Black Skinhead

"Black Skinhead"
Single by Kanye West
from the album Yeezus
Released June 19, 2013
Recorded 2013
Length 3:08
Label Def Jam
Kanye West singles chronology
"Black Skinhead"
"Bound 2"
Music video
"Black Skinhead" on YouTube

"Black Skinhead" (also stylized as "BLKKK SKKKN HEAD") is a song by American hip hop recording artist Kanye West, from his sixth studio album Yeezus (2013). The song, produced by West alongside Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, Mike Dean, Lupe Fiasco, No ID, Jack Donoghue and Noah Goldstein, was released as the first single from the album on June 19, 2013 and peaked at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Release and promotion

West performed "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" on the May 18, 2013 broadcast of the American sketch comedy television series Saturday Night Live.[4] "Black Skinhead" impacted radio in the United Kingdom on June 19.[5] On June 28, Def Jam Recordings confirmed that it would be serviced to American radio as the first single from Yeezus.[6] The label also revealed that a music video for the song was in production.[6] Following the announcement, "Black Skinhead" was officially released on July 2.[7] Prior to its release as a single, "Black Skinhead" debuted at number 69 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[8] The track also peaked at numbers 21 and 15 respectively on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts.[9][10] West was set to perform the song at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on August 25, 2013 but ended up performing "Blood on the Leaves" instead.[11][12] The song was featured in the trailer to the films The Wolf of Wall Street[13] and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.[14] On October 18, 2013, "Black Skinhead" was certified gold by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry of Denmark.[15]

Music video

For five months leading up to the single's announcement, West worked on a music video for "Black Skinhead" with photographer Nick Knight.[16] The music video was initially leaked to the Internet on July 8, 2013.[17] Shortly thereafter, West stated that leaked version of the video was incomplete and released without his approval.[17] On July 21, 2013, the final version was officially released as an interactive video on West's website.[18] The interactive portion of the video allows users to control the video's speed down to almost one-sixteenth the normal rate, as well as take screenshots for use in social media platforms.[19] The user's cursor changes to that of a black hand giving the middle finger when interacting with the video.[19] Pitchfork Media noted that apart from interactivity, the video itself is identical to the version that was leaked ahead of release.[19]

The video opens with three figures wearing black conical hoods, reminiscent of those worn by the Ku Klux Klan; their hoods form a black border that envelops most of the screen, while the silhouettes of the outlying cones stay on each end.[20] The primary action of the video takes place in the middle portion of the screen, which is occupied by a shirtless, computer-generated version of West, wearing a long chain and leather pants, who raps the song's lyrics and dances.[21][22] West appears in various forms: a rough, spiky animatic; a silhouetted model; one whose upper torso save the face is covered in talc; a heavily muscled version; and a nude version with rows of subdermal implants on the shoulders and chest.[20] Interspersed with his figure are several brief flashes of snarling dobermans and other predatory animals.[23]

Critical reception

"Black Skinhead" received universal acclaim from critics, many of whom cited it as one of the best songs on Yeezus. Ray Rahman of Entertainment Weekly cited "Black Skinhead" as one of the album's best songs, describing it as "a galloping punk-rap manifesto".[3] Rolling Stone named "Black Skinhead" the third best song of 2013 saying, "'Ye rapping rabid over an industrial glitter-rock stomp pumped with heavy breathing and Tarzan screams. Next time someone says America is post-race, play 'em this, and watch their head explode."[24] NME named the song the tenth best song of 2013 saying, ""Black Skinhead" was a microcosm of why that's the case: three breathless and almost-punk minutes that covered the central complexes – ego, messiah and persecution - of his dark and twisted psyche."[25]


A remix, featuring singer Miley Cyrus was recorded on August 25, 2013, shortly afterwards the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Producer Mike Will Made It was present during the recording session and added some production to the song.[26] The remix leaked on January 21, 2016, and was revealed to feature Lupe Fiasco (who is featured on the original track) and Travi$ Scott in addition to Cyrus. The track features Cyrus singing a rendition of the hook from Tears for Fears' 1985 song, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." from their album Songs from the Big Chair.[27][28]

In popular culture

"Black Skinhead" was featured in 2016 film, Suicide Squad in a scene that features Floyd Lawton / Deadshot in Belle Reve.[29]

Chart performance

Chart (2013) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[30] 58
Australia Urban Singles (ARIA)[30] 9
scope="row"Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[31] 59
scope="row"Belgium Urban (Ultratop Flanders)[32] 24
scope="row"Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[33] 66
scope="row"France (SNEP)[34] 105
scope="row"Ireland (IRMA)[35] 55
scope="row"Scotland (Official Charts Company)[36] 31
South Korea International Singles (Gaon)[37] 6
scope="row"UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[38] 34
scope="row"UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[39] 6
scope="row"US Billboard Hot 100[8] 69
scope="row"US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[9] 21
scope="row"US Hot Rap Songs (Billboard)[10] 15

