In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking our favorite songs with “fall” in the title.
A decade ago, what set Kanye West apart from most of the mainstream hip-hop world was his insistence on being complex and conflicted in a genre that commercially rewarded more direct material pursuits. Rather than setting himself in opposition to the bling world (and ensuring himself a place in the less lucrative world of “conscious rap”), West simply and brilliantly voiced his thoughts on “All Falls Down,” the third single from The College Dropout. In the song, whose vocal hook was provided by Syleena Johnson when Lauryn Hill wouldn’t clear a sample of her “Mystery Of Iniquity,” West can’t decide whether to embrace materialism or ridicule it, so he does both. First he calls out a “single black female, addicted to retail,” then turns the examination around on himself (“I’m so self-conscious / That’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches”). And before it’s done, he’s ready to indict the whole system with an uncanny mixture of empathy, anger, and wit: “Drug dealer buy Jordans / crackhead buy crack / and a white man get paid off all of that.” And I haven’t even mentioned the production—simple, massively effective—or the video—goofy, but indicative of West’s total perfectionist vision to come. There’s no denying West’s post-College Dropout music—it’s been some of the most exciting and vital of the last decade—but I’m always a little bummed that he didn’t make another record quite this open.