Gold Digger (Kanye West song)

"Gold Digger" is a song recorded by American rapper Kanye West featuring guest vocals by Jamie Foxx. Released as the second single from West's second album, Late Registration (2005), "Gold Digger" peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 on September 6, 2005, becoming West's and Foxx's second number one single. Co-produced with Jon Brion, the song contains samples of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman".

"Gold Digger"
Single by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx
from the album Late Registration
Released July 5, 2005 (2005-07-05)
  • CD single
  • digital download
Recorded 2004
Genre Hip hop
Length 3:28
  • Roc-A-Fella
  • Def Jam
  • Kanye West
  • Jon Brion
Kanye West singles chronology
"Diamonds from Sierra Leone"
"Gold Digger"
Jamie Foxx singles chronology
"Slow Jamz"
(2003) Slow Jamz2003
"Gold Digger"
(2005) Gold Digger2005
(2005) Extravaganza2005

The single broke a record for the most digital downloads in a week, selling over 80,000,[1] and was also the fastest-selling digital download of all time;[2] both records have since been broken. It was 2005's second-longest running number one on the Billboard Hot 100 behind "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey and is the joint sixth longest ever at ten weeks.[3]

At the 2006 Grammy Awards, "Gold Digger" was nominated for Record of the Year and won the award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The song lists at number 60 on Billboard magazine's All Time Top 100 and at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of the Decade.[4][5] "Gold Digger" was voted number 20 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. As of January 2011, the song has sold over 3,000,000 copies in the United States.


Upon its release, many surmised that West conceived "Gold Digger" after watching Jamie Foxx's Oscar-winning portrayal of Ray Charles in the biographical film Ray. However, he had actually constructed the beat of the song long before the movie was even developed.[6] West originally produced and recorded "Gold Digger" in Ludacris's home in Atlanta for Shawnna's 2004 debut album Worth Tha Weight and had written the chorus from a female first-person viewpoint: "I'm not sayin' I'm a gold digger, but I ain't messin' with no broke niggas." However, for reasons unknown, Shawnna passed on using the song. Not wanting to let it go to waste, West decided to keep the beat for himself and add lyrics expressed from a male's point-of-view.[6]

The second verse of "Gold Digger" was the first to be written, as West used to rap the verse in early 2004 while on tour promoting his debut album, The College Dropout. The first verse was made later in the year while West was on Usher's Evolution Tour. Lastly, the original third verse was taken from an unreleased song called "Drop Dead Gorgeous," which West had produced and rapped on for Murphy Lee of St. Lunatics. About a year later, right before "Gold Digger" was set to be released as a single, West decided to write a different third verse and in a week the new song was recorded and mastered at Sony Music Studios in New York City.[6]

The idea of employing Jamie Foxx specifically to sing an interpolation of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" in place of its initial sample did in fact arise from West seeing Ray with his friend John Mayer.[6] Foxx's vocals were recorded over many takes; in one version he sang from start to finish, but the track was retracted as his performance didn't coincide well with the song's instrumentation. After recording another version, Foxx decided to re-record it once more as he felt it contained too many explicit lyrics.[6] Once the track was finally in place, it was layered with additional instruments provided by American film score composer Jon Brion and individually selected by West. By the end of their very first studio session together, the pair had completed the basic tracks for the final version of "Gold Digger".[7] Despite being a featured singer, Foxx's part only appears in the intro and the rest of the song uses West's vocals and samples of Charles.

Music and lyrics

"Gold Digger" contains samples (as well as an interpolation during the introduction) of "I Got a Woman" by Ray Charles, and a bouncy beat formed from handclaps and scratches by DJ A-Trak. Towards the end, the song employs vintage 1970s synthesizers which emit a honking sound in cadence to Kanye's voice.[8] West delivers a tongue-in-cheek lyrical narrative within "Gold Digger" in which he critically depicts the disastrous life of a man married to a woman who manipulates him for financial gain. However, another story arises within the third verse, which illustrates a once destitute black male who earns a fortune and decides to leave a loyal, unselfish girlfriend for a white girl.[9]

In 2013 it was reported that Trena Steward and Lorenzo Pryor, two children of the late musician David Pryor had filed a lawsuit against West for allegedly sampling "get down girl, go 'head, get down" from their father's 1974 obscure single "Bumpin' Bus Stop".[10]

Music video

The song's music video was directed by Hype Williams, who also directed West's previous video, "Diamonds from Sierra Leone".[11] Shot in a widescreen letterbox format, using stylized art direction with few props, the video features performances shots of West interspersed with footage of Williams' trademark female video models depicted as "pin-up" cover models from fictional vintage magazines. The titles of the magazines on whose covers the women appear reflect the correlating verses in the song. Foxx is also present, lip-synching both his own parts and the Ray Charles vocal sample. John Legend makes a brief cameo. "Gold Digger" won the BET Award for Video of the Year at the 2006 BET Awards and received nominations for both Best Male Video and Best Hip Hop Video, at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards but did not win either of these awards.

Chart performance

West and Foxx performing "Gold Digger"

Following the chart performance of "Diamonds from Sierra Leone", which failed to crack the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, West's label became concerned with how a follow up single would perform. Their concerns were unfounded as "Gold Digger" became a success, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100, Pop 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and the Hot Rap Tracks charts.

