Saturday, August 13, 2011

Whose Throne Are We Watching? A Review of "Watch The Throne" in Three Parts.

I. Internet Outrage

We here at Gheorghe: The Blog disapprove of platitudes. One of my least favorites is any sentence starting with "In today's economic climate ..." because it can be used to justify anything and, simultaneously, nothing.

There is some outrage on the internet regarding the in-your-face consumerism of "Watch The Throne." The arguments generally go that Jay-Z and Kanye West are acting irresponsibly when they brag about their wealth in today's economic climate. Ridiculous. For the following reasons.

First, Jay-Z is famous because he makes excellent songs bragging about how successful he is, either as a drug-dealer-turned-rapper, or as a drug-dealer-turned-rapper-turned-mogul. His discography is peppered with tracks about his mom or growing up without a father, but for the most part he is successful because he rhymes about his success (his success is thus self-perpetuating, which is why he's brilliant). This involves, in large part, describing his vast wealth in terms of the shit he can buy. He's been doing this for years. Hell, he started out with a song that concludes with "Pushin' hundred thousand dollar cars." And I love that song.

Now he's irresponsible for doing what he's been doing for 15 years? Shouldn't he stop bragging about how much crack he used to sell? Wouldn't that be responsible?

Second, when did we start expecting decorum and propriety from Kanye West?

Third, neither of these guys really owns most of the shit they rhyme about. For example, on "Who Gon Stop Me" Jay-Z has a line about "2 seats in the 911". A 911 has four seats.

Furthermore, neither makes enough to buy an island or a Gulfstream. Jay-Z made $37 million last year while Kanye made $16 million. That's A-Rod and AJ Burnett money, respectively. A-Rod doesn't own a fucking island. He lives in the building next to zsister-in-law, and the cheap bastard uses the gym in zsister-in-law's building (with Cameron Diaz; apparently it's a religious experience to see her in yoga pants). You think AJ Burnett owns a fucking Gulfstream? Please.

When Jay-Z rides in a Gulfstream it's the one owned by his record label. He's too smart to piss away $50 million on a plane, plus $1 million a year to pay for a pilot, fuel, maintenance, storage, and so on. He's supposed to be a genius businessman, and those guys don't fly on their own dime.

Fourth, since when did bragging and boasting about untrue shit become irresponsible in hiphop? For the record, The S1W's did not break Chuck D out of jail. Similarly, Chuck D and Rakim did not break KRS-ONE out of jail. Ad Rock didn't do it to the sheriff's daughter with a wiffle ball bat. Slick Rick never actually found crabs with spears and Indian drums in a woman's vagina. Kwame is not the man we all know and love.

Fifth, if you really want to get pissed off, you should take umbrage in the fact that an allegedly hard-boiled former crack dealer and his partner-in-rhyme are recreational shoppers. That's an effette passtime for two supposed badasses.

Sixth, who wants to listen to rhymes about austerity? Do you want 16 bars about buying rubbers using a flexible spending account ("I get my jimmy hats / 20 per box pre-tax")? Or saving money by riding a bicycle to the studio ("Keep my Ferrari at home / Take my Schwinn to the Terrordome")? Maybe a ditty about buying in bulk ("My girl knows I'm the boss though / She buys my steaks at Costco")?

No one wants to hear about that. Ask KRS-ONE, he already tried it. We would see a resurgance in "Edutainment" album sales if people expected fiscally responsible lyrics from their MC's. But we don't because they don't.

So stop trying to sound deep by making something out of nothing.

II. The Album

I didn't enjoy the album that much. Six tracks stand out: Otis, That's My Bitch, Murder to Excellence, Why I Love You, Primetime, and The Joy. The remaining tracks are heavy and plodding. There are a few great lines like "Rubbing the wood like Kiki Shepard," "She in her birthday suit cause of the damn cake," "Seeds in the ganja had it poppin like the sample that I'm rhymin' with," "I hit the club, ordered some Grey Goose / Switched it for Ciroc to give Puff’s stock a boost," and "Could have been a chemist cause I cook smart." But there were some clunkers too, like "Fly pelican fly" and "I need a slow motion video right now / Cause I’m moving in slow motion slow motion".

Basquiat is name-checked in two different songs, not sure why. "H-A-M," an acronym for Hard As a Motherfucker, is oddly reminiscent of Mickey Avalon's "My Dick" with a bizarre opera singer looped over top of it. "New Day," produced by the RZA, features an inexcusably autotuned Nina Simone sample. I love Nina Simone. She sang beautifully. There is no logical, sonic, or artistic reason to autotune Nina Simone. In producing the beat for "That's My Bitch," Q-Tip sampled "Get Up Get Into It Get Involved" and "Apache". He should have gone for the trifecta and worked in "The Big Beat" somehow.

I simply wasn't too impressed overall.

