Neil Drumming
April 16, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Die-hard Lauryn Hill fans — you know, the ones who somehow penetrated her relentlessly morose 2002 MTV Unplugged album — will be thrilled to hear a piece of her ”Mystery of Iniquity” on Kanye West’s new single, ”All Falls Down.” Except that it’s not the former Fugee doing the singing. West, the rapper-producer who reconstituted Luther Vandross’ ”A House Is Not a Home” into this year’s hit ”Slow Jamz,” did originally use a couple of bars of Hill’s ”Mystery of Iniquity” from the Unplugged sessions but was unable to include the loop due to music-industry red tape.

”The problem was, it had to get cleared through MTV and also through Sony,” says West. ”The sample was going to end up costing like around $150,000.” Hefty as it was, the price tag wasn’t the issue. (West’s label, Roc-A-Fella, had already anted up 50 large to secure Chaka Khan’s ”Through the Fire” for West’s first single and seemed just as willing to foot this bill.) Ultimately, looming deadlines and the difficulty of satisfying two major media entities doomed the deal. ”[When] it was time for mastering,” says West, ”it still wasn’t cleared.”

Fortunately, West happened to be producing unsung R&B songstress Syleena Johnson’s latest single at the time. ”Her vocals are so impressive,” he says. ”I was like, ‘Can you try to do this song?’ She saved my life.” Way to fight inflation.

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