When Late Registration was released, the album version of "Gold Digger" was first made available for download. Approximately 80,000 digital downloads of "Gold Digger" were sold through legal music services such as iTunes and Napster in that first week, making it the most successful digital sales debut ever. The song broke the record for the most digital downloads sold in one week, and the record for the fastest selling digital single of all time, both previously held by Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl". "Gold Digger" sold over 1,000,000 downloads during its seven weeks of release. This makes "Gold Digger" one of the first songs in history to sell over 1,000,000 downloads in the United States. "Gold Digger" was certified as 5 times platinum on April 10, 2014.[12]

The high digital download sales helped propel the song from number 19 to number one in one week, the fifth highest jump ever to that position on the Hot 100. The jump ended the 14-week (and 10th consecutive week) run of Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" at number one, and kept Carey's "Shake It Off" from replacing "We Belong Together" as the number one single. The song spent 10 weeks at the top of the Hot 100 until rising pop star Chris Brown's hit "Run It!" shot up to the pole position for the week of November 19.

"Gold Digger" also became West's first Top 10 single on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, peaking at number two. On the Pop 100, "Gold Digger" also broke a record by jumping from number 94 to number two, giving West the record for the biggest ever jump on that chart.

In MAX music TV's top 1000 songs of all time, 'Gold Digger' was number 462 on the list.

By reaching number one, "Gold Digger" gave Charles his first Hot 100 chart-topper as a songwriter, credited as a result of the "I Got a Woman" sample. As an artist, Charles topped the Hot 100 three times in the 1960s, but always with other writers' songs.

As of May 2011, the song has sold 3,083,000 copies in the US.[13] On April 10, 2014, "Gold Digger" was certified as 5 times platinum.[12]

"Gold Digger" is Kanye West's second highest charting single in the UK, only behind his number one single "Stronger". It was only held off the top spot by The Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha". It is by far West's longest charting single in the UK having amassed an impressive 48 weeks inside the top 100 songs. 295,000 copies of "Gold Digger" have been sold in the UK as stated by the Official UK Charts Company.[14]

Cover versions and remixes

Cover versions
  • The song was also later sung by the Oceanian Hip-Hop duo Noozfa & Izzei , and they made a crunk remix featuring White Dawg, and Lil' Jon. In addition, it was also sung in Kingston, Jamaica by various other artists like Lil' Bow Wow, C-Murder and Beenie Man.
  • "Gold Digger", done in a polka beat, is the last segment of "Polkarama!", the polka medley on "Weird Al" Yankovic's album Straight Outta Lynwood. This version substitutes a second "broke" instead of "niggas", like the edited music video.
  • English solo artist Dear Landlord performed an acoustic version of "Gold Digger".
  • Vitamin String Quartet recorded a string quartet version of the song for one of their Unstrung albums.
  • Christian parody band ApologetiX parodies the song as "Bone Digger" on their album Wordplay.
  • The Rhode Island-based jazz/funk/hip-hop group Milkbread often covers the song at live shows with a funkier, horn-based groove.
  • Welsh indie rock band The Automatic recorded a cover version of the song, which features on Radio 1's Live Lounge CD, as well as later being featured on their final single Raoul. During Leeds Festival 2006 they performed it live with Adequate Seven and the lead singer and saxophonist of Capdown. They also performed it live at the 2007 Reading festival, with fellow Welshmen, Goldie Lookin' Chain and at the 2007 Get Loaded In The Park. At the Newquay Boardmasters Festival in 2006, they performed it live with The Mystery Jets; Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and My Elvis Blackout.
  • On September 13, 2012 The X Factor UK contestant Lucy Spraggan performed the song on week two of season 9.
  • In 2006 a drum and bass remix was released by High Contrast.
  • Lil Wayne freestyled over the beat for his mixtape, The Suffix.
  • In 2005 American DJ and producer Diplo remixed the track; he edited the song's chorus to resemble the voice of Ray Charles. The electronic track was titled "Gold Digger (Diplo Mix)" and appeared on the release "Hollertronics Vol 3" on the Money Studies Records label.[15]
  • A politically charged mash-up of the song titled "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" circulated following Hurricane Katrina, incorporating audio of Kanye West's own assertion that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on a televised benefit concert. The song criticized George W. Bush for his slow reaction to the plight of New Orleans and was written by Houston hip-hop duo also known as K-Otix. The single became widespread on the Internet for several weeks after the catastrophe, in some cases backing video mash-ups with photo montages from the hurricane.

In the media

  • 2005: West performed the single with Common and Talib Kweli during the Guitar Center Spin-off Championships, held in Los Angeles.[16]
  • 2005: The Boondocks episode "Guess Hoe's Coming To Dinner" features the track as the backdrop of a montage of the character Cristal (A prostitute) spending Granddad's money on luxuries.
  • 2009: In the episode "Showmance" of Glee, the cast of Glee covered the song. The song was parodied by The Fringemunks to recap Fringe episode 1.04, "The Arrival."[17]
  • Series 7 UK X Factor contestant Aiden Grimshaw auditioned with the song in 2010, which was praised by the judges, leading him through to the 'Boot Camp' stage of the competition.
  • 2011: The song is featured on the show Family Guy in the episode "Friends of Peter G" which poet William Wordsworth writes the song.
  • On October 23, 2012, the cast of The Big Bang Theory made a flashmob during the live taping of an episode, featuring the song as well as others.[18]
  • In the season 2 premiere of Black-ish, Jack was almost expelled from his school for performing the uncensored version, including the lyric "nigga", at the school's talent show.

Formats and track listings

Charts and certifications



Information taken from Late Registration liner notes.[51]

  • Songwriters: Kanye West, Ray Charles, Renald Richard
  • Producers: Kanye West, Jon Brion
  • Recorded by: Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer, Tom Biller
  • Audio mixing: Mike Dean
  • Assistant engineers: Richard Reitz, Matt Green, Nate Connelly, Mike Mo
  • Additional vocals: Plain Pat, Don C
  • Scratches: A-Trak

See also

  • List of best-selling singles
  • List of best-selling singles in the United States
  • List of number-one singles of 2005 (Australia)
  • List of number-one singles from the 2000s (New Zealand)
  • List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of 2005


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External links

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