New Slaves by Kanye West Lyrics Meaning – Unpacking the Layers of Societal Chains


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Kanye West's New Slaves at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning

Lyrics

My momma was raised in the era when
Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doing clothes you would have thought I had help
But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself
You see it’s broke nigga racism
That’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store”
And this rich nigga racism
That’s that “Come in, please buy more
What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?
All you blacks want all the same things”
Used to only be niggas now everybody playing
Spending everything on Alexander Wang
New Slaves

You see there’s leaders and there’s followers
But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower

You see there’s leaders and there’s followers
But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower

I throw these Maybach keys
I wear my heart on the sleeve
I know that we the new slaves
I see the blood on the leaves
I see the blood on the leaves
I see the blood on the leaves
I know that we the new slaves
I see the blood on the leaves
They throwing hate at me
Want me to stay at ease
Fuck you and your corporation
Y’all niggas can’t control me
I know that we the new slaves
I know that we the new slaves
I’m ’bout to wild the fuck out
I’m going Bobby Boucher
I know that pussy ain’t free
You niggas pussy, ain’t me
Y’all throwing contracts at me
You know that niggas can’t read
Throw ’em some Maybach keys
Fuck it, c’est la vie
I know that we the new slaves
Y’all niggas can’t fuck with me
Y’all niggas can’t fuck with Ye
Y’all niggas can’t fuck with Ye
I’ll move my family out the country
So you can’t see where I stay
So go and grab the reporters
So I can smash their recorders
See they’ll confuse us with some bullshit
Like the New World Order
Meanwhile the DEA
Teamed up with the CCA
They tryna lock niggas up
They tryna make new slaves
See that’s that privately owned prisons
Get your piece today
They prolly all in the Hamptons
Braggin’ ’bout what they made
Fuck you and your Hampton house
I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse
Came on her Hampton blouse
And in her Hampton mouth
Y’all ’bout to turn shit up
I’m ’bout to tear shit down
I’m ’bout to air shit out
Now what the fuck they gon’ say now?

I won’t end this high, not this time again
So long, so long, so long
You cannot survive
And I’m not dying
And I can’t lose
I can’t lose
No, I can’t lose
Cause I can’t leave it to you
So let’s get too high, get too high again
(Too high again
Too high)

Full Lyrics

Kanye West’s ‘New Slaves’ is a complex, multi-layered exploration of modern-day servitude, aiming its critique at institutionalized racism, materialism, and the insidious nature of corporate control. The track, featured on the 2013 album ‘Yeezus,’ is a jarring wake-up call, pushing listeners to confront uncomfortable realities of contemporary society.

From the vivid imagery of ancestral cotton fields to the modern metaphorical bondage of consumer culture, West challenges his audience to decipher the veiled mechanisms of control that perpetuate inequality and oppression. The poignancy of this song lies not just in its lyrical content, but in its ability to provoke introspection and debate on what it truly means to be ‘free’ in today’s world.

A Deep Dive into Generational Racism and Consumerist Shackles

Kanye opens ‘New Slaves’ with a stark reminder of America’s grim history of racism, setting up a dichotomy between the old chains of slavery and the new chains of economic and cultural expectations. The juxtaposition of ‘clean water’ and ‘doing clothes’ with the modern-day ‘Alexander Wang’ links societal progress with an unchanged thirst for exploitation and status symbols.

The forefronting of ‘broke nigga racism’ versus ‘rich nigga racism’ dismantles the myth that wealth is a shield against racial prejudice. Kanye’s lyrics expose how racism mutates, maintaining its grip on those who strive to climb the societal ladder, while also roping in the masses through divisive tactics aimed at more subtle forms of suppression.

The Bold Refusal to Conform and the Price of Being a Maverick

The defiant lines, ‘You see there’s leaders and there’s followers / But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower,’ strike at the core of Kanye’s personal philosophy. He positions himself as a leader unafraid to act against the grain, willing to accept the consequences that come with rejecting established narratives and refusing to be ‘swallowed’ by the system.

This is more than egotism; it’s a declaration of resistance, implying that the oppression faced by ‘new slaves’ can only be countered by individualism and dissent. The price, however, is heavy and often paid in isolation, critique, and personal sacrifice, themes with which Kanye is intimately familiar.

Decoding the Visceral Blood on the Leaves Metaphor

‘I see the blood on the leaves’ isn’t just a visceral image; it’s a deliberate reference to the lynching of African Americans symbolized in Billie Holiday’s haunting ‘Strange Fruit.’ Kanye uses this historical backdrop to paint a picture of the ongoing, though less overt, bloodshed of today’s systemic inequities.

The repetition of the line underlines its significance, forcing listeners to confront the bloodshed that feeds the growth of contemporary society. It’s as though the ‘leaves’ of modern prosperity are tainted by the sacrifices and struggles of those trampled under the unrelenting march of progress.

The Hidden Meaning Behind the DEA and CCA Accusations

One of the most politically charged verses in ‘New Slaves’ targets the intersection of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Here, West is speaking on the prison-industrial complex, a system profiting from the incarceration of a disproportionate number of African Americans.

By suggesting they ‘tryna lock niggas up’ to ‘make new slaves,’ Kanye is critiquing the way in which certain laws and private prisons seem to serve as the new plantations, continuing the cycle of black oppression under the guise of justice. This is a sobering commentary on how certain contemporary practices can be seen as a direct extension of slavery’s legacy.

Remembering the Song’s Most Unforgettable Lines

Throughout ‘New Slaves,’ there are numerous lines that resonate with unyielding power, but perhaps none more so than the raw energy of ‘Y’all niggas can’t control me.’ These words encapsulate the spirit of the song – a refusal to be dominated, maneuvered, or exploited by the covert masters of modern society.

Similarly, ‘I know that we the new slaves’ serves as the anthem’s chilling refrain, a line that succinctly captures the essence of Kanye’s message. It’s a clarion call for recognition—of the invisible shackles we wear and the struggle inherent in attempting to break them.

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