Kanye West “Blood on the Leaves” At 2013 MTV VMAs

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Backstage

‘Ye kept the censors on their toes during a spirited performance of “Blood on the Leaves” tonight. Below he explains the significance of the photo he used as the background for his set.


Lynching Tree By Director Steve McQueen

This Tree Was Used For Lynching

Those Who Were Murdered Are Buried In The Ground Around The Tree

Blood On The Leaves

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  • ShatteredWorld

    Kind of ironic and pretentious seeing as the song has NOTHING to do with the victims of lynches except for the sample.

  • Midsize Jerm

    After listening to Yeezus on acid I have to say this is the best track with Sent It Up in close second. Too bad this video isn’t working right now, it’ll be interested to see how it sounds live.


  • mike

    Best Song on Yeezus.

  • North West


  • Midsize Jerm

    Actually at half the length of the original this is a pretty boring performance.


  • Black Shady

    this is sad thats it the best song on the album
    Kanye used to drop classic shit. smh….

  • mac DIESEL



  • ss

    trash bruh. really is this what hip hop has come to? this song has 0 lyrics with a mediocre beat. No one wants to see ye dance ..

  • Vincechase

    Horrible song choice. Horrible performance….. And people wanna say yeezus was better than born sinner. I love ye but this just sucked

  • Set303

    I like the performance but Kanye should have done Black Skinhead or Send It Up.

  • D Twice

    I agree with the first comment. Extremely pretentious

  • Willy Lump Lump


  • bk2chiraq2dtown

    Performamce was perfect YEEZUS GOT THIS , I didnt see jcole mac miller or wale ?????

