Kanye West‘s standalone single All Day was a highlight of his in-between-album output, not to mention one of two tracks featuring legendary Beatle Paul McCartney, alongside the wonderful acoustic single FourFiveSeconds, also featuring Rihanna. But if talk show magnate Oprah Winfrey had got her way, the collaboration would’ve never seen the light of day.
A new interview with McCartney has revealed that Winfrey took issue with Kanye’s language choices – specifically, the N word. “I get this track back, a thing called ‘All Day': he’s taken my melody and he’s made it seriously urban, which is funny because the lyrics use the N-word — a lot!” he told Mastertapes, a BBC Radio 4 program. “People like Oprah, who’s a little conservative about that stuff, said, ‘You shouldn’t do it, even black people shouldn’t use that word. I said, ‘Yeah, but it’s Kanye! And he’s talking about an urban generation that uses that word in a completely different way. It’s the context. So I was actually pleased with it.”
The Grammy-nominated single may not have ended up on any album, but it’s gone on to be one of his most beloved tracks in recent years. The very fact that West, one of the most influential, and certainly the most talked-about rapper of our time, collaborated with one of the most important rock musicians of all time, was a remarkable feat in itself, a moment all-too-overlooked in the symbolic gap-bridging between rock and hip-hop.
Rather than criticising Oprah (even though I find it ridiculous that she chose to insert her own opinion into a completely unrelated, not to mention important moment in musical history), I commend Paul McCartney for understanding and pointing out that it is, indeed, the context that is important when looking at when words can be used, and when they have an offensive meaning, or are just a part of the appropriate lexicon. Especially in art, and especially in hip-hop.
Watch the live version of All Day performed at the 2015 BRIT Awards: