-bearded producing legend responds "millions", adding, "To me it's more relatable. More for the people."
West told guests at the album's playback: "It was good for me to go to the god, Rick Rubin, and play him my s--t, ask him questions, and allow him to take this project to an entirely new level, and he made a lot of great decisions at the end and pulled it to a whole new level."
The song samples Capleton's Dancehall tune "Forward Inna Dem Clothes" and Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle's cut "Are Zindagi Hai Khel," from the 1972 Bollywood movie, Seeta aur Geeta.
That's the voice of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon you can hear at the tail end of this song.
West revealed during an interview for W magazine that he penned the song in response to a diss from an unnamed fashion designer. Kanye explained that the designer invited him to his runway show during Paris Fashion Week on one condition – that he would decline other fashion shows that season. "So the next day I went to the studio with Daft Punk," West said. "'Cause it's like, Yo! Nobody can tell me where I can and can't go. Man, I'm the # 1 living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix ... To even think they could tell me where I could and couldn't go is just ludicrous. It's blasphemous -to rock 'n' roll, and to music."
The iTunes listing for Yeezus shows this as "featuring God" in an apparent effort to add to the controversy of the song title. Ultimately, West employs a sound effect in the apparent role of the Almighty.