“Famous” explores what it means to be famous—Rihanna personifies fame on the hook.
Kanye premiered the music video for “Famous” on June 24th, 2016, at The Forum in Los Angeles. The video features nude images of famous celebrities, including Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose, Ray J, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Anna Wintour, George Bush, and Donald Trump.
The video was inspired by Vincent Desiderio’s “Sleep" (pictured below) and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” Like Da Vinci’s painting featuring Jesus and his disciples, Kanye makes use of 12 people, albeit in a different setting.
Kanye conducted an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair 48 hours before the video premiered. Vanity Fair wrote:
“We were very careful with shots that had [something] sexual to take them out,” he said. What we see instead is a moody, quasi-religious tableau of naked, vulnerable, strangely peaceful bodies at rest. Under the sheets, West seems to be saying, celebrities are just like us.
It’s too early to say what the reaction to “Famous” will be, but West has already won over one constituency. He has previewed the film for a few celebrity pals who don’t appear in it. “Guess what the response is when I show it to them?” he said. “They want to be in the bed.”
“Famous” samples Nina Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do,” marking the fifth time Kanye has sampled her, behind Yeezus‘ “Blood on the Leaves,” Watch The Throne’s “New Day,” 808s & Heartbreak’s “Bad News,” and Talib Kweli’s “Get By.” The song also samples Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” and the organs during Kanye’s verses sample a 1973 Italian progressive rock song “Mi Sono Svegliato E… Ho Chiuso Gli Occhi” by Il Rovescio Della Medaglia.
Chance the Rapper revealed in an interview with Beats 1 Radio that he originally had a verse on the track, but it was removed when the album was mastered.