Year-end charts

Chart (2013) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[40] 197


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[41] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[42] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history

Region Date Format Label
United Kingdom June 19, 2013[5] Contemporary hit radio Def Jam
United States July 2, 2013[7] Urban contemporary radio


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  2. Kelley, Frannie (2013-05-21). "Kanye West Stands Alone". NPR. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  3. 1 2 Rahman, Ray (June 25, 2013). "Yeezus (2013): Kanye West". Entertainment Weekly. New York. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  4. Coleman, Miriam (May 19, 2013). "Kanye West Unleashes the Fury of 'Black Skinhead' on 'SNL'". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  5. 1 2 "BBC Radio 1 Playlist – 19 June 2013". BBC Radio 1. BBC. Archived from the original on June 23, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  6. 1 2 Greenwald, David (June 28, 2013). "Kanye West Prepping 'Black Skinhead' as First 'Yeezus' Single". Billboard. Los Angeles. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  7. 1 2 Caulfield, Keith (July 3, 2013). "Kanye West's 'Yeezus' Sales Drop 80% In Second Week". Billboard. New York. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
  8. 1 2 "Kanye West – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Kanye West. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  9. 1 2 "Kanye West – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Kanye West. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  10. 1 2 "Kanye West – Chart history" Billboard Hot Rap Songs for Kanye West. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  12. Markman, Rob (August 5, 2013). "Kanye West Taking 'Black Skinhead' From 'SNL' To Video Music Awards". MTV. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  13. Christina, Andrew (June 17, 2013). "Kanye West's 'Black Skinhead' Featured In 'Wolf Of Wall Street' Trailer". MTV. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  14. Nick Romano (January 18, 2016). "'Neighbors 2' Trailer Sneak Peek: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron Battle Ball-Busting Babes". Collider. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  15. "Kanye West 'Black Skinhead'" (in Danish). IFPI Denmark. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  16. Harris James (July 10, 2013). "Nick Knight Directed Kanye West's 'Black Skinhead' Video. So, Who Is Nick Knight?". Complex. New York. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  17. 1 2 "Kanye West Says 'Black Skinhead' Video Was Leaked". XXL. New York. July 9, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  18. Danton, Eric R. (July 22, 2013). "Kanye West Posts Completed 'Black Skinhead' Video". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  19. 1 2 3 Battan, Carrie; Phillips, Amy (July 22, 2013). "Watch: Kanye West's "Black Skinhead" Video, Final, Interactive Version". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  20. 1 2 Serrano, Shea (July 10, 2013). "A Minute-By-Minute Breakdown of Kanye's 'Black Skinhead' Video". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  21. A Minute-By-Minute Breakdown of Kanye's 'Black Skinhead' Video. Rap-Up. New York. July 21, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  22. Lansky, Sam (July 22, 2013). "Kanye West's 'Black Skinhead' Video: Watch The Final, Interactive Version Of The Clip". Idolator. Buzz Media. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  23. Montgomery, James (July 9, 2013). "Kanye West's Bold 'Black Skinhead' Video: Real Or Not?". MTV. Viacom Media Networks. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  26. Takeda, Allison (August 28, 2013). "Miley Cyrus Skipped VMAs After-Party to Record With Kanye West". Us Weekly. New York. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  29. "All The Music In Suicide Squad: Knaye West to Black Sabbath". The Playlist. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  30. 1 2 "The ARIA Report: Issue 1218 (Week Commencing 1 July 2013)" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  31. " – Kanye West – Black Skinhead" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  32. " – Kanye West – Black Skinhead" (in Dutch). Ultratop Urban. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  33. "Kanye West – Chart history" Canadian Hot 100 for Kanye West. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  34. " – Kanye West – Black Skinhead" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  35. "Chart Track: Week 12, 2014". Irish Singles Chart.
  36. "Archive Chart: 2013-07-13". Scottish Singles Top 40. Retrieved July 7, 2013.
  37. "South Korea Gaon International Chart (2013.06.16 – 2013.06.22)" (in Korean). Gaon Chart. Archived from the original on March 28, 2013. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  38. "Archive Chart: 2013-07-13" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 7, 2013.
  39. "Archive Chart: 2013-07-13" UK R&B Chart. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  40. "Link" (PDF).
  41. "British single certifications – Kanye West – Black Skinhead". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 27, 2015. Enter Black Skinhead in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  42. "American single certifications – Kanye West – Black Skinhead". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 22, 2015. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links

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