Sunday, April 29, 2012

And It All Falls Down?

In his single "All Falls Down", Kanye West hits hard on the topics of (1) industry and (2) industriousness to keep up with what the industry portrays as the perfect lifestyle. The subject of societal standards is addressed in the first stanza, with the narrator addressing a female confused in her identity in the world. One national example used is the failure of finding one's interest in the college they attend (I use the word "national" as it can be applied to people all over the nation). The female is too preoccupied with satisfying her parents' desires that she begins to lose track in pursuing what she wants out of life. One can view such preoccupation as (1) the female's belief that her parent's belief is the utmost thing to achieve in life, or (2) the parent's belief that college education will always lead to success. Either way, someone is lost in what has been established by society as the "right" way to live, which could differ from individual views and lead to "some issues that you can't believe."

Kanye West creates a story that attacks the matter of industry in both the second and third verses. In the second verse, the concept is tied to the narrator's "road to riches", as they partake in different activities in response to societal reactions. Such competition in the industry leads the narrator to also be competitive, just to note to others that "you ain't up on this." Thus, the narrator loses the opportunity to perform actions for the simplicity of one's own desire, rather to establish a hierarchy of which they dominate. In the third verse, the most influential line seems to be "and a white man get paid off all of that." Thus, no matter how much individuals seem to succeed in life, it seems that the white man has a hand in part of this success (benefiting without any effort).

Through this song, in its entirety, Kanye West creates a story that inevitably sends a wake-up call to all those on the "road to riches", to forewarn them that sacrifices will be made to follow success as the industry portrays. But does all fall down as the title suggests? Is Kanye referencing success by the industry as "all" that one can achieve in life? There is an ambiguity to what Kanye references in the title of this song as "all", and I would like to get an idea of what you guys believe this reference is explicitly.

Lyrics can be found underneath the YouTube video in this link:


  1. In “All Falls Down,” Kanye’s adopts a persona that describes how people will inevitably trade away bits and pieces of themselves to “act ballerific like it’s all terrific.” He leads his second verse with the line “Man I promise, I’m so self-conscious” to describe the pressure felt by his persona to keep up his image. Furthermore, in the first verse the rapper expands this idea by retelling the story of a non-celebrity facing similar pressures in a vastly different situation—fittingly, Kanye is a college dropout himself. Finally, he projects these issues upon those of his race by citing stereotypical references in the third verse.
    There are a number of reasons why “All Falls Down” is an appropriate title for this song. The one that I see as most applicable is closely related to the observation you make in the second paragraph: “the narrator loses the opportunity to perform actions for the simplicity of one’s own desire, rather to establish a hierarchy of which they dominate,” coupled with the point you make about sacrifice in the third. Also, I think Kanye is addressing more than those only on the “road to riches” in this song—he also addresses everyday people of all races and the struggles they face before incorporating racial undertones and singling out the black community in general in the last verse.

  2. This is a very insightful article! I have heard this song before, but I didn't know which song it was. This song was also referenced in the "American Mozart" article, praising Kanye's wit. I also feel that this song is a subtle form of conscious rap where Kanye is commenting on how the insecurities that people feel in their youth are not too uncommon in the lives of rich adults.

    Expanding on the first commenter's observations, the "All" in the title of the song can be construed as all people. No matter your socioeconomic status, there will always be a point where things "fall down" or doesn't go the way that you want them to. The girl in college at the beginning of the song is "self-conscious" and "has no idea what she's doing in college", but at the same time, Kanye is "self-conscious" and "can't even pronounce nothing." The song asserts that the pitfalls that plague normal citizens are the same pitfalls that celebrities and public figures experience (and celebrities possibly even more, "The people highest up got the lowest self-esteem").

  3. I agree with Jamie. I think this title is very appropriate for this song but for a different reason. I believe Kanye is saying that when you live life to impression others and cover up your insecurities, you will never be satisfied, thus all will seem to fall down. "That major that she majored in don't make no money. But she won't drop out, her parents will look at her funny. Now, tell me that ain't insecurrre. The concept of school seems so securrre". Here Kanye portrays a girl who is unhappy with her life because she is not living it. Meaning, she is living life based on what her parents think is best for her, or based on what her boyfriend thinks is best for her, but she never really gets a chance to do what she fells is best for herself.

    Kanye also expressed the idea of insecurity and self hate in his verses "Things we buy to cover up what's inside. Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth...". Here he is telling his listeners that things will fall down, and keep on falling down if we keep on relying on material things to fill a void that is meant to be filled by self love and self respect.

    "We buy our way out of jail, but we can't buy freedom. We'll buy a lot of clothes when we don't really need em...". Kanye's clever juxtaposition of buying freedom with buying clothes suggest that we might be free physically from restrains and bars, but mentally we are still locked in and held captive by the our desire to buy flashy clothes to cover up who we are individually to fit into a crowd.

    Side Note: It's funny how Kanye can go from rapping "All Falls Down", to "Niggas in Paris", which are two songs that seem to contradict each other. This all just goes to show the many personas artists can create in their songs.

  4. In the original post, the statement, “Kanye West creates a story that inevitably sends a wake-up call to all those on the road to riches,” is made. While true, Kanye West’s statement exceeds those on the path. He is also discussing people who have achieved this status. “And if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coop.” Benz or Mercedes-Benz refers to an automobile company well known for having fancy cars. By saying Benz in “All Falls Down,” Kanye West suggests that a person is wealthy and owns a Mercedes-Benz. After the word Benz is used, however, the statement is turned, because the person remains imprisoned, saying, “You can’t buy freedom.” A coop (or a chicken coop) is a small building where female chickens are often held. These coops represent captivity. Furthermore, the use of the term “nigga” instead of “black person” or “African American” references a time when black people were slaves, and were imprisoned beyond their own control. Therefore, in additions to Kanye West warning those who are on the road to riches, through his diction, he also warns of the “imprisonment” once the riches is attained.

    However, in response to the original question of what “All Falls Down,” and more specifically “All” describes, I feel it refers to one’s own self-conscience. “Man I promise, she’s so self-conscious.” (Verse one, line one) “Man I promise, I’m so self-conscious.” (Verse two, line two) “We all self-conscious I’m just the first to admit it.” (Verse three, last line) In “All Falls Down,” these references to different people’s self-conscious are made in rather obvious places. Each verse has one of these indications, and further, verse one and two begin with these promises, like topic sentences to the examples that follow. Verse three (the final verse) concludes with the statement, “We all self conscious I’m just the first to admit it,” making this phrase the last thought in the listener’s mind. Between these lines are examples proving each person’s self-consciousness. The woman in paragraph one is lost in life. She is living for her parent’s and “baby daddy” but she does not understand her purpose in school. In verse two, Kanye West’s persona demonstrates its self-consciousness through the constant purchase of goods. He buys expensive watches, and he “can’t even go the grocery store without some ones that’s clean and a shirt with a team.” In verse three, Kanye West portrays various identities having insecurities. (The drug dealers and crackheads) Finally, he ends with another reference to himself, saying that he tries to act like everything is perfect, “I wanna act ballerific like it’s all terrific,” but then states why it’s not all terrific with an example of his own self-consciousness, “I got a problem with spending before I get it.” Through these various examples, the “All” is identified as people’s self-consciousness, and “All Falls Down” describes people growing more insecure from time to time.


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