The piano, the echoing voice in the background, the distortion on his singing, the vocoder solo: every single element of this track is spine-tingling, hauntingly beautiful. Combine that with Pusha’s verse and it becomes Greek tragedy rap: it takes the clichéd ideas of power, sex, money and removes all the glamour from them.
West has stated that the song serves as “a toast to the douchebags.” West weaves a tale through topics such as his relationship with Amber Rose, his arrogance, insecurity, and sorrow.
Pusha-T spoke about his emotional state during the writing process for “Runaway”:
I wrote ‘Runaway’ four times—and what he does not know to this day is that I was going through a relationship scandal in my life. So this man is asking me to write a song about a relationship and to say that I’m the biggest douchebag ever. He’s telling me, ‘Yo, you need to be more douchebag. We need more douchebag!’ I didn’t want to say to him, ‘Dog, I don’t know if I even have douchebag in me right now.’ I’ve been jammed up, and it’s hard for me to even tap into that part because I’m remorseful. [Laughs.]
Producer Pete Rock added:
[Kanye] played ‘Runaway'—and as soon as I heard the drums come in, I just started laughing. He used my drums from Mecca and the Soul Brother! I used these drums in an interlude before this record called ‘The Basement,’ and those drums come on before the song. I never heard anybody make a song the way he made it out of those drums. I thought that was genius.