III. The Concept?

I may be giving Kanye and Hova too much credit, but I think that "Watch The Throne" could be a veiled concept album. Almost every track references another famous song by black artists. "Otis" reworks lines from "Top Billin". "That's My Bitch" samples "Get Up Get Into It Get Involved" in exactly the same way as "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" and quotes "Monie in the Middle". "Murder to Excellence" has lines that parallel "Nutmeg". "Gotta Have It" is almost the same title as "I Got To Have It," a great song by Ed O.G. and the Bulldogs. [Upon further review, "fly pelican fly" is a line from "Off the Books" by the Beatnuts.] And there are the obvious samples from classic soul artists like Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, and Nina Simone.

Perhaps the throne we're supposed to watch isn't Kanye's or Jay's, and instead it belongs to all the black musicians that came before them? Because without the efforts of those that came before, Jay-Z and Kanye wouldn't be able to buy all this fantastic stuff?

Wouldn't that be a pretty responsible message in today's economic climate?

54 comments:

rob said...

the diapering hasn't dulled the zman's razor sharp cultural observation skeelz. nicely done.

rob said...

dufner! bradley! pga championship action...it's faaaantastic!

Dave said...

nice work-- thanks.

now i've got a schema to invoke as i listen to the album (which i am doing right now, while i watch mexicans plant arbor vitae in my yard-- i am stuck at home "supervising" but my wife and kids are out-- so i can listen to profane hip-hop!)

Whitney said...

Nicely done, Zdude. I heartily second the notion that not only are these guys not the first hip-hop artists to incorporate boastful exaggeration about personal wealth, but that this is actually one of the primary foundations of the genre.

Early rap consisted of pretty much three classifications:

1. Rapping about hard times on the street.

"The Message"
"What People Do for Money"
"8 Million Stories"
"White Lines"
"It's Like That"
"Hard Times" (duh)

These paved the way for PE, Ice-T, NWA, etc.

2. Rapping about how awesome a rapper and how successful/wealthy you are.

"Sucker MC's"
"Roxanne, Roxanne"
"How Ya Like Me Now"
"The King of Rock"
"Request Line"
"Jam On It"
"Rapper's Delight"
Anything by LL Cool J

These paved the way for the Beasties, Eminem, and a lot of people Zman and Mark know better than I.

3. Rapping to be a goofball, just funny stuff.

"Cooky Puss"
"The Show"
Anything by the Fat Boys
I guess 2 Live Crew fits in here, if anywhere. [Not that vulgar misogyny is funny to everyone, but their album Move Somethin' certainly has its moments.]

These paved the way for Biz Markie, Digital Underground, the Tone Loc, early Beastie Boys, etc.


There are a few that don't fit this simplistic mold -- clever acts rapping about everyday people and random crap like Whodini, guys that paved the way for De La Soul, 3rd Bass, Young MC and others. And the Beasties have morphed themselves from #2/#3 into sometimes #1 and this other group.

Anyway, my point, if I must have one, is that so much of early hip-hop was based on bragging about fancy cars and caviar and airplane flights at huge heights. It was mostly bravado and bullcrap, but nobody cared. And if you think times were better for African-Americans and the American lower class during Reaganomics and trickle-down voodoo economics, dust off your Grandmaster Flash and have a listen to those good old times.

Dave said...

and then there's random idiots, who defy all archetypes:

johnny g. likes coco loco/
he's half black and half like yoko/ is his wang big or is it poco?

Igor said...

Dr. Seuss ain't no MD / but he's always into someone's pantieeeeeees

Squeaky said...

Mickelson looks like Grimace with that purple shirt.

Danimal said...

Just turning it on. Let of people in the mix....a dozen or so could win it.
On day 1 of vacation at mom in laws in Ohio. I never thought I'd say this but am tickled to be here. Am watching golf in solitude and haven't seen either of my kids in hours. I hope they're ok. I also took a nap.

rob said...

luke donald, man of the (hacking) people

rob said...

jason dufner went to auburn? fuck that guy.

Danimal said...

Furyk. .....Fuuuuuuuuck

Danimal said...

Dufner apparently spends a lot of time w V.J. An odd couple.

Ver. .....Plunk!

rob said...

anyone ever had plantar fascitis?

Squeaky said...

Yes. Change the way you run to a neutral style. google: pose running style

Thought I'd get the contest off to a start. I had about 15 minutes to spare today. So I whipped up this test track for the contest:
http://goo.gl/L5Qxa

It's not what you were expecting. Need more time to pull of the real submission.

Dave, send me the vocal track, please.

Almighty Yojo said...

i had plantar fascitis. roll a tennis ball or soup can under your foot and get some five-toes to strengthen your arch, but start real slow with the barefoot running.

listened to some of "throne" this morning, not terribly impressed, although i like the "planking" reference, and the meta moment where someone analyzes the obtuseness of the "going gorillas" lyric.

Danimal said...

What Dave said. New balance has a vibrams type shoe that looks more comfortable. Either or. Also dr Scholls I think sells an brace you can buy. You wear while sleeping. Keeps the tendons /ligaments stretched.

Danimal said...

It works for the clicker too.

Danimal said...

I love dufner's waggle

rob said...

tasty action at the pga. this thing is wide open.

rob said...

you guys think the skins should pick up haynesworth after the patriots cut him?

rob said...

keegan bradley, fellow vermonter and sox fan. go get 'em, kid.

rob said...

damn, dufner is locked in

Danimal said...

