I Thought About Killing You

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"I Thought About Killing You"
Song by Kanye West
from the album Ye
ReleasedJune 1, 2018
Recorded2018
StudioWest's ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Genre
Length4:34
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)

"I Thought About Killing You" is a song by American recording artist Kanye West, released as the opening track on his eighth studio album, Ye (2018). The lyrical content of the song centers around West's thoughts of killing himself and another unidentified person, delivered in both rapping and spoken word. West imparted that he has had suicidal thoughts in an interview with The New York Times. The production of the track is driven by repetitive a capella intonations that play in the background.

Upon its release, "I Thought About Killing You" received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. The original version of the song contained an unlicensed sample of "Fr3sh" by Kareem Lofty. It was removed in November 2018 after legal action was threatened by Lofty's record label, PAN. While not released as a single, the song peaked at number 28 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached top-forty positions on the singles charts in Canada and Ireland.

Background and recording[edit]

In addition to "I Thought About Killing You", Francis and the Lights helped produce Ye tracks "All Mine" and "Ghost Town".[1] The two first worked together on Francis and the Lights' 2016 single "Friends" alongside Bon Iver; West appeared in the song's music video.[2][3] British grime rapper Wiley commented on West's TMZ interview in which he suggested slavery was a choice via Twitter on May 3, 2018, claiming in one of his tweets that "Slavery was not a choice it was forced upon us. We were born into it."[4] Despite tweeting out against his remarks, Wiley described West as "very smart."[4] The contributions of Wiley and fellow British rapper Skepta weren't revealed until the credits of Ye were updated on June 14 to show them as co-writers on "I Thought About Killing You".[5] It stands along with "Yikes" as one of only two tracks on the album where the vocals are solely by West.[1]

West explained that he has had contemplations of suicide during an interview with The New York Times on June 25, 2018.[6] When asked to what degree song's title was literal and metaphoric, West replied, "Oh yeah, I've thought about killing myself all the time. It's always an option and [expletive]. Like Louis C.K. said, I flip through the manual. I weigh all the options. I'm just having this epiphany now because I didn't do it, but I did think it all the way through. But if I didn't think it all the way through, then it's actually maybe more of a chance of it happening."[6] On June 14, 2018, West tweeted out in a manner that indicated his thoughts linked to the song were about killing his ego, and West revealed that without his ego he is "Just Ye," giving potential context into why West titled his album as such.[7] West's wife Kim Kardashian posted a photo to her Instagram with the caption "I thought about killing you" on August 15, though did not directly reference him.[8]

The original version of the song contains an uncredited sample from "Fr3sh", as performed by Kareem Lotfy.[9][10] Bill Kouligas, head of Lotfy's label PAN, criticized West for the unlicensed sample and indicated intent to pursue legal action, saying "It's sadly another case of an artist who capitalizes on culture without any original ideas" and calling West "the ultimate narcissist."[9] Francis and the Lights, who produced the track with West, took responsibility for the sampling and apologized, saying that he would be "reaching out" to rectify the issue and that the sample was added "at the last minute."[11] On November 7, 2018, an alternative version of the album on streaming services revealed the song with its sample removed and the beat revised.[12] Adam Wolpert confirmed two days later that the song had been updated to remove an uncleared sample via Twitter and posted a link to the album on Apple Music saying "cleaned up mix" in confirmation of the whole album being remixed, though West had yet to comment on the update at the time.[13]

On the night of the album's premiere, West said that specific lines had been cut from it after his controversial interview with TMZ in which he made comments about slavery. On June 7, 2018, six days after the release of Ye, the clean version of "I Thought About Killing You" had the lyric "Sorry, but I chose not to be no slave" added at approximately three minutes and 30 seconds into the song in reference to those comments. The line has not been added to the explicit version of the song.[14]

Composition[edit]

West delivers rap and spoken word lyrics over a cappella voices intoning "I know, I know" in the song, which sees him express thoughts about killing himself and someone else.[15][16] It stands along with "Yikes" as one of the times that West's mental health is addressed by him on the album.[17] The song begins with the line "The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest," which is a thesis by West.[16] At precisely two minutes and 20 seconds into the song, West begins to rap after having delivered spoken word and soft drums kick in at this point.[10] When rapping, West mispronounces "cache" as "cash-ay" at one point, which may have been purposeful due to his history with neologisms.[18] A lyric is left unfinished by West in one of his lines with "Mhm, I don't see no, mhm, yeah, I don't see no, mhm, mhm."[18] The original version of the song contains an uncredited sample from "Fr3sh", as performed by Kareem Lotfy, which is used for a beat switch at precisely three minutes and ten seconds in.[9][10]

Release and promotion[edit]

The John Moulton Barn on Mormon Row at the base of the Grand Tetons, Wyoming.
The song was played during the listening party for Ye in Jackson Hole.

