“While other MCs may have been wearing throwback jerseys and rapping about dealing coke over his beats, Kanye, he stood out,” the EGOT winner recalls in a clip premiering exclusively on Billboard below. “He was more preppy, he wore his polos and his collegiate wear, and he was lyrically exploring different topics like his own insecurities and his relationship with God.”
Even beyond how West differed from his hip-hop contemporaries of the time, Legend credited the budding superstar with helping put a modern spin on his 2004 debut Get Lifted, which would establish Legend as a rising R&B star after its top five peak on the Billboard 200.
“It was so important for me to work with Kanye at that point in my career,” he said. “He really elevated my sound and made it feel more urgent and more ready for prime time. He brought his hip-hop drums and sensibility together with my musicality and my roots and gospel and soul, and we made something that was fresh and beautiful.
“I was more of an old soul and I think, left to my own devices, my music wouldn’t have been as cool without someone like Kanye influencing me. And Get Lifted became what it was because we worked together, because [of] our connection, because of our merging of our sounds. And I also had a pretty significant impact on The College Dropout as well. You hear my voice and musicianship on a lot of his records too, even when you don’t know it’s me.”
However, Legend’s once-close kinship with West hit a roadblock when the “Wonder Woman” singer chose not to support his pal’s ill-fated bid for the presidency in 2020, instead campaigning for Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Listen to a preview of Legend’s Living Legend audio project below.