College Dropout is my favorite album of all-time and “All Falls Down” is my favorite song off the album. Does that make "All Falls Down" my favorite song of all-time? Maybe.
The record is undeniably special. Kanye’s passion is only rivaled by his lyrical prowess, the way the bassline flirts with the strings is a thing of beauty, and that hook. Oh my god that hook! No intro, no lead up, just Syleena Johnson slapping you in the face. The hook brings a different, more spiritual energy to the song; it’s immaculate.
Surely, perfection like that is the result of a planned, grueling, two day long Kanye studio session where every word, syllable and inflection is put under Kanye’s perfectionist microscope. Hooks like that just don’t happen by accident, do they?
In a recent interview with 247HH.com, Johnson shared the story behind the “All Falls Down” hook and it completely changed how I thought about Kanye's classic. According to Johnson, "The "All Falls Down" record was a total surprise." She showed up to the studio that day to record another song and got pulled into "All Falls Down" essentially by a twist of fate. You need to hear the full story from her.
What an incredible story! I love the image of Kanye hopping around, running from room to room on no sleep, recording two different songs while facing a deadline and dealing with clearing a sample. It's actually even more impressive to know that Syleena was able to go into a studio early in the morning and recreate a Lauryn Hill sample with no preparation or information. They recorded it at 6 AM and just four hours later Kanye had bigger plans for the song which included bringing Syleena on tour and to performances.
While Kanye definitely changed Syleena's life, she changed his too. Without that hook, I don't think "All Falls Down" becomes the classic it is today. It was Kanye's first platinum record, earned him his first GRAMMY nod and helped to define him as an artist even today. To think all of that happened randomly in just a few short hours is astounding. If Lauryn clears that sample, if it doesn't just so happen that Syleena is in the same studio that day, a life changing, career defining recording may have never been created.
They say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, here's the proof.
Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth. His favorite album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.