Kanye West “Champion”
I remember one of my first memories when I was still a toddler just sitting in the kitchen eating cereal when my Dad came in, groggy, and sat down across from me.
“Hi” I said.
“Hey” he said.
Then he reached out, picked up the bowl in front of him, inspected it, and shook his head and tossed it in the sink. Then he walked over to the cabinet, picked out a large salad bowl, and filled it to the brim and started eating.
“Oh. My. Gosh.’ I thought, ‘when I’m a Dad, I’m going to eat like that.”
And so I did.
Hello again, friends! Thanks for coming back! We’re going from a fairly obscure song last week to a song by Kanye West, who is arguably the most famous rapper in the world. However, the song we’re looking at this week, despite being popular enough to warrant its own video, was never released as a single, so there is a good chance you may not be familiar with it.
The multi-talented Mr. West is a producer as well as a rapper, and as a producer he is known for his surprising, out of left-field samples. This one is a good example of that as he pulls samples from the group Steely Dan, everyone’s favorite 70s jazz-fusion-R/B-rock-band who borrows their name from a sex toy in the William Burrows abstract drug-soaked novel, “The Naked Lunch”, so.........................
...Anyway, Kanye famously talks a lot about his close relationship with his supportive and hard working single Mother throughout his albums (please check out his sweet song, “Hey Mama”), and on “Champions” he talks about his childhood relationship with his Dad.
We were kind of like Will Smith and his son/in that movie I’m not talking about the rich one
His Dad is described as a dreamer, who doesn’t make a lot of money but who is always trying to figure out the next great idea to strike it rich, “Cause every summer he'll get some/brand new hair-brained scheme to get rich from”
It sounds like his Dad hustled hard, because while he’d tell Kanye “when you see clothes/close your eyelids”, he seemed to pull out some surprises in the end, “And I don’t know what he did for dough/but every school year he’d send me back with a new wardrobe”
But what really gets me about this song, and what we’re going to talk about here is the chorus:
Did you realize/that you were a champion in their eyes?
Because that’s the thing...even though Kanyes Dad never struck it rich, Kanye still saw his Dad as a champion.
Which is an important distinction. This song isn’t about how Kanye grew up poor and it sucked, it’s about how even though they were poor Kanye loved his Dad was still his champion.
And I mean...what if we all knew that? What if all Dads embraced that? I think there is a fear we have, “What if my kids think I’m dumb? What if they know I’m scared? What if they think I’m a failure?”
Like this song is saying, it can be easy for a Dad to worry that they’re not providing enough for their kids (and that is a good thing to be concerned with), but really kids just want their Dad in their life.
It’s a good reminder for me. I can find myself wrapped up in my own stuff, or thinking that just acknowledging my kids or being in the same room is enough, and honestly, it’s not. My kids look up to me, and working on this blog has been a good reminder of that. For instance, this morning my kids got up at 6:45 (it’s Saturday, bro...) and it would have been really easy for me to zone out on my phone, (and, I’ll be honest, I did for a minute. Again, 6:45 am Saturday morning), but I started thinking about this blog, and how they see me as their champion, and I was like, “Well, crap”. So we did stuff together. We made some muffins, cleaned up a bit, made some art projects...
It’s such a good reminder, if my kids are going to look up to me and adore me (and mine do and so do yours), then it pushes me to give them something to look up to and be excited about, you know?
I was at the zoo a few summers back with my kids looking at the gorillas when my daughter had me stand next to a diagram showing how tall gorillas were.
“Dad!’ She cried, eyes giant and wide, ‘you’re bigger than a gorilla!”
Then that was all she could talk about... “Daddy is bigger than a gorilla!”
It blew her mind! And thank God she didn’t find some sort of a lever to let them out, because I really think she would have thrown open their cages, and when they stumbled out and began pounding their chests and smashing trash cans and rolling barrels down the street she’d have
just stood there, chin held high and proud, “Go fight them, Dad! Go beat up those angry gorillas!”
Kids love thinking that their Dads are bigger than life. And honestly, I don’t know if they ever really totally grow out of that. So it’s such an easy win! They’re not looking at us to prove that we’re a champion, we already are.
So use that! Our kids think we can pummel gorillas with our bare hands! Let them think that! (Note: This blog is not endorsing you actually attempt to pummel a gorilla with your bare hands. But, if you do, please YouTube that so we can all see what happens)
Look, kids love their Dads. Even crumby Dads. They desperately want to look up to us, and even if we haven’t been someone to look up to, they still are hoping we will be.
Here’s what I think a big reminder about this song is: your kids want to look up to you. Even despite your mistakes. It’s not too late. Our kids want us to be their champions. Let’s go with it!
Ps- I’ve gotten some good suggestions for songs (keep them coming!) that I’m excited about exploring here. I think next week we’ll be looking at one from a Dads point of view whose just trying to do things right. But after that we’re going to dive into some songs about crumby Dads. The more I’m working on this the more I’m struck by just how complicated relationships with Dads can be. So, we’ll be coming at the topic from all angles as we explore different songs.
Thanks for reading! Thanks for the suggestions! See you next week!