Did You Know? Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” Was Written for Another Artist

“Gold Digger” is one of Kanye West’s most notable singles of his career. Released a month before his sophomore studio album Late Registration, which won the 2006 Grammy for Best Rap Album, “Gold Digger” is still being played constantly on radio stations and in clubs across the country.

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The song was certified 8x platinum by RIAA and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time of its release. However, what many don’t know about the song that’s lived in ubiquity for nearly two decades, is that it was meant to be sung and performed by a different artist.

Shawnna Said No

“Gold Digger,” which came out less than a year after Jamie Foxx starred as Ray Charles in the biopic Ray (2004), sees Foxx contribute vocals for the song’s hook. Originally, fans believed the song was inspired by Foxx’s performance as Charles, considering “Gold Digger” samples Charles’ 1954 single “I Got a Woman,” interpolating the lyric she give me money when I’m in need.

However, West actually crafted the beat for the track before Ray came out. At this early stage of his career, West was just as much a producer for other artists as he was a rapper. In 2004, he made the “Gold Digger” concept and instrumental while working with Ludacris in Atlanta, and the song was specifically written for singer-rapper Shawnna, a Chicago artist signed to Luda.

“He did that beat a while before the movie Ray was even thought of,” West’s A&R Plain Pat said in a 2006 interview with MTV. “He did the beat at Ludacris’ house in Atlanta and he did it for Shawnna. She passed on it, actually. I’m not sure why.”

Instead of what the hook is now, I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke n****s, West wrote it for Shawnna to say I’m not sayin’ I’m a gold digger, but I ain’t messin’ with no broke n****s.

“Gold Digger” was meant to serve as a promotional single for Shawnna’s eventual debut album Worth tha Weight (2004), but after she decided against it, West reimagined the song for himself.

This decision likely altered the trajectory of both West and Shawnna’s careers considering it was the second No. 1 hit of his career and his first song to land inside the top 5 of the Hot 100. Additionally, West and Foxx took home the hardware for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 2006 Grammys for “Gold Digger.”

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