Through the Wire: 15 Years Later


In 2002, up and coming music producer, Kanye West, seeked to create and release his first song. Two weeks prior, West was driving his Lexus late at night in Los Angeles and fell asleep behind the wheel. He crashed his car, in a near death accident, and was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. There he would go into an emergency surgery where the doctors would perform a facial reconstruction procedure and wire his jaw shut. Thus, Through the Wire was born. Most artists would not record their debut single with their mouth wired shut, but Kanye West is not “most artists.”

It is apparent in the song that his voice is not normal. You can tell by the slight muffled and lisped sound, given he could not move his teeth from the closed position. The title Through the Wire references the wire that held his jaw together. Kanye samples Chaka Khan’s Through the Fire in the instrumental, mixed with a simple beat, other vocal chords, bass guitar, and a drum kit. Kanye heavily alludes this incident in the lyrics. “The same hospital where Biggie Smalls died” pays homage to Cedars-Sinai and former hip-hop legend, Notorious B.I.G. Kanye wants the world to feel his pain in the line, “If you could feel how my face felt, you would know how Mase felt, thank God I ain’t too cool for the safe belt!” Kanye hints that he wishes he would have been more careful, also warning listeners with, “Unbreakable, what you thought, they’d call me Mr. Glass? Look back on my life like the Ghost of Christmas Past.” And lastly warns the rap scene of his emergence in the verse, “Make music that’s fire, spit my soul through the wire.”

Looking back at the song, Kanye said, “ Through the Wire is the worst thing that could’ve possibly happen to me, and now it’s obviously the best thing. Look how it exploded!” Kanye would go on to make seven albums, including The College Dropout where the single appeared. This song really kick started Kanye’s career as well as providing a one-of-a-kind song. 15 years later, Through the Wire remains one of Kanye’s best pieces of work. Kanye’s preceding songs do not have that unique sound to it, well, that’s because he broke right through the wire.