So, this is (irresponsibly) the first of possibly many (definitely more than is necessary) WGSG episodes regarding hip hop, so get used to it.
As to the genesis of the Watch The Throne conversation, it sort of went like this:
1) Joe and other buddies tweet about how great WTT is.
2) Matt tweets that he’s not looking forward to listening to it, because he’ll feel the need to talk about it (and probably say unpleasant things).
3) Matt’s excuse is rejected by Joe, who demands the listen.
4) Matt listens, self-fulfilling his own prophecy of disappointment.
5) Joe challenges Matt to a breakdance competition, which is later rescheduled as a podcast episode politely discussing WTT’s merits.
KANYE: A PORTRAIT
In case you hadn’t figured it out by my tone, this is Matt doing the blog post. As stated, I’ve been on the fence about Kanye for most of his career. His production abilities are some of the best in the business, but his rapping is usually just around par and his singing is… well its hard to call it singing. Anyway, back to some facts. Here’s Kanye’s discography timeline, which we had trouble with during recording.
The College Dropout, February 2004.
Late Registration, August 2005.
Graduation, September 2007.
808’s and Heartbreaks, November 2008.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, November 2010.
Joe makes reference to “All Falls Down,” which appeared on College Dropout and is mainly about financial irresponsibility and racial self-esteem and just, well, a whole lot of things. Here’s the video (featuring Stacey Dash’s conspicuous nipples):
Matt makes reference to the American Gangster album, Jay-Z’s concept album, based off of the film, which is based off of the book, which is based off of real life, which is based off of a collective dream.
Also, hip hop beef is weird. Shortly before we recorded this episode there was word of a Lil’ Wayne diss against Jay-Z on his new album, Tha Carter IV. Your humble narrator believes that this wasn’t a very harsh diss (more just a 99 problems reference), which leads me to the conclusion that its “Diss” status didn’t originate with Weezy himself. Stop starting fights, Twitterverse.
Beef is a great marketing tool, though. 50 Cent made great career strides with his machine-gun spray disses in “How To Rob” (which is rumored to be what may have incited the attempt on his life). Less famous rappers have also tried to use this as a promotional tool by dissing more accomplished rappers in an attempt to anchor themselves to that rapper’s fame. Atmosphere wrote a song about this process called “That’s Not Beef That’s Pork.” Hear it here:
A BITTER SYL TO SWALLOW
In case you hadn’t heard the story, here’s the whole sampling kerfuffle. If the name seems familiar, you might back up to the “All Falls Down” video, which features Syleena Johnson, Syl’s daughter.
TRACK BY TRACK
Okay, I said I judge this album track by track. So here’s my entirely above-judgment judgments. But before that, I suggest you go listen to the AVClub’s review here.
The best part is hearing them try not to say bad things about Kanye, even though they clearly want to.
Anyway, here’s my estimation of WTT--
No Church In The Wild – Sample’s cool. Frank Ocean is confused. I’m confused by Kanye. What happened to the Kanye that needed Jesus like school needs teachers? Not much here to like or hate though. Very skippable, as Joe said.
Lift Off – Whose bright idea was it to have Kanye sing his autotuned verses in between Beyonce’s? Again, skippable. Beyonce sings like an angel, but she’s not given much room to express anything lyrically.
Niggas In Paris – That’s right I typed it out. I love a syncopated beat, and so does Jay. He totally works it to his advantage. Kanye does a good job too with his ironic drawl emphasis. I’m gonna give credit to Ye for putting that sample in- “No one knows what it means! It’s provocative!” This is how I think a lot of people digest Kanye’s weaker musical experiments. Good Call, Mr. West.
Otis – Never has a song fallen so far so fast. The first 30 seconds build it up, then 0:33 to 0:37 seems like it’s about to tear your face off, and then it just fizzles. The looping and looping and looping leaves this one with nowhere to go. It just limps along. Sure, it makes the lyrics seem more exciting to set them against such a lurching and awkward background, but it still hamstrings the whole affair. I bet there’ll be some absolutely showstopping “Otis” remixes though. With like, a backbeat. And some sense of build-up.
Gotta Have It – I wish the producer of “Otis” would’ve listened to “Gotta Have It,” because he would’ve learned a lot about songwriting. This is the first song that seems to have genuine interplay between Kanye and Jay-Z. The one negative? Jay-Z makes a planking reference.
New Day – Question: Was Jay-Z aware of Beyonce’s pregnancy when he wrote his verse? I hope so. Anyways, this is kind of a slow one. I like the vocoder. Its not a stand-out, but its decent.
