So in the early hours of this morning, Jay-Z released the visuals to one of my favourite songs from his latest Magna Carta LP. “Picasso Baby” is one of the more harder edged tracks instrumental-wise and harks back to his Life and Times of Shawn Carter: Vol.3 days. The lyrics, however, are pure 2013 Jay-Z fare – raps about his grandiose lifestyle and brief glimpses of the lyrical dexterity he used to exhibit in his prime.
I won’t get caught up in the hype *repeats 3 times and sprinkles holy water*
When Watch The Throne was released back in August, everyone and their grandmother was going crazy for this meeting of two musical minds; Kanye West and Jay-Z. I’m a big fan of both of them and to be honest, my LP collection (yep, the Long Player still exists) had been looking pretty bare since the last album I bought, which was ironically Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The hype surrounding this album was pretty immense. You had the initial mysterious tweets from Kanye about a 5 track EP “Watch the Thrown” (sic), then you had a first unofficial song (H.A.M – Hard As a Mother…., which wasn’t actually that hard), trailers and finally the release date. People went crazy when this album dropped and it actually managed to achieve the unthinkable – no major leaks. People were quick to label this as a classic, giving it 4 and 5 stars before they’d even really had a proper chance to listen to it. I’m not into the hype although from first listen, I could tell that it contained solid lyrics and impeccable beats.
One of the main criticisms of the album was that much of the content revolved around being rich and spending excessive amounts of money;
“I’m planking on a million” – Otis,
“Racks on racks on racks, Maybachs on backs on backs…” – Gotta Have
but there are moments of introspect sprinkled throughout the album. New Day, offers poignant thoughts from Jay-Z to his unborn child. Did he know about Beyonce’s
publicity stunt pregnancy when writing this?
My personal favourite is perhaps the least “jiggy” of all songs – Murder to Excellence. From the beat to the delivery to the message, it’s almost as if Jay and Kanye are reporting news stories over the track.
“314 soldiers die in Iraq
509 died in Chicago”
Once the beat changes, they tell us what life can be like as an affluent black man in America;
“in the past if you picture events like a black tie
whats the last thing you expect to see? Black guys..
What’s the life expectancy for black guys?
The system’s working effectively – that’s why”
One thing that has struck me from repeated listens of this album over the past few months is the range of samples used in producing each song. The Godfather of Soul himself, Mr James Brown is used on multiple songs, as well as Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and Nina Simone. The album does feel like no expense was spared in getting each sample cleared. Although why, they claim ‘Otis’ is a duet with Otis Redding (Rest in Power) but don’t give James Brown his props in a similar way on ‘Gotta Have It’ confuses me…
Dubstep influences (UK stand up!) also appear in Niggas In Paris and Who Gon Stop Me, which are definitely a welcome addition and showcase the versatility in Kanye’s production.
The album isn’t without it’s misteps though. The cheesiness of Lift Off, lacks edge and could easily have been left off the album. “Welcome to the Jungle” whilst a head nodder, seemingly gets lost when placed with the more musically diverse sounds of the other tracks on the album. Bonus track “Illest Muth****er Alive” is probably the opposite – just sounds like a worse version of HAM (which, after I initially slated it, has grown on me #noMould).
So…the verdict after the hype has died down? WTT is definitely one of my favourite albums of the year. The beats carry on the elclectic sounds of Kanye’s MBDTF, while Jay-Z never fails to disappoint with his lyrics. Yes, the majority of the album is about ballin’ and doesn’t break new ground for either of them, but when they do it this well with such pinache, then who are we to complain. 2 months is a long time in this download obsessed world but the album still sounds just as good as when I first
downloaded purchased it. Is is a classic? Nope. But it’s damn good.
I’m a big Jay-Z fan and I came across this advert a few weeks ago and have been a bit obssessed with it ever since. If you haven’t seen it yet, then where have you been? Every album cover. Recreated. Perfectly. I don’t know how long it took to make this but the end result is effortless. Amazing.