Child Rebel Soldier was conceived in 2007, while rapper and producer Kanye West was finishing his third studio album, Graduation. In anticipation for the release of the album, Can't Tell Me Nothing: The Official Mixtape was released on 27 May 2007, a mixtape hosted by Kanye West and his A&R, Plain Pat. The project showcased songs by various musicians signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label, other musicians affiliated with Kanye, and previews of songs slated to be released on Graduation.
Fellow Chicago-native and Kanye affiliate, Lupe Fiasco, would be one of the artists who collaborated with Kanye on the mixtape. At the time Lupe Fiasco had released his debut album less than a year prior, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, which had debuted at number right on the Billboard 200, even without a top ten single, and had also resulted in four Grammy Award nominations. Lupe Fiasco was in the midst of working on his follow-up album, known as Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, which would be a concept album expanding on the story of the track of the same name on his debut. Additionally, that year Lupe Fiasco’s father died of type II diabetes, while his business partner Charles Patton, was convicted of attempting to supply heroin to a drug ring, and was eventually sentenced to 44 years in a correctional facility. Both of these events would greatly impact Lupe Fiasco’s subject matter on his coming project.
Simultaneously, Lupe Fiasco had considered the idea of a mixtape involving mashups of hip hop and the work of Thom Yorke, lead singer for the band Radiohead, and begin producing tracks based on Yorke’s 2006 debut solo album, The Eraser, and some Radiohead tracks as well. One such song, based upon a sample of the song “The Eraser” (the album’s titular track), caught the attention of Kanye, and was to be placed on his upcoming mixtape. Lupe Fiasco originally asked English rapper The Streets to appear on the song, however, when he did not respond Kanye sent the song over to Pharrell Williams. As a result all three rappers decided to form a group, which Pharrell called “Child Rebel Soldier”, and the subsequent song, known as “Us Placers” was released on Can’t Tell Me Nothing.
Determined to create a full collaborative album for the group, all three members collaborated during the summer of 2007, however, Kanye and Lupe Fiasco primarily focused on completing or promoting their solo endeavors. Kanye’s Graduation would be released on 11 September 2007, the same day as 50 Cent’s Curtis, as part of a heavily publicized sales competition. Kanye, considered an antithesis to the extremely popular 50 Cent, and to the so-called “Bling Era” that had dominated the mainstream between the death of Tupac Shakur and the beginning of his own career, successfully outsold 50 Cent, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 with 957,000 copies sold in the United States alone. Meanwhile Lupe Fiasco's The Cool would be released on 18 December 2007, selling 143,407 copies in its first week to debut at number 15.
Toward the end of the year the group commenced work once more briefly. Lupe Fiasco later revealed in an interview with Billboard that he had produced several tracks a half dozen beats based on songs by Thom Yorke, saying that, “[our labels are] working it out. Whoever is going to pay is going to pay a whole hell of a lot. Everybody is excited.” The project took a blow later that year, first with Kanye’s mother Donda passing due to complications from surgery, and later Kanye’s fiancée Alexis Phifer ending their relationship, which had begun in 2002. Both events devastated Kanye, and stalled him from working. Nonetheless, in January 2008 he announced the Glow in the Dark Tour, which would begin in April, and would feature Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell Williams’ group N.E.R.D, Santigold, and Nas. In an effort to hide his emotions during the tour, Kanye employed autotune throughout his performances, which would greatly impact the development of his next solo album.
All three artists wrote heavily for Child Rebel Soldier during the Glow in the Dark Tour, although Kanye also began work on a solo album to follow-up Graduation. Notably the group would release remix that year of N.E.R.D.’s “Everyone Nose”, along with Pusha T of Clipse. Kanye, however, would find it difficult to express himself through rapping, and his developing project quickly shifted from his past work.
During an approximately three week period from September to October, Kanye began recording for the album, with sessions taking place at both Glenwood Studios in Burbank, California and at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii. The ensuing album, 808s and Heartbreak, blended “minimal but functional” production, largely centered around the titular Roland TR-808 drum machine, with mechanical, autotuned melodies. When Kanye announced the album at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, and then performed its lead single, “Love Lockdown”, music audiences were shocked by a complete shift in Kanye’s musical style.
The album was released on 24 November 2008, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 450,145 copies in its first week. Kanye continued on the Glow in the Dark Tour for the rest of 2008, the final show being on 7 December, before reuniting with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams. The group would spend much of 2009 producing a Child Rebel Soldier album, blending the production of N.E.R.D. with Kanye’s experimental synthpop style. Kanye would produce a number of the tracks for the album, enlisting the help of several collaborators from his last album, including Jeff Bhasker, Mike Dean, Plain Pat, and No I.D. Kid Cudi, who had been propelled into stardom on 808s, and frequent Pharrell collaborator Pusha T both made appearances on the album as well.
Child Rebel Soldier’s God Unwilling was released on 23 May 2009, debuting at number one.
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions||Sales||Certifications|
As lead artist
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"Us Placers"||2007||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Can't Tell Me Nothing (mixtape)|
|"Still Breathing"||2009||47||24||6||—||—||88||—||—||—||95||God Unwilling|
(featuring Pusha T)
| "Same Time"|
(featuring Consequence and John Legend)
| "Don't Look Down"|
(featuring Mos Def and Big Sean)
| "I'm Beamin" (Remix)|
(featuring All City Chess Club )
As featured artist
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
| "Everyone Nose"|
(N.E.R.D. featuring Child Rebel Soldier and Pusha T)
| "Kinda Like a Big Deal"|
(Clipse featuring Child Rebel Soldier)
|2009||—||88||51||96||—||—||—||—||—||—||Til the Casket Drops|