Just listened to Kanye and Jay-Z’s new “supergroup” album, “Watch The Throne.”
I appreciate some of the complimentary points made by film maker Ava DuVernay while appreciating Chuck D’s points that gross consumerism and flashiness in times of great economic hardship may be a wee bit insensitive.
All that’s true. However, my take on the album (which I posted on my own website and not on the Black geek website I run or anywhere else, is closer to the perspective of my good friend Jason Thompson.
The lyrics do, in fact, show a kind of resurgent politicism (which fans of early music by both artists would remember, but it’d seem new to people who only knew The Louis Vuitton Don and Hova) as they name check Fred Hampton and discuss Black power, fatherhood and Black on Black crime. However, they sprinkle these tidbits inbetween black Maybachs and the glitterati lifestyle that they’ve both come to know as an everyday existence. If you’ve come for politics, you’d be better served with Malcolm & Martin or dead prez. Nothing wrong there, and some lyrical moments of actual dexterity, but a far cry from the finest showings for either man. I remember even saying that the lead song “Otis” would have been better if it was just Kanye, as Jay-Znot make the impact that his reputation demands, getting outshone by his “little brother.”
What’s weird is the music. It’s sparse and uninspired, tepid where it should be amazing. Even with Pete Rock and the RZA, most of the album (“Otis” is an exception, as is “Murder to Excellence”) have beats that just kind of show up for work but don’t do anything exceptional. Given the profile of this project, that’s a shock. Kanye’s beats alone — “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” “Stronger,” “Run This Town,” “”I Changed My Mind,” “I Wonder,” “School Spirit,” “Slow Jams” and so many others — can freaking levitate. Even on his own recent album there were tracks like “Runaway” or the anthemic “All Of The Lights.” Here? Even the hottest tracks wouldn’t crack the top 25 instrumentals for either artist.
What happened? Did ‘Ye exhaust himself on his Dark Twisted Fantasy? Was Jay-Z more focused on business than delivering shock and awe as the so-called “best in the game” (which I’d definitely question). No idea.
This isn’t a bad album at all … but it’s also not a great album at all. It happened. It’s fine. A good DJ could make several songs work in the mix. But as a work on its own merits? It’s not a G.O.O.D. ass job …
Playing (Music): “Otis” by Kanye West and Jay-Z
NOTE: Why have I not been blogging? I’ve done hundreds of posts at Komplicated, writing for other things and staying busy. #musicmonday and the Commentary Track moved there. Sorry. I failed at National Poetry Writing Month (#napowrimo) by … four or so poems. If I can figure a way to regularly work this back into rotation, I will.