…life from my perspective
I’ve been listening to it since it was released last Monday. And to be honest, when I first heard it, I wasn’t impressed. But I decided to give it time. I haven’t listened to much else in an effort to give this album my full attention so it can be examined in a way that offers up an honest critique. Initially I gave it a 3.5/5.0. A week later that rating still stands. Though I know most of the memorable one liners and can’t stop bobbing my head to some of the better produced tracks, I stand by the notion that Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye’s collabo album, DID NOT save “hip-hop” and these crazies ARE NOT sitting on top of no damn throne. Despite the fact that the album broke the US iTunes seven day sales record for most digital downloads in its first week, the previous record holder was Coldplay when its 2008 album Viva La Vida moved 288k units – WTT sold nearly 290k – the album is riddled with empty lyrics, basic rhyme schemes and is void of the genius that we know, love and have come accustomed to hearing from Kanye. JZ BEEN whack so I didn’t expect shit from him. Don’t get me wrong, the album IS decent and you can tell that a bit of effort was put into making it, but it’s no masterpiece. Definitely NOT a classic. And what do we mean when we say classic? An album that transcends time.
Real talk, I expected a LOT more especially if you, the artist, are heralding your OWN project as throne worthy. And that’s another thing, how the hell you gone gas your own self up? Watch the Throne? Really? It’s like them girls who be driving cars with sexy on the license plate and then you pull up alongside them in earnest just to see how sexy they are and almost vomit in your lap. When you create that kind of hype it becomes that much harder to live up to it. Things that exude brilliance and beauty need not announce it; it almost always speaks for itself. But it IS this announcement, stated clearly by the album title itself, that these two are coming to reclaim their rightful places as kings atop the rap throne that causes this project to fail more so than it would have, had they just let their fans be the judge.
I read Ghost’s critique of the album a week ago which was funny as hell but on point. I have a few thoughts I’d like to share about the album but I’m not going to critique it track by track. I’m too tired, you’ll get too bored and I got other shit to do. Before I begin, let me lay out why I’m qualified to offer up a critique. I don’t rap. I don’t make beats. And I’ve never worked in the industry. But I do love music and regardless of the topic, anytime I have something to say or write I think you should read or listen. Period. The featured youtube videos in this post are the noteworthy tracks on the album. I picked “No Church in the Wild” and “Murder to Excellence” because they have redeeming qualities that serve to give the album some substance while “Niggas in Paris”, “Gotta Have It” and “Who Gon Stop Me” got that bounce; ain’t NO way you NOT gone move when you hear those. “Primetime”, the NO ID produced track which is only featured on the deluxe version of the album, gives you that old school, nostalgic, real rap feel. You know how you feel when you hear a DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock or Salaam Remy beat? That’s the feeling Primetime gives. One of the best on the album.
I was inspired to blog about this because my boy sparked a discussion on his FB page about the lyrics of “Church in the Wild”. A part of Yeezy’s verse, “love is cursed by monogamy/it’s something that the pastor don’t preach/it’s something that a teacher can’t teach…”, is the most poignant line of the entire song. The more I listened to Ye’s verse I knew right away he was the driving force behind this song. It’s provocative, brutally honest and emotionally telling. Ye is vulnerable, sensitive and honest to a fault. Jigga moved away from this shortly after Reasonable Doubt; he no longer shares that side of himself with his listeners. To his credit he CAN be introspective at times whenever the moment calls for it. “No Church” is dealing with conflicts between the spirit and the flesh. The expectations and restrictions monogamy places on ” love” which sometimes forces people to be other than who they are. Other than what human nature calls for them to be. This has nothing to do with sexual intimacy so much as it does with exploring others on a deeper level so you can learn more about yourself. The lyrics are thought provoking and Frank Ocean lends a feel good melody that gets you hyped in anticipation for better music later on that the album never delivers.
Of course wifey is singing the hook on “Lift Off” which is very catchy and gives the album crossover appeal but takes it absolutely nowhere, while Swizz Beats is annoying as hell on Welcome to the Jungle. I’m about ready for someone to revoke his “I make beats too” license. He delivered on The Blueprint 3’s “On To The Next One” but overall I’m not impressed with him as a producer. “H.A.M.” birthed a new colloquial expression and will most certainly be added to the Oxford Dictionary’s list of new words very, very soon. “H.A.M.” is fun and easy to rhyme to though it possesses almost little to no creative expression while “Otis” continues to remind you that you ain’t shit if you’re not rich and driving out the clear port. And let me remind you that JZ and Kanye’s storytelling bravado about their wealth is a running theme throughout the entire album. Egotism and a worship of monetary riches pervades almost every track. Sure it’s easy to ignore it with clever catch phrases and lines that rhyme, but if you’re looking for substance, this album lacks it. Big time. Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” was sampled for “Otis” which makes this song VERY pleasurable and easy on the ears. The video concept for “Otis” is whack but one you see it, you vibe off of JZ and Ye’s energy which forces you to like the song that much more. They both have a clever way of pulling you into their world making you wish to leave your mediocre and mundane existence behind.
This kid Frank Ocean appears again on “Made in America” which is gay as hell and the RZA produced track “New Day” is rather mellow but is not making that much of a statement. Again, I like Ye’s honesty in his verse but it’s not like this track is contributing much. Take it or leave it, the album remains the same. I listened to “Murder to Excellence” and again I’m thinking this is ALL YEEZY. Without question, JZ made SOME contribution to this song but at the end of the day he can’t afford to go hard on that real, rapping about relevant stuff that everyday folks confront. His fan base wont support it, understand it or appreciate it. And not only that, he’s a bit removed from it. He’s not on the block anymore. Maison Martin Margiela and all that other shit he talking – THAT’s relevant to him now. Flying over the Amalfi Coast – THAT’S his life. Ain’t no manicures on board then switch your planes – THAT’s what he knows. Either way, I salute them both for making this track and talking to the people, connecting with the people, and not ignoring the plight and pain of the people. I consider this song a celebration of the people. I REALLY wish this album focused more on the people, delivering messages that could uplift, teach and inspire the people. Maybe that’s just not what the rap game needs. Until tomorrow youngn’s.