Ten years ago this week, Kanye West was celebrating the biggest hit of his career so far
Ten years ago this week, Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” was solidly occupying the No. 1 slot on the Billboard Top 100. In fact, it was in week five of its 10-week reign, which began Sept. 17, 2005, when it displaced Mariah Carey’s "We Belong Together", and ended Nov. 26, when Chris Brown’s "Run It!" took the No. 1 spot.
And while “Gold Digger” was nigh inescapable 10 years ago, there are a few behind-the-scenes tidbits about the song that even its biggest fans may not know. We’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary with a look back at some of these stories.
1. It was West’s first No. 1 single as lead artist
The 2003 single "Slow Jamz" had rapper Twista as the lead artist and featured West and his eventual “Gold Digger” collaborator Jamie Foxx. It hit No. 1 for a single week in 2004, but “Gold Digger” remains the first No. 1 hit that can be called certifiably West’s. He would achieve another No. 1 hit with "Stronger" in 2007 and as a featured artist in 2011 with Katy Perry’s "E.T." At the 2006 Grammys, West won the Best Rap Solo Performance for the song as well as Best Rap Album for Late Registration.
2. It was also a first-of-its-kind No. 1 hit for Ray Charles
The song samples the 1954 hit “I’ve Got a Woman,” which Charles wrote and which was a hit on the R&B charts but didn’t reach No. 1 on the overall charts. Charles made No. 1 hits throughout the ’60s with recordings of songs such as "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road, Jack" and "One Mint Julep," but those songs were all written by other people. As a result of writing “I’ve Got a Woman,” Charles received a writing credit for “Gold Digger,” and consequently had the honor to have a song he’d co-written top the Billboard Top 100 – more than a year after he’d died, no less.
3. The song was conceived before Jamie Foxx’s biopic Ray hit theaters
In addition to samples of “I’ve Got a Woman,” “Gold Digger” also features Jamie Foxx singing an interpretation of the Ray Charles song. Of course, Foxx also starred as Charles in the film Ray, which hit theaters roughly a year before “Gold Digger” went No. 1. But the song, with its liberal use of “I’ve Got a Woman,” didn’t come to be as a result of the success of Ray. In 2006, West’s A&R rep, “Plain Pat” Reynolds, told MTV that West wrote the beat before Ray brought Charles’ discography back into mainstream consciousness.
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4. However, a screening of Ray made West realize he should collaborate with Foxx
Again, in Reynolds’ interview with MTV, he said it took West and John Mayer watching Ray together for West to decide that Foxx would be the ideal part to sing lyrics from Charles’ song – especially if Charles’ reps ended up deciding not to allow West to sample the original. “If we couldn’t clear the sample, we were going to use Jamie,” Reynolds said. “There’s actually a version with Jamie singing all the way through the song. It’s good, but it didn’t feel the same because we had to replay the instruments too.”
5. The song was initially written for a female artist
Perhaps the most surprising fact about the creation of “Gold Digger” is that in its original form, it was to be sung by a woman, with the lyrics “I’m not sayin’ I’m a gold digger / But I ain’t messin’ with no broke n—–.” This version of the song was offered to rapper Shawnna, to be produced by West, but in the end she decided against using it on her debut album, 2004’s Worth tha Weight. West knew the song could be a hit and repurposed the narration to be spoken by a man about a woman.
6. There’s an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind connection
One of West’s key producers for “Gold Digger” and the whole of the album Late Registration was Jon Brion, who had no experience with hip hop previous to their collaboration. Instead, Brion had composed the film scores for Boogie Nights and other Paul Thomas Anderson films. He’d also worked with singers such as Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright and Fiona Apple. West, according to MTV News, is a fan of Apple’s work and reached out to Brion after hearing his score in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
7. West and Brion completed the basic tracks for "Gold Digger" in one afternoon
They two hit it off instantly, in spite of Brion’s newness to the genre. Brion told MTV News that they essentially finished “Gold Digger” at the end of their first day working together. “I was playing something on a track and he was completely psyched, and then he left after a few hours and said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ ” Brion recalled in his interview
8. It was the 9th-best-selling and 9th-most-played song of the 2000s
According to Billboard‘s rankings, “Gold Digger” came in at No. 9 for the entire span of 2000-2009, just ahead of "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring OneRepublic.
9. The song inspired a Big Bang Theory flash mob
During the taping of a 2012 episode of a CBS sitcom, the cast and crew erupted into a flash mob, and danced to “Gold Digger,” among other songs. So if seeing Howard and Raj lip-sync the Jamie Foxx and Kanye West parts of the song fulfills some long-held fantasy of yours, this video is for you.
10. But that’s not even the best sitcom connection
Titled “The Word,” the second-season premiere of Black-ish also featured “Gold Digger” – and some insightful commentary about the part of the song’s lyrics that get bleeped in the radio edit. On the show, young Jack (Miles Brown) performs the song as part of a talent show but uses the actual lyrics, prompting his school to suspend him for using hate speech. Parents Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) have opinions on this, of course. Hearing the actual lyrics might have been a surprise to anyone who’d only heard the censored version. Though didn’t you ever wonder what a “broke broke” was?