Kanye West’s “The New Workout Plan”: Revisit His Hilariously Brilliant ‘College Dropout’ Single
Second Spin is a look back at our favorite pop gems that never got their due. They may be gone, but we’re here to make sure they’re not forgotten.
Before there was Yeezus, there was Kan The Louis Vuitton Don — a blossoming young producer from Chicago and Roc-A-Fella’s newest gem. Replace his menacing scowl with a cheesy grin, the leather joggers with a pink polo and a (fuckin’) backpack and Kim Kardashian with Alexis Phifer — and the result is a younger, more humbled Kanye West. Today (February 10) marks the 10th anniversary of West’s debut album The College Dropout, and its fifth and final single “The New Workout Plan” embodies the album’s underlying educated humor.
So head below to revisit a tongue-in-cheek, joyous Kanye West (so much smiling!) as he teaches women how to transform from a ho into a housewife, in one of his most fun music videos to date.
In the midst of the gangsta rap that raided the airwaves in 2004, West broke out of that mold with the comical “The New Workout Plan.” He manages to turn the everyday hobby of exercising into a satirical commentary on misogyny and a woman’s role in hip-hop. Despite its refreshing subject matter, the song did not chart as high as the previous four singles. Lead single “Through The Wire” peaked at No. 15 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, “All Falls Down” at No. 7, “Jesus Walks” at No. 11 and “Slow Jamz” became the rapper’s first number one hit. But “The New Workout Plan” skated by with a measly No. 59 position. This is unjust!
Just a year prior, Nelly made jaws drop with his controversial, extremely NSFW “Tip Drill” music video — who could forget when the rapper swiped a credit card in a dancer’s booty? In this environment, women weren’t praised for their minds; their curvaceous bodies were literally the money machine! And Kanye West was just the guy to play up these tropes to help these ladies reach their goals of snagging a rapper, an NBA player or at least a dude with a car.
Backed by a frantic production complete with hand claps, screeching violins and a funk-inspired groove, “The New Workout Plan” makes you feel like you’re actually sweating your weave out while on a treadmill. The hilarious video takes the song to the next level, but unfortunately not many caught on. In comparison to his top three most watched on Youtube (“Stronger” with 110 million, “All Of The Lights” with 93 million and “Heartless” with 83 million), “The New Workout Plan” only got the attention of 1.5 million viewers.
The energetic visual parodies those late night exercise infomercials with Yeezy playing the sleazy aerobics guru. The best parts of the visual, though, are the celebrity cameos — The College Dropout collaborators GLC, Consequence and a then-unknown John Legend, video vixen Vida Guerra and Tracee Ellis Ross. Fonzworth Bentley — you might remember him as Diddy‘s umbrella holder — also makes an appearance as an awkwardly lanky trainer. But the most unexpected cameo of all is the late Anna Nicole Smith, who parodies her Southern roots by playing the memorable redneck, Ella-May.
Yeezy may not have planned it, but the premise of “The New Workout Plan” has followed him over the last 10 years. From the 2005 sequel that was “Gold Digger,” to his whirlwind romance with stripper-turned-model Amber Rose, his closeness to his mother and his current engagement to the reality star famous for her big assets, West’s relationships with women plays a weighty role in his music. There were hints of it in the MBDTF‘s “Blame Game” skit and the “Bound 2” video, but they don’t posses the same wit like “The New Workout Plan.” He may never revert to the classic popped-collar, khaki-wearing ‘Ye, but thanks to the Internet we can all reminisce back on his class clown nostalgia and clever ability to mock his genre and sneak social commentary into his poppiest hits.