If anyone ever questioned Kanye West’s desire to be a prominent figure in the fashion world, they certainly don’t now. After a ranting interview with Zane Lowe followed by a Twitter feud and then dialogue with Jimmy Kimmel, West’s very intense relationship with fashion has taken center stage. The truth is, though, the self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don with the “couture level flow” has always wanted recognition for his sartorial skills. Dating back to his debut a decade ago, fashion has been one of Yeezy’s most rapped about subject matters. Here, we offer up 20 of the best fashion-inspired lines from Kanye West’s music.
20. “On Sight”
“Yeezy season approaching
Fuck whatever y’all been hearing
Fuck what- fuck whatever y’all been wearing
A monster about to come alive again”
Within the first seconds of Yeezus, Kanye makes it clear that he’s not just frustrated about music but about fashion as well, kicking off the biggest motivator behind the album. Essentially a “fuck you” to established fashion designers who don’t recognize he’s among the best. Kanye reminds everyone that not only is all other music irrelevant when he’s around, all other fashion is as well.
19. “American Boy” (Estelle)
“Am I shallow ‘cause all my clothes designer?
Dressed smart like a London bloke, before he speak his suit bespoke
And you thought he was cute before
Look at this pea coat, tell me he’s broke”
Sneaking in a cheeky guest verse on Estelle’s number one UK hit, Kanye puts down a rival suitor like only he can—comparing the other guy’s lacking fashion sense to his own expensive style. Kanye is far from the first rapper to rhyme about his clothes. But can you ever remember another rapper bragging about his pea coat?
18. “Pinocchio Story”
“There is no Gucci I can buy
There is no Louis Vuitton to put on
There is no YSL that they could sell
To get my heart out of this hell
And my mind out of this jail”
There is something both ridiculous and incredibly sad about these lyrics. The fact that “Pinocchio Story” is a live freestyle closing the morose 808s & Heartbreak, this line has little filter, giving insight on how important fashion is to Kanye. Even when mourning the death of his mother and the loss of his fiancé, he can’t help but reference his love for designer clothes.
17. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”
“Spend your whole life trying to get that ice
On a Polo rugby it looks so nice
How can something so wrong make me feel so right?”
One of the more politically charged lines about fashion, Kanye suggests on this Late Registration track that there is a disconnect between the desire for fashionable things and the moral implications of wearing conflict diamonds. If nothing else, West has always been a socially conscious artist, and in this lyric he reconsiders one of his passions.
16. “Black Skinhead”
“For my theme song
My leather black jeans on
My ‘by any means’ on
Pardon, I’m getting my scream on”
Believe it or not, this actually isn’t the first time Kanye references both his jeans and Malcolm X within the same line. In a fit of anger, the song was supposedly recorded following Hedi Slimane’s refusal to allow Kanye attend any other shows other than his own at last year’s Fashion Week in Paris. By mentioning the most memorable line from Malcolm X’s most famous speech, along with the leather jeans that have become Kanye’s go-to style choice, West intertwines his desire to be respected as a fashion designer despite his rapper persona.
15. “Looking For Trouble”
“As soon as I got salad I spent it all on dressin’
French to be exact, that Balmain was impressive
Hedi Slimane leathers”
Kanye often blurs the line between clever and ridiculous, but his wordplay is bitingly humorous here. Kanye has the audacity to rhyme Balmain with Hedi Slimane on this G.O.O.D. Fridays cut. Just to emphasize the absurdity of the name-dropping on this song, Kanye also demands, “take off that Givenchy and let’s get raunchy.” Maybe Slimane was less than flattered about the mention?
14. “The Glory”
“So yeah, at the Grammys I went ultra Travolta
Yeah, that tuxedo might have been a little Guido
But with my ego I can stand there in a Speedo
And be looked at like a fucking hero”
If half of looking good is about confidence, then Kanye has no excuse to ever look bad. Graduation, his third album, is where West first started to adopt his current fashion sense. Here he offers a slight critique on his past sartorial decisions, but explains that with his ego he pull off any fashion faux pas. Just to reiterate, he then goes on to say he’s “Hugo’s Boss.”
13. “Bound 2”
“’What you doing in the club on a Thursday?’
She say she only here for her girl birthday
They ordered champagne but still look thirsty
Rock Forever 21 but just turned thirty”
Kanye ends Yeezus with a soulful throwback, and keeping with the mood, he gives a classic Yeezy fashion reference. Rather than his more recent vitriol-filled lines, West harkens back to his older, lighter style. Known to care about women’s fashion just as much as his own clothes (he’s been trying to launch his own women’s line), Kanye puts down a woman who won’t grow up by implying that she probably shouldn’t be wearing Forever 21 duds at the more mature age of 30.
12. “Gifted” (N.A.S.A.)
“My jacket kind of fresh, bright red
And as usual, my pants tight-threaded
It seems like everybody dress tight now
And I just want my credit”
Kanye’s guest verses are usually fairly lightweight affairs, but this one for electronic duo N.A.S.A is among the best of them, and it never grows tired. (Unfortunately it comes on a track that made close to zero impact radio-wise.) West reminds us that back when rappers wore baggy clothes, his jeans were tight and fitted. Ever the trendsetter, the rest of the game has understandably followed suit.
11. “Good Morning”
“I’m like the fly Malcolm X, buy any jeans necessary
Detroit Red cleaned up”
Here’s the other time Kanye referenced his jeans and Malcolm X in the same line. Sometimes his best lines are the simplest — so sly that you almost miss how funny they are the first time around. Only Kanye would ever twist Malcolm X’s most memorable speech into a wordplay about buying jeans, all while arguing that he is the modern day equivalent of the civil rights leader, only with better clothes. It’s arrogant and somewhat troublesome, but still engaging.