  • Beezus

    Let me start off by saying that I mean no disrespect to Jay-Z, J-Cole, or Wale, but there simply isn’t another artist near the level of Kanye West right now. Why? He takes the advice of his middle school English teacher to heart; Yeezus showzus not tellzus. Maybe, his teacher didn’t put it like that, but you guys get the point. His music is multi-dimensional. He can narrate a story, while touching on greater ideas not only lyrically, but also with a whole array of artistic devices that few others hip-hop artist can accomplish. For example, not only are his samples unique and soulful, they are also beautifully crafted imagery that gives his music a unique aesthetic quality. This is evident in Blood on the Leaves in which, he uses a seemingly obscure sample to metaphorically compare a failed relationship with lynching, witchcraft, and crucifixion.
    The song begins with a haunting sample from Nina Simone’s cover of Strange Fruit, originally sung by Billie Holiday: “Strange Fruit hanging from the poplar tree.” (B.O.L.) Strange Fruit is a song about lynching and the juxtaposition of life growing from a tree, and death hanging from it in the form of black bodies. However, the song isn’t directly about racism, it’s about a failed relationship with a groupie who used him for money. Why the disguising imagery? The album is about personal demons, and sonically, it utilizes sounds and music you might find in horror movies. Throughout the album, there are sounds of wild screams, heavy drops, and beats that seem like artists like Nine Inch Nails or Marlyn Manson inspired them. He wants there to be no doubt that Yeezus is darker than any other hip-hop album to date, so much so that it’s almost hyperbolic. So it is fitting that he relates this painful chapter of his life with lynching. It is also important to note that lynching is an act of power. Racist groups would leave the bodies on a tree, as a show of power. Throughout the song, there is also a struggle for control between Kanye and the other woman that will end with Kanye ultimately losing.
    In the first verse, he sets his story in the summertime, a season that is typically associated with passionate love. Then he goes right into a plea to his former lover to wait because he doesn’t have the money she is demanding from him at the moment: “Cause I ain’t got the money right now. And I thought you could wait.” (B.O.L.) As the verse progresses, he realizes that she is just like the other gold-diggers that surround his life. Clearly, money is an element that clouds his relationships. In the following verse, he sings, “We could have been somebody, stead’ you had to tell somebody”, which means the woman ruined what they had by going public with their relationship to the media. Kanye paints himself as powerless, and the woman as the villain. This portrayal takes a step further in the third verse:
    “Or was it our first party
    when you tried your first molly
    and came out of yo’ body
    and came out of yo’ body
    running naked down the lobby
    and screaming that you love me.”
    There is the obvious reference to an out of body drug experience, but also, the theme of horror is brought into the song with a reference to witches. In the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, a group of girls attempt to make men fall in love with them by performing witchcraft that require them to perform a ritual in which they would dance in the Forrest naked. The imagery in West’s verse is similar, as the woman in the song is able to leave her body and run and scream about her Love for West naked. Also, during the witch trials in The Crucible, one of the accusations that were made against the witches is that they had the ability to leave their bodies and cause harm to others. Although West may not have had the play in mind when writing the verse, The Crucible was based on real beliefs and accusations made against witches during the Salem witch trials, and West was just attributing this woman with powers that were imagined in that time period. The hyperbolic portrayal expounds the main point of how powerless West was against the charms of the woman. He ends every verse with, “something strange is happening”, as if she is casting a spell on him and he doesn’t know what is going on. A common criticism of hip-hop is about the degradation of women. However, West is putting some of the fault back on women by reminding us that they do have a sexual power over men, and that women can be just as evil as men.
    A common theme of most all of Kanye’s albulm is dual-personalities. In Blood on the Leaves, this theme comes up again, as there is his heart-broken persona, which was introduced in 808s & Heartbreak, and the typical arrogant rapper persona. At the end of the third verse, West attempts a power shift by angrily referencing a classing gangster rap song, Down 4 my Niggas, by C-Murder. The reference is put in there to mark a personality shift; he is turning from the victim to a classic gangster rap persona. He keeps this up in the final verse of the song, beginning with a slicing slander of his groupies by calling them “second-string bitches” followed by a slew of insults. He seems to be the one in power now. He raps, “Now you sittin’ courtside, wifey on the other side. Gotta keem’ em separated, I call that apartheid” (B.O.L.) Apartheid is the South African version of segregation. West is matching the imagery of lynching with Apartheid, as a way to gain power in this relationship. However, it is worth noting that lynching involves the lost of lives, which can be seen as more horrendous than apartheid. The point is that he has the power to separate them, there is also the imagery of his ability to space out the two parts of his life. This power however deteriorates when, “she said she impregnated”. (B.O.L.) After this verse, West shifts from referring to talking to his “second-string bitches” to “you”. He says, “Now your driver say that new Benz you can’t afford that.” (B.O.L.) His gangster persona now is talking to his own victim persona that was evident in the previous verses. This disjointment or contradiction in personality is a theme that is evoked in many of his songs, not only in this album, but throughout his career.
    The listeners now know that the “strange thing” happening is the impregnation of the woman. The baby isn’t created for love, but for control, as if it were a prop for an evil spell. Clearly, the baby is the “strange fruit hanging” from the poplar tree fin the Chorus, which would make the poplar tree a metaphor for the woman. However, just as she is able to create life, she is also able to harbor death, as the tree is a site for Lynchings. The juxtaposition from the sample, is transformed to create a disturbing image of the woman as a tree bearing new life for the purpose of asserting power over West. As the song ends, we can literally hear West being lynched and chocked in the Outro:
    “And breathe and breathe
    And breathe and breathe
    And breathe and breathe
    And live and learn…” (BOL)
    The outro is muffled and the words are barely recognizable. Right away, there is a focus on breathing, as if he needs to catch his breath after such a horrific incident, or he needs room from this woman to breath. But if we look at this verse from the larger context, which includes lynching imagery, we can hear the outro as a sonic representation of Kanye literally chocking on the rope that is lynching him.
    Yeezus is about the crucifixion or exorcism of Kanye West. Though he maintains his “God” complex, he is also admits and justifies the bad parts of himself. In Blood on the Leaves, he is narrating a story or stories about why he has trust issues with women. He has been used before and realizes the evil that they are capable of. The origin of the word “crucifix” could literally be traced down to mean “tree”. This is interesting because West is saying that gold-digging women are responsible for metaphorically crucifying him. All of this comes together in the final song of the album Bound 2, as He raps, “but first you gon’ remember how to forgive. After all these long ass verses, I’m tired, you’re tired, Jesus wept.” (B2) As, if he is talking to Kim, his mother of his child. As his “verses” or the album is ending, he talks about forgiveness, which indicates that the album is a sort of a confession or apology for his past and shortcomings. West believes its so convincing that even “Jesus wept.”(B2)

  • Trillionare

    @ Beezus start a blog dog aint nobody reading all this!! Shit

  • @ Trillionaire I read it

    @ Beezus Thank you for your explanation

  • Inside I’m Ice!, Outside I’m Lava!

    I fucking wasted five minutes to scroll down and type this shit!

  • Confucius

    @Beezus Good job

  • @beezus … Nice try, Kanye! lol thanks appreciate the insight!

  • realfan

    all u dumb niggas up top should read that explanation, and maybe you won’t hate

  • ‘Ye Stan


  • South West


    How is Gayfish a story teller when he isnt even a top 10 lyricist?

  • B

    @Beezus too bad Kanye don’t write his own shit.