That’s My Bitch – Nobody but Grandmaster Flash should be able to sample Incredible Bongo Band anymore. I’m a little bummed that Kanye doesn’t chill it on the borderline misogynistic characterization of ladies, but this is his strongest rapping on the album. I guess it makes sense. He’s clearly got lady problems on the brain since 808’s and Heartbreak. Jay’s verses are equally strong, but his lady issues are a little weirder. He refers to some hot ladies as “Beyonces” (plural). Wut.
Welcome To The Jungle – Morse code jam? No thanks. Harmonically questionable chorus synth? I’ll pass. This is a wide miss.
Who Gon Stop Me – Oooh, a little dubstep, eh? I can dig it. It doesn’t have the bro-step skrillex fart breakdowns, though it is a little flatulent. Kanye explains pig latin and references the Holocaust. I like this one for the most part, but again West makes me wince a few times.
Murder To Excellence – WHY. Why wouldn’t you just let Frank Ocean sing this one? This would’ve been absolutely amazing if it didn’t have Kanye’s umpteenth attempt to start his doomed singing career with unsubtle autotune. Someone re-record that part for me, because I really like this song but I can’t stand to hear Kanye’s flailing vocals.
Made In America – Sweet Queen Coretta, this song is weak. Especially stacked next to the song before it. They make very antagonistic points. Great use of the CASIO keyboard demo button though. Joe likes that Jay has to defend his own indefensible actions, but it just sounds weird over the Playskool beat.
Why I Love You – Again, the beat is good and the song is good. It seems to me like the experimental shit is just getting in the guys’ way. Thankfully this one has a solid beat and Jay drops verses that seem frantic and earnest, like an athlete turning in a championship time around the track.
Illest Motherfucker Alive – This is a joke track, right? So I should ignore it? Good. “Zero Zero Zero Zero, a whole lot of O’s.” Kanye is doing a Kanye parody. It’s like when Andrew WK made that song “Party Party Party.” But hey, solid beat.
H-A-M – This song makes me chuckle. The beat is totally biting Waka Flocka’s “Hard In Da Paint,” but that’s not the funny part. Trying to make the word “Ham” slang for cool is hilarious. Not noticing the literal interpretation of “Hard as a mother-fucker” is hilarious. Declaring yourself to be “Ham” is hilarious.
Primetime – Good song. Nothing amazing, but good. The beat works well, and Kanye isn’t saying anything too ridiculous. Top 5 for sure.
The Joy – Wasn’t this released for free like years ago? Oh well. This is the song that has the stolen Syl Johnson sample. Curtis got a shout-out though. I like it though. It’s a good slow one, and this album’s slow ones haven’t been great. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed.
Obviously, this is just my opinion, but I’m totally right. Feel free to disagree, just know that you’re going up against a motherfucking mental giant. Suck on that, haters. More on that laters.
IT TAKES TWO TO MAKE A THING GO RI-IGHT.
I mentioned that I had been listening to hip hop duo albums. Here are some great recent ones:
Ferrari Boyz – Waka Flocka Flame & Gucci Mane
Both of these dudes are great rappers, and they both love drum machines and synth hooks. Pairing the two was obvious, and their stylistic overlapping gives them a great sense of cohesion.
Bad Meets Evil – Eminem & Royce Da 5’9”
I love Royce. I’ll admit it. I totally messed up the song that he declares his inferiority complex, but he’s got a lot of inner demons that he drops all over this record. And Eminem? Well, he’s pretty good too.
Black Star isn’t recent, but it’s fucking great. Go get it.
Peter O’Toole is neither black nor gay.
Huell Howser is neither black nor gay.
James Baldwin was both black and gay.
Langston Hughes was black and rumored to be gay.
Johnny Mathis is half-black and openly gay.
Will Smith is black (possibly birthmark) and not gay.
Jada Pinkett Smith is black and not gay.
Jackie Chan is immortal.
Deal with it.
I was going to post a picture of a giant birthmark, but the ones I found are too horrible to inflict on another human.
[Editor's Note: I'll give Matt Peter O'Toole, but Huell Hauser is so massively gay that he bends light for miles around. Just ask Black Dad luminary Dr. Neil Degrasse-Tyson.]
FROM JOE’S CRAIGSLIST AD
White rap upstart requires black baby for cred. Only needed for photo shoot. Please don’t tell my wife.
Animus, Anima, Self, Shadow, and Persona are all archetypes. That word has three syllables--say it with me-- “Ark-uh-types.”
From “Disastrous” on Both Sides Of The Brain
“Why you keep acting up? And when the shots fired you’re the last to duck. You’re only worth half a buck, it could be disastrous.”
JAMES AND THE GIANT DOUCHE
“There’s not even leaves!”
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT FLOUNDERCAST//
Play my mothafuckin’ theme song--