This is based on Daft Punk's song "Harder Better Faster Stronger," which peaked at #25 in the UK in 2001. The duo from Daft Punk cooperated with Kanye West in allowing him to place his rapped lyrics over their electronic pop rhythm and were delighted when they heard the final version.
The lyrics, "Now that-that-that that don't kill me can only make me stronger" are based on a famous quote from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "What does not kill me makes me stronger." The quote appeared in Nietzsche's 1889 book Twilight Of The Idols.
In this song, West explains the longevity of his musical prowess by dating it to the early '80s, a time when "Prince was on Apollonia." Apollonia Kotero was a model who hung out with Prince and starred in his movie Purple Rain. The line, "Since O.J. has Isotoners" comes from the 1996 murder trial when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. A key moment in the trial was Simpson trying on Isotoner gloves found at the crime scene that appeared to be too small.
In the line, "go nuts, go ape s--t, especially in my pastel, all my Bape s--t, "Bape" is a high-end brand of Japanese clothing that is popular with American rappers. "Bape" stands for "a bathing ape."
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When West raps, "Heard they'd do anything for a Klondike, well I'd do anything for a blonde dyke," he's making reference to commercials for Klondike ice cream bars that asked, "What would you do for a Klondike." Not since House Of Pain rhymed "McEnroe" with "Smakin' The Ho" in "Jump Around" has a rapper found a more obscure reference to rhyme with a misogynist phrase.
The video was directly inspired by the 1988 Japanese animated film Akira
. Kanye West came up with the original idea for the promo, which was shot in Japan over nine days and features an appearance by the model and actress Cassie. Among the references to Akira
in the video: The stage he is being treated on, and the hospital scene, where he blows the guards away with only a stare. The sunglasses West wears are also part of this look, providing a cohesive visual theme when he performed the song. Hype Williams directed the video.
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West was stirred to use a sonic orchestra to provide the musical layers throughout the album by the British Trip Hop group Portishead. In particular he was inspired by the look of the artwork of the band's album Roseland NYC Live from 1998. He said to Rolling Stone magazine: "Seeing this album cover did so much for me. This picture inspired me. I saw it years back but on my first album I couldn't afford real strings. So after I won those Grammys, I ran and got a string section. Hip-Hop never had strings that lush with drums that hard but Portishead had that, and they sounded Hip-Hop, and people vibed to that."
West has a teddy bear for his motif, which has appeared on the covers of his 3 albums as well as the single cover for this song. This album is the last part of trilogy along with West's The College Dropout and Late Registration records.
At the 2007 UK Music of Black Origin awards, West won the Best Video award for this song. He also won the Best Hip-Hop Artist award at the same event.
When West performed a reworked version of this at the 2008 Grammy Awards in a homage to the futuristic movie Tron
, he was joined by Daft Punk in a surprise appearance. This was the French duo's first-ever television appearance in their 14-year career. The song won the award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
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Kanye West worked with eight engineers around the world, recording over fifty different versions before he felt he'd got what he wanted for this song.
It was Montreal-based DJ and turntablist A-Trak who pointed out to West the possibility of utilising Daft Punk's music for a beat. (A-Trak is the tour DJ for the Chicago artist-producer). West told Clash Magazine January 2008: "What's great is that I really look up to Daft Punk. I mean that's a group where I look at s--t they're doing and bow to them. I feel they've created music and visuals that surpasses what I've heard up to that point. It's great to have groups like that which I can look up to."
According to the fitness center chain Gold's Gym, this is the best song to work out to. In a 2011 nationwide poll of its customers, West's track came out top, beating out the Rocky theme song
as the #1 tune for sweating it out in the gym.