Kanye West's "All Day" started off as a laughably low quality snippet that leaked in 2014, anticipation built over the course of six months as gradually longer and higher quality snippets leaked, the final song was effectively debuted via YouTube via an English awards show, and then two days later the official audio was finally released, a mind-bending sequence of events that makes it the epitome of how music reaches our brain pieces in 2015. Can any song really withstand a full six months of hype? Of course a song's audio is going to feel like a let down when you first watched it performed complete with flamethrowers.
But whether you were disappointed by the final version of "All Day" or flooding Twitter with fire emojis, it turns out there was one last chapter in the "All Day" release schedule. Today, the full credits were revealed and it's both a fascinating look inside the machinery of the music industry at its fullest and another reminder of Kanye's ultra-collaboration process. We first got detailed accounts of his "get as many people in a room as possible" approach to songwriting during the MBDTF sessions, he did it again for Watch the Throne, and it's a practice he's clearly continuing on his latest work.
The rap nerd in me can't get enough of this kind of behind-the-scenes info, so did I break down all 31 different people who are listed as contributors? Come on now, you're talking to the guy who named every girl Drake's mentioned ever. You're goddamn right I did.
- Kanye West (All the rapping and what not.)
- Theophilus London (Background vocals, the "hands up!")
- Allan Kingdom (The "At that moment I dispersed" refrain.)
- Paul McCartney (The whistling/guitar part at the end.)
- Kanye West
- Paul McCartney
- Tyler Bryant (This guy?)
- Kendrick Lamar (I need to know exactly what K. Dot contributed.)
- Karim Kharbouch (French Montana's government name.)
- Ernest Brown (Real name of Charlie Heat, G.O.O.D. Music producer.)
- Cydel Young (A.K.A. CyHi the Prince)
- Victor Mensah (A.K.A. Vic Mensa)
- Allan Kyariga (A.K.A. Allan Kingdom)
- Mike Dean (A.K.A. hip-hop's biggest bad ass.)
- Che Pope (This guy, who it turns out has a really impressive resume.)
- Noah Goldstein (This guy.)
- Allen Ritter (This guy.)
- Mario Winans (I don't wannna know what Mario did on this song.)
- Charles Njapa (A.K.A. 88-Keys)
- Malik Yusef Jones (This guy.)
- Patrick Reynolds (A.K.A. Plain Pat)
- Rennard East (Songwriter, composer, this guy.)
- Noel Ellis (See sample section below.)
- Kanye West
- Puff Daddy (He threatened to slap Kanye if he wasn't credited.)
- French Montana ("...although French isn’t your typical “producer...the ideas he brought to Kanye for the beat were worthy of co-production...")
- Velous (The original producer, he originally made the beat for French Montana a year ago.)
- Charlie Heat
- Mike Dean (Co-producer)
- Noah Goldstein (Co-producer)
- Plain Pat (Additional production)
- Travis $cott (Additional production, hmmmmmm.)
- Allen Ritter (Additional production)
- Mario Winans (Additional production)
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- Noah Goldstein
- Matthew Testa (This guy.)
- Mike Dean
- Anthony Kilhoffer (This guy.)
- Steve Orchard (This guy.)
- Sean Oakley (Assistant, this guy?)
- Zeke Mishanec (Assistant, works at Jungle City Studios in NYC.)
- Jeremy “Head” Hartney (Assistant, works at No Name Studios in NYC.)
- Tristan Bott (Assistant, this guy?)
Mixed & Mastered By:
- Noah Goldstein
- Anthony Kilhoffer
- Hudson Mohawke (G.O.O.D. Music artist/producer/this guy.)
- Vlado Meller (This guy.)
- Malibu, CA
- Santa Monica, CA
- New York City, NY
- London, England
- Mexico (All of it?)
- "Dance With Me” by Noel Ellis
- “Going Down” by Omer Ozyilmazel (Can't find this song for the life of me, anyone?)
- Paul McCartney "Two Fingers & Whistling / When the Wind is Blowing"
I'm sure there are people who look at this list and see it as proof that Kanye's more an employer, more a leecher of others' talent, than artist. I'm sure because I've already seen them venting in comment sections and Twitter timelines. On one level it's an understandable reaction - no matter how you cut it, 19 people is a lot of people to write on one song - but on another level it shows hip-hop's often shallow fetishization of the artist as a complete individual, its inability to differentiate between ghostwriting and artistic collaboration.
Yes, of course there are rappers who maintain a perfect tunnel vision on their own pad and pen, and there are producers who lock themselves in a room doing five beats a day for three summers, but that doesn't necessarily make them any better than artists who work through collaboration. To use an analogy Kanye's ego will love, the level of music he's been making makes him more like a movie director than a rapper. Asking what Kanye "actualy did" on "All Day" is like asking what Steven Spielberg actually did when he "directed" Indiana Jones. Kanye's strength is his ability to hear a beat like the relatively basic one Velous first created, envision what that beat could become, and then recruit a team capable of fulfilling that vision. In a strange way, for all the narcissism usually associated with Yeezy, his recording process shows that he's one of the more humble artists in hip-hop. It appears that if you can bring a good idea to the table, no matter who you are, your idea will be welcomed.
By the same token, at some point there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and that's what might have happened during "All Day." But regardless of how the results vary from song to song, I think 'Ye's output over the last five years proves his uber-collaborative approach is capable of producing some extraordinary music. I love that he's so willing to credit people, I love seeing that someone like Anthony Kilhoffer, a guy the general public has never heard of, played an important part in making a huge song happen. It shows just how many different defintions of the word "artist" there can be, how many ways someone can contribute to a song even if their name's on the front of the album.
Now I just have to convince Kanye to need my potential collaborative genius, that my writing is worth a flight out to Hawaii. How long my bloggers blog? All day blogger.
UPDATE: Based on the conversations I'm having after posting this, I wanted to go back and make something clear. A lot of people are looking at this list and seeing a lot of people demanding credit for potentially minor contributions, but I actually see it as the opposite. Especially when it comes to superstar artists, so many people go uncredited, mostly because with every credit comes a share of the publishing money. 31 may easily contribute to a Katy Perry song, but the credits will only list four - those other 29 people know that if they want a shot at making it big someday, if they want to continue to hang around, they have to just shut their mouth and go uncredited. By contrast, here Kanye, seems willing to share the credit, and the publishing money, with anyone who made a contribution, from French Montana to Malik Yusef Jones.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]