I Miss the Old Kanye Version of DJ Spinn’s “Opioids”
One of the more nuanced responses to Kanye West’s strange appearance last May on TMZ—you know, when he said slavery “sounds like a choice” and defended Donald Trump—came from fellow Chicagoan DJ Spinn, the veteran dance music producer who co-founded the storied footwork collective Teklife with the late DJ Rashad. A few weeks after the TMZ clips went viral, Spinn posted on Soundcloud a snippet of a beat that chopped up a portion of the interview when Kanye passionately detailed his experience taking prescription opioids. “I was addicted,” West had announced to the office, claiming doctors told him to take seven pills a day after he underwent liposuction surgery. “The reason why I dropped [controversial] tweets and everything [is] ’cause I was drugged the fuck out, bro.”
Kanye was trying, in his own way, to articulate his distrust in his doctors. (His mother died of complications from her own liposuction surgery in 2007.) It was mostly incoherent and played like a tin foil hat excuse for his own increasingly silly public provocations, most infamously his enthusiasm for MAGA hats. But divorced from all that, it was a sad and relatable moment for anyone who’s used substances to manage their own mental or physical health. Spinn’s beat loops “they gave me opioids” and “drugged the fuck out bro” over a cyclical synth melody that evokes medical equipment or sirens, with a tricky percussion lattice that characteristically disorients. The track captures the much-memed rant’s mania with a level of empathy lacking in most of the memes. It ends after 97 seconds.
So I was excited when I heard that Spinn’s record label Hyperdub planned to included an extended version of the song on a 15th anniversary compilation released today in partnership with Adult Swim. But to my dismay, the version that appears on the album does not include Kanye’s clipped audio. The beat remains a satisfying exercise in footwork prioritizing a feeling of discombobulation, but it’s hard not to miss the discombobulated oration that inspired it. A representative for Hyperdub told me that the label didn’t attempt to clear the sample. It’s possible that, however much Spinn relates, monetizing Kanye’s exasperation is unethical. Thankfully, the snippet can still be heard on Soundcloud, if you’d like to consider this yourself.