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Meaning of the song ‘Champion’ by ‘Kanye West’

Released: 2007

“Champion” by Kanye West is an ode to his self-belief and determination despite the trials he’s faced. The song’s focal point rests on the message of rising above your challenges to become a ‘champion’ and Kanye’s reflections on his journey towards success.

Opening with the rhetorical question of self-realization, “Did you realize, That you were a champion in their eyes?”, Kanye illustrates his own awakening to his potential and talent. He details bringing his success “back to the crib” as proof of his achievement and as a motivation for others, despite their doubts, signified by “E’rybody want it but it ain’t that serious”, which reflects the lack of dedication or seriousness some may have towards their goals.

He then moves on to discuss his humble beginnings, referencing the movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ – a story of a struggling salesman taking custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavor. Kanye paints a picture reminiscent of his own father and their struggle for a better life. He cleverly plays on the Will Smith movie reference, pointing out that he isn’t talking about the wealthy but addressing the hustle and grind it takes to get there.

Kanye then goes on to express how determined he is by stating “for me givin’ up’s way harder than tryin'”. He even mentions Lauryn Hill’s departure from music (“Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion, I wish her heart still was in rhymin'”) expressing his wish for artists like her to remain in the industry as influential figures. This also signifies Kanye’s awareness of his influence on the next generation (“‘Cause who the kids gon’ listen to? Huh? I guess me if it isn’t you”).

In the latter part of the song, Kanye brings in a metaphor of a runner in a race saying “This is the story of a champion. Runners on their mark and they pop the guns. Stand up, stand up, here he comes”, insinuating that the path of a champion is not a sprint but a marathon, requiring endurance, strength, and determination. This goes hand-in-hand with his repeated question, “Tell me what it takes to be number one”, which underscores the song’s theme of relentless pursuit and striving for greatness.

The song celebrates perseverance, self-belief, and the journey to achieve one’s goals despite the odds. It’s a striking narrative that positions Kanye as a champion, a fighter, and an inspirational figure. As the lyrics suggest, Kanye understood his potential, his worth, and didn’t just realize that he was a champion in others’ eyes, he believed and ensured it.

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