Kanye West can afford a lot of diamonds these days, but his lyrics in the new remix of Late Registration’s first single, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” show that beautiful jewelry can cost a lot more than just money.
His rhymes refer to the horrific civil war in the small, diamond-rich African country of Sierra Leone, where since 1991 rival militias battling over the illegal diamond trade have killed and mutilated thousands of civilians. He pleads with Jacob the Jeweler, blingmaker to the stars, to tell him that his diamonds were not the product of conflict.
“Good morning, this ain’t Vietnam/ Still, people lose hands, legs, arms for real,” ’Ye rhymes. “It was known, in Sierra Leone/ When I speak about diamonds in this song/ I ain’t talking about the ones that be glowing/ I’m talking about Roc-A-Fella, my home/ These ain’t conflict diamonds, is they Jacob?/ Don’t lie to me, man/ See, a part of me saying, ’Keep shining,’ / How even though it’s thousands of miles away/ Sierra Leone connects to what we go through today … I thought my Jesus piece was so harmless/ Till I saw a picture of a shorty armless/ And here’s the conflict.”
Jay-Z, who also appears in budding Roc-A-Fella star Teairra Mari’s video “Make Her Feel Good,” hops on toward the end of the track, talking about an entirely different conflict: his ongoing feud with former partner Dame Dash, who, in the June issue of XXL, said that Jay took the Roc-A-Fella name and essentially forced Dame out of the business they built together.
“The chain remains, the gang is intact/ The name is mine, I’ll take blame for that,” Jay raps. “The pressure’s on, but guess who ain’t gon’ crack/ Pardon me, I had to laugh at that/ How could you falter when you’re the rock of Gibraltar?/ I had to get off the boat so I could walk on water.”
Jay also pledges allegiance to his longtime cohort Memphis Bleek, whose albums, including the recent 534, have never sold well.
“Bleek could be one hit away his whole career/ As long as I’m alive, he’s a millionaire/ And even if I die, he’s in my will somewhere/ So he could just kick back and chill somewhere … People lined up to see the Titanic sinking/ Instead, we rose from the ashes like a phoenix.”
The release date for Late Registration has been pushed back because the album is still not complete, according to a spokesperson for West. It’s now due on August 16 (see “Kanye, Jay-Z Give An Early Peek At West’s Late Registration” ).
For a feature about Kanye West in the studio, see “In the Lab With Kanye.”