Home Genres Hip Hop The sounds of Kanye West’s emotional “Ghost Town”

The sounds of Kanye West’s emotional “Ghost Town”

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The sounds of Kanye West’s emotional “Ghost Town”
Image: Liam Goodner / Shutterstock.com

Kanye West’s latest album, Ye, is full of memorable tracks—there’s the hard-hitting “Yikes” co-written by Drake, the cocky banger “All Mine” and the mellow album closer, “Violent Crimes.” But among the seven Ye-produced tracks, the uplifting “Ghost Town” has got to be the standout.

Featuring the likes of Kid Cudi, PARTYNEXTDOOR and New Jersey scene-stealer 070 Shake, the track is driven by a breathtaking, soulful beat. And like most of Yeezy’s music, it’s peppered with samples of old records from the rapper’s extensive collection. We break down the track to highlight the songs he’s borrowed from.

“Someday” by Shirley Ann Lee

“Someday, someday / Someday I’ll, I wanna wear a starry crown.” You’ll recognize this line as the dreamy intro on “Ghost Town”—and it comes from a ’60s-era track by gospel singer Shirley Ann Lee, “Someday.” 

The sample is classic Ye. Known for bringing RZA’s ‘chipmunk soul’ production to the next level, the GOOD Music boss increased the sample’s pitch, clipped it, and built an entire track around Lee’s haunting pipes and bluesy piano composition.

Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, Lee came to prominence during the late ’60s with her soulful brand of gospel music. She performed with the Church of the Living God and had been putting on shows for church assemblies across the state.

It didn’t take long for the singer to catch the attention of Felton Williams, the founder of Double U Sound studio and record label Revival, who groomed her to be a star. She joined the label, and would later earn it its biggest hits, including “There’s a Light” and “Please Accept My Prayers,” both of which were written by Lee.

Despite Lee’s long career on the gospel circuit, most of her records never bubbled into popular consciousness until the 2000s. So it took a 2012 compilation by Chicago archival label Numero GroupSongs of Light, to bring “Someday” to the present day. The album consists of 18 of the songstress’ rarest material, including a mix of demos and official studio productions, all unearthed from Williams’ old studio’s basement in Michigan.

And “Someday” isn’t even a full song. It’s an excerpt of an unfinished number that Lee had been rehearsing. In the Songs of Light recording, you’ll even hear a candid conversation between her and an unknown male discussing the song’s melody.

“Take Me for a Little While” by Trade Martin

On Kid Cudi’s chorus, West sampled the drums and vocals from Vanilla Fudge’s “Take Me for a Little While,” a funk-injected rock ’n’ roll tune from the band’s 1967 self-titled debut album.

The track was originally written by Trade Martin, a notable singer-songwriter during the late ’50s, whose works included producing music for the era’s big-name acts such as BB King, Dusty Springfield and Ian & Sylvia. He was also a record producer and occasionally worked on film scores.

“Take Me for a Little While” was crafted at the peak of Martin’s career, during the ’60s. At that time, he was busy composing for the period’s girl groups, such as The Jades, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, and The Lovables. He had also released his own material on the side under the direction of Buddah Records—and his first mega-hit came in the form of the pop-rock single, “That Stranger Used to Be My Girl.”

Folk-rock singer Evie Sands was the first artist to perform Martin’s “Take Me for a Little While” in 1965. However, the song ended up getting published by rhythm and blues star Jackie Ross. Since its initial release, the song has been covered and re-released throughout the years by various artists, from R&B/soul outfit Royal Jesters to Welsh soloist Dave Edmunds to American rockers Vanilla Fudge. And, in 2018, from Yeezus himself.

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