Author: Briana Ellison
Two months from the release of his oft-renamed seventh solo album, Kanye West has released the lead single off the upcoming “Cruel Winter,” titled “Champions.” “Cruel Winter” is G.O.O.D Music’s sophomore album, following 2012’s “Cruel Summer.”
“Champions,” features a plethora of artists: newly released Gucci Mane; G.O.O.D Music mainstay Big Sean (he and West were featured on “Cruel Summer’s” hit single “Clique”; and 2 Chainz, Travi$ Scott, Yo Gotti, Quavo and Desiigner.
The beat is simple, as the producers let the eight rappers shine over it. During the corresponding raps, the beat is a low tone, sounding akin to the way one’s speakers sound when the bass is too loud and blow out the speakers, which is appropriate, since the song is one you’ll want to play over and over again as loud as you can.
As a song with eight artists on its roster, you’d think “Champions” would be a hard song to crack and pull off. And upon first listen, it may be overwhelming, with one trying hard to separate and identify the other seven artists from West’s easily identifiable flow.
Quavo begins the song with a quick rap designed to dispel some of the outside impressions of his personality and actions. It fits well with the rest of the song, as it begins seeing all the artists as underdogs or (as Quavo mentions in his verse) “radical,” when through all the doubts and trials they emerge fittingly as “Champions.”
Travi$ Scott (later joined by Desiigner) has the hook, a slightly out of place rap that doesn’t seem to follow the lyrical flow of “Champions,” but does provide a nice bridge between each of the verses. Sonically, however, the hook is where the overall feel of “Champions” is personified, as Scott raps over a club-like beat, one you would expect to be played to celebrate a large accomplishment.
The rest of the verses expand on this beat, strengthening this celebratory air over a beat that seems to characterize awe, sounds at times like the shutter on a camera as it snaps off a round of pictures, and implies the kind of entrance the titular “Champions” would receive.
With the first verse, West directly references his infamous and often nonsensical rants, while also pointing out how the experiences judgment no matter what he does or doesn’t say, and thus, refuses to worry about the perception of his speeches and actions. His verse is a powerful but simple acknowledgment of his individuality.
This song lyrically belongs to Gucci Mane, as he’s the only one (excluding hook master Travi$ Scott) with two verses. The first is short and sweet, a re-introduction of Gucci Mane to the hip-hop world as he continues to celebrate his early release with new music.
Big Sean has one of the longest verses, a scathing one directed at his doubters and the people around him with less than positive intentions. Big Sean best embodies what seems to be the underlying tone of this song: that all of the artist’s have faced some form of adversity and overcome it.
The verse belonging to 2 Chainz is more about individuality and paying homage to the people who’ve helped get him to where he is.
Yo Gotti’s verse is a change in the direction of the song. Whereas the four verses before focused on adversity, Yo Gotti’s and the one following detail the positive aftermath of conquering this adversity.
Gucci’s second verse is also the final one of the song. Detailing the pinnacle of being “Champions.” Though he released a great track with Drake last week, his two verses on “Champions” feel like the real and true re-introduction of Gucci Mane.
Overall, the song features the best of G.O.O.D Music. With a two-type beat that enhances but never overwhelms and a strong message of defeating hardships, “Champions” is the perfect summer rap track that fits the current political and social state of our country. Listen below.