Champion (Kanye West song)

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Not to be confused with "Champions", another Kanye West song from the upcoming GOOD Music album Cruel Winter or "Champions", a song by West featured on the Paid in Full soundtrack.
Song by Kanye West
from the album Graduation
ReleasedSeptember 11, 2007
Sony Music Studios
(New York, New York)
The Record Plant
(Hollywood, California)
  • Roc-A-Fella
  • Def Jam
  • Kanye West
  • Brian Miller

Listen to the song Champion (Kanye West song) or Buy it on amazon

"Champion" is a song by American hip-hop artist Kanye West. It was released as the second song on the track-listing of his third studio album, Graduation. West performed the song on Saturday Night Live in September 2007. The song was produced by West and Brian "All Day" Miller and samples "Kid Charlemagne" by Steely Dan. Music critics praised the song. Though not released as a single, "Champion" managed to chart on both the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and US Pop 100 chart respectively. The official music video for the song was directed by Nabil Elderkin and released in August 2008 via West's blog.


A remix of the song by Nick Catchdubs was shared to BBC Music.[1] On September 29, 2007, West performed "Champion" alongside fellow album track "Everything I Am" and also delivered a freestyle medley for an episode of Saturday Night Live.[2]

At the listening party for Graduation, West referenced tracks such as "Champion" and "Can't Tell Me Nothing", stating "I wanted to make songs that are people's theme songs."[3] He elaborated on this, explaining such music as asking the people "What are you going through?"[3]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

West explained the sound that he's going for with "Champion" in an interview with Concrete Loop when saying:

"I went back to songs like "Champion" and "Good Life" and put these type of chords on them that sounded similar to the type of sense that I put on "Stronger". That's why "Flashing Lights", "Champion" all of them have that certain synthesizer, a real 80s synthesizer type of sound."[4]

The track contains multiple elements of the 1976 recording "Kid Charlemagne" by jazz-rock band Steely Dan.[5] West cleared this sample by sending band member Donald Fagen a letter describing the backstory of the track after he and fellow Steely Dan member Walter Becker didn't initially approve of West sampling their work.[6]

Within "Champion", Kanye references the struggles he and father Ray West faced in their relationship together.[7] The bridge was written by Tony Williams in Los Angeles, though there was an oversight on the credit.[8] In May 2011, Consequence claimed to have ghostwrote the lyrics: "We were sorta like Will Smith and his son/In the movie; I ain't talkin' about the rich one".[9]

Critical reception[edit]

The song received positive reviews from music critics. Louis Pattison of NME pointed to its position on the album as where West "plays it punchy and straightforward".[10] Jake Boyer of Highsnobiety viewed the song as where West "packs a hell of a lot in for being the shortest track on [Graduation], clocking in at just under three minutes".[11]

West's Steely Dan sample was praised by Jerome Blakeney of BBC: "His judicious sampleology has just the right amount of guilty pleasures-style cheese to ironically make this sound as up-to-date as tonight's episode of East Enders. From Elton John to Steely Dan, he knows his history even if his flow really isn’t as special as he probably thinks it is."[12]

Chart performance[edit]

Despite not being released as a single, "Champion" managed to enter charts in the United States. It made both its debut and peak at number ninety-nine on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, making it the only song from the album to appear on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart without being released as a single.[13][14] The song also managed to debut and peak at number ninety-four on the US Billboard Pop 100 chart for the issue date of September 29, 2007.[15]

Music video[edit]

An accompanying music video was made for "Champion" and directed by Nabil Elderkin.[16] The Olympic-themed video revolves around a puppet version of Kanye West participating in the 100 m sprint at a sporting event known as the Unified Games. After receiving permission to race thanks to majority vote on a live "K-Span" television broadcast, the scene transits to the starting line. It is there that flashbacks display the extensive training the puppet undertook to get where he is. The race commences and nearing the finishing line, the puppet is able to pass the other runners and emerge victorious. The music video was released on August 12, 2008 on West's blog.[17] The video was filmed at Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo, California.


Information taken from Graduation liner notes.[5]

  • Songwriters: Kanye West, Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
  • Producers: Kanye West, Brian "Allday" Miller
  • Recorders: Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer
  • Mix engineer: Andrew Dawson
  • Synthesizer: Omar Edwards
  • Additional vocals: Tony "Penafire" Williams, Connie Mitchell


Chart (2007) Peak
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[14] 99
US Pop 100 (Billboard)[15] 94


  1. West, Kanye. "Champion (Nick Catchdubs Remix) - Kanye West Song". BBC. BBC Music. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  2. Sagent, Jordan (2013-05-17). "SaturYe Night Live: Kanye West's History on 'SNL'". SPIN. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Reid, Shaheem (August 29, 2007). "Kanye's Graduation: Inside The NYC Listening Party For West's So-Called 'Comeback'". MTV. MTV Networks. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2019. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. "Exclusive Interview W/ Kanye West". Concrete Loop. 2007-10-05. Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2019-01-07. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Graduation (Media notes). Kanye West. Roc-A-Fella Records. 2007.
  6. Cush, Andy (2017-09-11). "Kanye West Got the Steely Dan Sample on Graduation Cleared by Sending Donald Fagen a Handwritten Letter". SPIN. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  7. Castro, Danilo (2018-07-29). "Ray West, Kanye's Dad: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  8. "Tony Williams of G.O.O.D. Music Talks Most Memorable Studio Sessions With Kanye". Complex. Complex Music. 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  9. Markman, Rob (2011-04-05). "Consequence Confirms He Wrote Lyrics For Kanye West". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  10. Pattison, Louis (2007-09-13). "Kanye West - 'Graduation' review". NME. NME Album Reviews. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  11. Blakeney, Jerome (2017-09-11). "Every Song on Kanye West's 'Graduation' Ranked From Worst to Best". Highsnobiety. Highsnobiety Music. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  12. Blakeney, Jerome (2007-09-10). "Review of Kanye West - Graduation". BBC. BBC Music. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  13. "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs – Champion". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 2008-03-29. Archived from the original on June 9, 2014. Retrieved 2008-03-29. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Kanye West Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Pop 100 – Champion". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 2007-09-27. Archived from the original on July 9, 2015. Retrieved 2007-09-27. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  16. Bhansali, Akshay (2009-10-09). "'Glow In The Dark' Book To Show Kanye West Behind The Scenes". MTV. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  17. West, Kanye (2008-08-12). "Exclusive Champion Video". Kanye West: Blog. Kanye West/Mascotte Holdings. Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2008-08-12.

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