Kanye West was in a terrible car accident on October 23, 2002, that nearly killed him. After a long night in the studio, West was driving home in Los Angeles at 3 a.m. when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into an oncoming vehicle. His jaw was broken in three places and in emergency surgery they had to put a metal plate in his chin. In his hospital bed, with his mouth wired shut, he heard Chaka Khan's song "Through The Fire" playing in the background on a CD player. He was just lying back, then he heard her voice melodically singing the line, "Right down to the wire, even through the fire." That's when he got the idea of recording the song to describe what he was going through. Two weeks after his accident, Kanye recorded the song, even though his jaw was still wired shut. He had to release all of his mixed emotions then and there, taking pain medications between takes to complete the song. He had a new appreciation for life - he was living so carelessly and the accident brought everything into perspective.
"Through The Wire" was West's first single. He was an esteemed hip-hop producer with credits for Beanie Sigel, Mos Def, Scarface, and most-notably, Jay-Z, who signed West as an artist to his Roc-A-Fella label two weeks before the accident. Released in September 2003, was a big hit, leading the way for his debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004. West quickly entered the conversation as one of the top rappers in the game, earning a reputation for his refined fashion sense, musical creativity, and arrogance. At first, many of us didn't know how to pronounce his name, thinking maybe it was a Brett Favre situation where his first name was really pronounced "Kane."
This is based on a sped-up sample of Chaka Khan's "Through The Fire," making the mighty soul diva sound like a chipmunk. How did she feel about it? When the Metro newspaper July 12, 2004, asked her what she thought of West sampling her, she replied: "Kanye is an absolute sweetheart, truly adorable. I love him and I love that track. The way he's used my sample is so clever - it's like Chaka on helium." Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2015, Chaka Khan was less polite about the sample. "I didn't like at all what he did with my song because he made me sound like a chipmunk," she said. "I didn't know that he was going to take my vocal and speed it up. I didn't give him permission to do that and yet the song kick-started his entire career."
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