No one can question Kanye West’s genius mind and music making ability. But what can be critiqued is his judgment in the sample selection for the track “Blood On The Leaves,” which appears on his sixth solo studio album “Yeezus.”
Ye decided to put his production skills and vision to use in “Blood On The Leaves” with a sample of Nina Simone’s reiteration of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and C-Murder’s “Down For My N-----.”
So yes, Yeezy decided to turn Holiday’s cry against social injustice into a club record.
“Strange Fruit” was written by educator Abel Meeropol as a poem and later recorded by Holiday in 1939. The song is iconic as it tackles racism and oppression in 20th century America. It famously served as a battle cry for Civil Rights and took aim at the mass lynchings of African Americans during the Jim Crow era.
Read “Strange Fruit” below:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
West’s “Blood On Leaves” doesn’t tackle racism or oppression in the 21st century. It doesn’t even provide its listeners a brief history lesson on the atrocities committed against African Americans.
The song does, however, detail West’s dealings with groupies and his failures with a past flame and their use of molly, the powder crystal form of MDMA.
“You could’ve been somethin’/ We could’ve ugh, we could’ve been somebody/ Or was it all our first party/ When we tried our first molly/ And came out of our body/ And came out of our body,” Ye raps.
The song gets more complicated when Yeezy insert’s C-Murder’s “F--- them other n----- cause I’m done for my n-----,” in the track’s bridge.
Ye’s use of “Strange Fruit” should be placed on the same level as using Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in the song.
It is very disrespectful to the origins of the song and African American ancestors who were murdered by the thousands in what can be regarded as a “Black Holocaust.”
Sadly, the history behind “Strange Fruit” is not taught in schools.
If any positive can come from this track, hopefully listeners can research the origins of the “Strange Fruit” sample themselves.
Ever since its infancy, Hip Hop has opened the eyes of broader America to the plights of the residents suffering the effects of racism and oppression in the nation’s urban ghettos.
Hopefully, this song will do the same and serve as an opportunity to teach.
Listen to “Blood On The Leaves” below
Watch PBS Documentary on Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”
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