This is the third single from American rapper Kanye West's fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The song features a star-studded collection of contributing artists. The list includes four from West's G.O.O.D. Friday label: Kid Cudi, John Legend, Ryan Leslie and Charlie Wilson. You may have heard of at least some of the other seven guest performers as well. They are: Alicia Keys, Sir Elton John, Fergie, La Roux's Elly Jackson, Rihanna, The-Dream and Tony Williams. Despite the assortment of stars from different musical genres, West described the sound at a screening of his Runaway short film as "completely seamless and completely ghetto as f---."
One artist you may be surprised to see appearing on this song is British pop/rock singer-songwriter Sir Elton John. However, the Candle in the Wind
singer has paired with hip-hop in the past, having performing at the 2001 Grammys with Eminem.
Rihanna told MTV News just prior to the album's release that she jumped at the chance of appearing on this track. "[Kanye] actually played his album to me, like, three months ago, and 'All of the Lights,' that was one of my favorite songs," she recalled. "So when he asked me to come up to the studio at 2 o'clock in the morning, I had to, because I loved it, I knew it was that song."
La Roux's vocalist, Elly Jackson, admitted to MTV News that she can't hear her contribution on the finished track: "I came to New York, and I did a couple of days in the studio with him," she recalled to MTV News. "He got me to layer up all these vocals with other people, and he just basically wanted to use his favorite vocalists from around the world to create this really unique vocal texture on his record, but it's not the kind of thing where you can pick it out. I don't have a verse or anything. I can't actually hear my voice on it," she laughed. "But apparently it's there!"
Drake also recorded vocals for this track but was dropped from the final version. During an appearance on Shade 45's morning show the rapper explained that despite not knowing why he was removed, he's cool about it. Said Drake: "We make music differently. I make what comes to me and I hate changing it, whereas 'Ye will change something 30 or 40 times to get it perfect. To each their own, and the change was to put all those people on it, and I wasn't one of them. That's completely OK."
The Hype Williams directed music video was filmed in January 2011 in Los Angeles. Both Rihanna and Kid Cudi make appearance in the clip, which borrows from the opening credits of Gaspar Noé's 2009 French film The Enter the Void
Speaking to The Daily Beast
, Noé said that he wasn't surprised that West plagiarised his work but was shocked that Hype Williams would put his name to the clip. "The director [Hype Williams] was someone else who ripped off the titles to my movie," he said. "I was more shocked by the fact that that guy who copied all the typography of my titles put his name in it – Hype Williams – when you never usually see a director's name in a music video. He was putting his name on it over and over!"
UK group Epilepsy Action expressed concern that the flashing neon lights in the clip may cause seizures. They said in a statement: "We sent the video to Cambridge Research Systems to be analysed by the HardingFPA machine. This machine looks at whether video footage is likely to cause seizures. We have today had confirmation that it contains material that may cause seizures in some people with photosensitive epilepsy."
This won Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2012 Grammys. West won two other categories at the same ceremony; Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
and Best Rap Performance for his collaboration with Jay-Z. "Otis
." The prizes took West's total Grammy haul to 18.