“Gold Digger” by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx (2005)

Sometimes a thing that can seem a little too obvious and on the nose can actually work.

Case in point: Kanye West and Jamie Foxx going back to the well for “Gold Digger”.

To backtrack: Kanye’s breakthrough moment as an artist was as a guest artist on Twista’s “Slow Jamz” (Twista was credited as the lead artist although the song appeared on his and Kanye’s albums, released at virtually the same time). Jamie Foxx sang the hook, and it was a reminder to the world that the longtime actor could carry a tune (he released an album called Peep This back in 1994 during his In Living Color days). “Slow Jamz” came right before both men encountered a sharp upturn in career fortunes. In the weeks and months following “Slow Jamz”‘ ascension to #1 on the pop charts, Kanye’s debut album, College Dropout, became a huge success. Jamie then starred as Ray Charles in the biopic Ray, earning him an Academy Award for best actor and elevating him to Hollywood’s “A” list. So it made sense for the artists to reunite for “Gold Digger”. To add to the formula, Kanye decided to sample/interpolate Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” and have Jamie essentially reprise his film role by imitating Ray’s voice during the chorus.

Again: obvious and on the nose, but it works.

The beat is neck-snapping and Kanye delivers some of his most “so right but so wrong” lyrics here; from the whole “18 years” storyline of the second verse to the final verse’s “leave yo’ ass for a white girl” punchline (a bit of foreshadowing on Kanye’s part, perhaps?) Anyway, the result was a pop culture phenomenon. It topped the charts and set the stage for Foxx to reprise his singing career with Unpredictable, which sold more in its first week than his prior album sold in the decade leading up to Unpredictable‘s release.

A personal story: I was doing karaoke with some friends one night a decade or so ago. A (white, female) friend decided to do “Gold Digger” with me, but…didn’t bother to self-censor.

“Now I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger/But she ain’t messing with no broke nigg…”

Cue the sound of a record scratching.

My mind went blank for like half a second before I stopped rapping and said something to the effect of “aw, hell naw”. It was one of those “don’t get too familiar” moments that you occasionally have to deal with when your circle includes white people.

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