REVIEW – Finally the album that a lot of hip hop heads have been anticipating dropped like the Dow Jones; poor analogy? Yes I know. Not everyone was happy that it dropped digitally first. Music stores were grumbling, but the move avoided leaks. Once the song finally was available, many people were airing out their thoughts on social networking sites. The majority of the songs were the trending topics on Twitter. This marketing strategy was totally different from Kanye’s approach during the way he handle his last solo in MDTF. In actuality, this approach may be mirrored by other artist in the future. This is the first release by the Chi-Town and Brooklyn dynamic duo. Both of these artist have a catalog that current rappers can only dream about. According to publish reports their relationship has not been the same due to some creative issues concerning their up and coming tour. Kanye will like to be flamboyant and spend an abundance amount of money on the tour with emphasis on the visual effects. Jay-Z is economically cautious, and will like to do without the bells and whistle. It is unclear if that little situation has been resolved. Here is the track listings and my thoughts:
“No Church in The Wild” featuring Frank Ocean. As soon as the guitar kicks in you will want to adjust your volume to deafening levels. Ocean’s laid back persona on the hook and Jay-Z’s and Kanye bragging about material things sets this up for the first song off the album. Here is a line from Jay- Z that made people stigmatize them as materialistic braggers: “Rolling in the Rolls-Royce Corniche. Only the doctors got this. I’m hiding from police; cocaine seats. All white like I got the whole thing bleached. Drug dealer chic. I’m wondering if a thug’s prayers reach. I can see why people will be annoyed especially during these economic times, but bragging about what you have in hip hop is nothing new. This is not all what this duo raps about throughout the entire album, despite what people may want to lead you to believe. I selected this track as one of my favorites, and Ocean’s star just got brighter.
“Lift Off” featuring Beyonce on the hook singing “We going to take it to the moon, take it to the stars”. This should not have followed behind a strong song like “No Church In The Wild”. Rumor has it Bruno Mars was originally supposed to have been on this one as well, but did not make the final cut. I guess they went for the radio friendly hit in this case. Do not be surprise if this will be released as the 2nd single.
“Ni*gas In Paris” is full of bass, and is another song on the bragging side. Jay Z spits “So I ball motherf*ckers want to fine me. First ni*gas got to find me. What’s 50 grand to a motherf*cker like me? One of Kanye’s lines in this track made me chuckle: “Prince William’s ain’t do it right if you ask me. Cause if I was him I would have married Kate & Ashley”. This track has a southern feel written all over it.
“Otis” featuring Otis Redding: evaluating this track now, clearly indicates this is one of the weakest out of the songs. I still love the way Otis Redding was sample. My major gripe is not the way Kanye and Jay -Z flows on this one. It is the fact that every hip hop artist known to man is free styling over this beat. It is getting so bad that Ne-Yo has decided to try to do something as well. Please stop!
“Gotta Have It” is a good witty lyrical track. Jay- Z rhymes about planking on a million. I like the verbal exchange between the two. This is produced by the Neptunes but the production is not their best.
“New Day” with Rza at the helms, the slickness of the Nina Simone sample makes this another one of my favorites. Kanye and Jay-Z discuss their future unborn son, and flow effortlessly. This is where the album gets a little more serious and deep in terms of lyrical content, minus the bragging. Kanye spits: And I’ll never let my son have an ego. He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go. I mean, I might even make ‘em be Republican. So everybody know he love white people. Jay Z counters: Sorry junior, I already ruined ya. Cause you ain’t even alive, paparazzi pursuin’ ya.
“That’s My B*tch” – This one has an old school beat to it and it is old because it was released sometime last year. nothing earth shattering concerning lyricism it is about their women. Kanye and Jay-Z flows cohesively on this one. Elly Johnson, and Charlie Wilson’s vocals on the track which outshines the song a bit.
“Welcome To The Jungle”. This track has been on repeat since I heard it. Swiss Beatz spanked the hell out of this record, and I believe this is one of his best beats that he has created in a while. Most of his beats have the recycle feel to it; not this one. Jay-Z rhymes: “I’m a tortured soul, I live in disguise. Rest in peace to the leader of the Jackson 5”.
“Who Gon Stop Me” If you do not know what a dub-step is, you will on this track. Jay-Z pretty much annihilated this song with an almost flawless flow. Cockiness is an understatement on this track, but really? Who is going to stop them?
“Murder to Excellence”: Another Swiss Beatz track, and the lyricism on this one is deep. They rhyme about black on black crime. This also switches up production at end, when they switch up the beat. S1 takes over the last part of the production.
“Made it in America” feat. Frank Ocean. I love this track, and another song with a message. Ocean sings: “sweet baby Jesus, we made it in America”. Ocean gives a shout out to our important figures in history. Kanye does the socially conscious thing but ends up throwing his cocky weight around toward the end of this gem.
“Why I Love You” featuring Mr. Hudson is the final song off the album if you did not buy the deluxe edition. What a way to end a album! Let it be known, Jay-Z was taking aim at someone, I’m sure my intelligent readers know exactly who. Mr. Hudson’s shines on this one, and Jay-Z delivers.
Deluxe Edition Tracks
“Illest Mothafu*ka Alive”: I did not know what in the world was going on, or was this just a long intermission. This track does not start until a good 3 minutes, so all you hear is complete and utter silence. It was designed that way, and I’m sure that was all Kanye’s doing. After I waited so long I was awarded with a great beat and Kanye was vintage on this one.
“H.A.M”: No explanation needed, it is still not the best track of the album but it was the single that got things buzzing.
“Primetime”: I love the piano in the background on this one and the baby giggle as well. Kanye addresses once again about his materialistic tendencies.
“The Joy” feat Curtis Mayfield: Another vintage College Drop Out Kanye flow on this track, which has the old school soulful delivery. Once I knew Pete Rock was involved in this production then I vibe off of this a little harder. One of my favorite lines by Kanye is: “So next time you see me on your fallopian. Though the jewelry’s Egyptian, know the hunger’s Ethiopian.”
In the conclusion both rappers take turns shining on various tracks. They are also not just rapping about material things despite what the naysayers are saying. I sometimes wonder did the critics listen to one song and figure since the duo was bragging initially that the entire album is that way. They have their flossing moments, but they also bring some socially conscious lyricism to the table that I can appreciate. They say things that some of today’s artist are afraid too or just do not have the talent level or intelligence to tackle. Jay-Z proves that being in the game this long did not produce wear and tear that would appoint him the “wash up” label. Kanye West arguably has the best starting catalog in hip hop history. It is funny that Jay-Z never wanted to give Kanye a record deal, but Damon Dash took a chance on him. Fast forward and they both make an album together and Dash is out of the picture. This is one of the best hip hop albums of the year thus far, and will remain that way until someone steps up and uses their artistic vision to good use. Kanye West and Jay-Z are either loved or hated on no matter what they put out. If you can place any potential bias away and focus on the music you will enjoy this album. So take a deep breath, embrace innovation because their aren’t any challengers out their in hip hop that can knock this duo off their throne.