"I Thought About Killing You" was released on June 1, 2018, as the first track on West's eighth studio album Ye.[19] It stands as the longest song on the album, running for a total of four minutes and 34 seconds.[1] A promotional video lasts for one minute and 45 seconds on the official website of West from the album's listening party that includes "I Thought About Killing You" and "Ghost Town" being played.[20] The listening party was convened by West on the night before the release of Ye in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is the same place that West recorded the album.[21][22] Co-writer Cyhi the Prynce was among the attendees at the listening party.[23] Kid Cudi walked down the runway to the song at a fashion show of Virgil Abloh during 2018 Paris Fashion Week, where West was in attendance.[24]

Critical reception[edit]

The song was met with mixed to positive reviews from music critics. Douglas Greenwood of NME described the song's position on the album as being "a bold opener lyrically" and what is "made even darker by the fact he seems to abandons the song's style two thirds of the way through to tack what feels like a completely new song on the end."[25] Wren Graves of Consequence of Sound claimed that "some of that Life of Pablo rambling starts to creep in" when the first two minutes "feel repetitive after just a few listens."[26] In reference to the lyrics "Sometimes I think bad things... Really, really, really bad things," Andrew Barker of Variety stated that "The album's emotional trajectory is fairly obvious, beginning with West at his lowest" and viewed the song as "his pitch shifting ever downward to a woozy, demonic register."[27] Christopher Hooton of The Independent branded the song as something that "has shades of the Kanye genius of yore, showing the instinctive command of melody of a musical aesthete who builds momentum in a song like no other" and wrote that "it has an incredibly addictive beat switch in the second half which sucks the breath out of your lungs."[28]

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian claimed that "while there is something audacious about the way I Thought About Killing You suddenly turns into a completely different track three-quarters of the way through, neither of its two contrasting parts are anything to write home about."[29] Kyle Mullin of Exclaim! viewed the vocal effects employed by West "that help him evoke the myriad voices that ring in a deranged mind" as being one of the "moments devoted to mental health" that are "what truly gives ye a purpose."[30] Ross Horton of The Line of Best Fit characterized the track as "comically bad" and being "an interesting, sinister concept that is executed in so poorly that you begin to question where the record is going."[31] In response to West's performance, Zachary Hoskins of Slant Magazine wrote "'Sometimes I think really bad things,' he confesses on the stark, harrowing opener 'I Thought About Killing You,' his voice dipping into an artificial chopped-and-screwed baritone. 'Really, really, really bad things.'"[32] Courtney E. Smith of Refinery29 viewed the song as "a track punctuated by screams that deals with heavy themes of death and violence" and described it as feeling "eerie to listen to these dark thoughts next to that dark production from Mike Dean, who pairs synths with dirty bass, though we should attribute the gloom to West (think of Bey's 'Partition' verses West's 'Monster,' which encapsulate the different directions in which an artist can push Dean's signature sound)."[33]

Commercial performance[edit]

Upon the release of Ye, the song made its debut on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 28.[34] That same week, it managed to enter at the same position on the Canadian Hot 100.[35] "I Thought About Killing You" fell down 59 places to number 87 on the Canadian Hot 100 the next week.[36]

In the week of the album's release, the song entered the Irish Singles Chart at number 34.[37] On the ARIA Singles Chart, it debuted at number 41 and charted similarly on the Slovakia Singles Digitál Top 100, reaching number 43 on the chart.[38][39] The song charted at numbers 52 and 53 on the Greece International Digital Singles chart and Portuguese Singles Chart respectively.[40][41] It debuted at number 74 on the Czech Republic Singles Digitál Top 100 upon Ye being released.[42] "I Thought About Killing You" entered at number 125 on the French SNEP chart, standing as the album's highest charting non-single in France.[43]

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[1]

  • Kanye West – production, vocals
  • Francis and the Lights – production
  • Benny Blanco – production
  • Mike Dean – additional production, engineering, mixing
  • Andy C – additional production
  • Aaron Lammer – additional production
  • Mike Malchicoff – engineering
  • Zack Djurich – engineering
  • Sean Solymar – assistant recording engineering
  • Jess Jackson – mixing

Charts[edit]

Chart (2018) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[44] 41
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[45] 28
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[42] 74
France (SNEP)[46] 125
Greece International Digital Singles (IFPI)[40] 52
Ireland (IRMA)[47] 34
New Zealand Heatseekers (RMNZ)[48] 1
Portugal (AFP)[49] 53
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[39] 43
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[50] 9
US Billboard Hot 100[51] 28
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[52] 17

References[edit]

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External links[edit]