This song finds Kanye West reflectively rhyming over a light piano and a drum kit about his relationship struggles with his friends and family. The rapper asks if the people around him now are just with him for the profit and admits he's a "deadbeat cousin" and a bad friend.
Ty Dolla $ign comes in after the first verse with some lyrics from the perspective of West's buddies, who felt let down that he doesn't have time to hang out with them anymore.
The song was produced by Kanye West with Frank Dukes and Boi-1da. The drum programming was by Mobb Deep's Havoc and Mutemath's Darren King
played the piano on the track.
Sevn Thomas, a Canadian producer who has worked with Boi-1da for years, was also involved in the production. He recalled to Complex: "1da basically did most of the work on the original beat, and all I really did was put down a bass line, so I'm really getting credit for the original idea of the beat because everything me and 1da did was flipped, and Havoc kinda just went in on the drums and all that. We got the credit for putting the sample together."
Boi-1da then played Kanye West the beat when they were working in Paris together.
According to Joey Bada$$, it was him who inspired Kanye West to make "Real Friends." During a session on Instagram Live, the Brooklyn rapper recalled his first meeting with Yeezy at Coachella 2016:
"He was like, 'You heard 'Real Friends?'' I'm looking at this n---a like, 'Yeah, I heard 'Real Friends.' Who the f--k ain't heard 'Real Friends?'' He was like, 'You inspired me to make that song, B.' I honestly couldn't even believe he was saying that s--t. The only thing I was thinking in my head was, 'N---a, why the f--k you ain't put me on that s--t? I could use the clout.'"
Bada$$ didn't elaborate on exactly how he was an inspiration for the track.