He is one smooth operator.

rob said...

you think he's gonna realize he's jason dufner?

rob said...

g'nite keegan

T.J. said...

D'oh Dufner

Danimal said...

Pretty nice to bogey a hole and extend your lead by a couple.

zman said...

Dufner is my identical torso twin.

Danimal said...

These guys are good.

Danimal said...

These guys are good.

T.J. said...

You fellas still watching, I hope...

zman said...

Playoffs are nifty.

Igor said...

That was a pretty great ending to a golf tournament. I don't know where Dufner's collapse ranks among the all-timers, but it made for great betting and drinking while I watched.

Igor said...

Hey, a question for the boozers among you. I mean the real hard drinkin' guys. Got a drink that's your go-to when you've been pounding like a maniac for 4 days or more and everything you're putting down is going down like broken glass? For me, when every one of my old stand-bys is failing me after a fortnight of fury, I can always rely on the Cape Codder - the vodka cranberry. Fresh and crisp, it has come through for me time and time again when beer, bourbon, and everything else are only adding to the heartburn, nausea, and general discontent. Not a manly drink, but it does the trick. Anybody else have a personal panacea like that?

rob said...

i had my first real dark n' stormy at my cousin's wedding a few weeks ago. that's a refreshing little number.

zman said...

Bourbon and Ginger. The Ginger ale settles my stomach.

zman said...

Or a Pimm's cup.

rob said...

research i'm doing suggests plantar fasciatis pain is generally felt in the heels. my pain is more in the balls of my feet, radiating into my toes. any ideas? where's kq when we need her?

in an unrelated item, if the sox must lose, i'm happy charlie furbush beat them.

KQ said...

hi rob! the fascia runs the length of the foot, but true that most feel it in the heel, or across the entire sole. i would be more concerned about the bones in your foot. i would see a podiatrist to be sure. could also be a ligament issue. lay off the running for a little while, try to be barefoot as much as possible, ice bath & arnica gel for pain. i haven't embraced the 5 finger shoes but that's mostly because they look ridiculous, but hey, if they work for you go for it. i know many who swear by them. just ease into them slowly.

in other news i'm going to see PJ20 in sept. i'll be happy to prepare a review.

Igor said...

Ooh, dark & stormy, great call when nothing else works. One of my favorites. Gosling's rules.

Rob, I hope your paws are on the mend. If you don't consult your big brother in the fraternity, he will be most disappointed.

KQ, meant to ask you - Do you know the gal who runs Urban Cottage in Duck? Dined with her recently in OBX, along with our pal Dream Weaver who delivers the wind report.

Danimal said...

Vanilla vodka and ginger....sometimes w a splash of cranberry. I call it the Danimal. A little furry one.

Squeaky said...

zima .. just kidding. I second the bourbon and ginger.

Rob, check out the new Merrill Trail Gloves. Got a pair. Same benefits as the five fingers but with an enclosed toe-box. They look like normal shoes. Great to run in and walk around in.

http://goo.gl/0xCrV

And just got back from the Neko Case and My Morning Jacket show. Go see them if you get the chance. Amazing concert. Very loud. Except for the encore when Neko came out and did a duet with Jimmy James of ... Islands in the Streams. Classic, out of left field.

KQ said...

Whit - met her a few times but don't know her well, worked on an event with her once. Really nice, has a pretty good gig going down there. Nice to know you're hobnobbing with some of OBX's finest.

Igor said...

KQ- yeah, she definitely seems to be enjoying life down there, both professionally and personally. I have logged more time in the Outer Banks this summer than in recent memory. Many trips to Tortuga's Lie. Last week I took in a performance at The Lost Colony.

Zman/Squeaker- bourbon and ginger is no good for me, the ginger is great but brown liquor on a bad stomach is broken glass. I need something with less taste, and Danimal's vodka & ginger fits the bill. A white Russian helps with the heartburn and acid reflux. But the Cape Codder still reigns for best recovery drink for me.

Squeaky said...

I know it's not a true Cap Codder but we told our 3 yr old son while on vacation on the Cape, he was drinking a Cap Codder when we mixed OJ and cranberry juice together. So now he walks around asking for a Cape Codder when he wants juice. Of course calling all juice Cape Codders has gone over really well at his daycare. Especially, when he tells all his 'teachers' daddy's favorite and only drink is beer.

Danimal said...

Apcl on cape codder. Pc stands for patrol car. Am currently on a ride along w my bro in law who fights crime in Ohio. Danimal is keeping the peace today people.

Danimal said...

Lights and sirens are on boys

Danimal said...

Ok....bro in law and backup cop guns drawn and in the woods looking for a man who w gun and firing. Gtb on the scene!

T.J. said...

Danimal's on an episode of "Cops: Ohio"

zman said...

Or he's on acid.

Mark said...

What happened to Danimal? Did he join in the chase? Has he been deputized? I'm intrigued.

Danimal said...

Am just finishing up this stop guys. A little anti climactic unfortunately. Young kid...22 with a brand new 22. One hour old in fact. Thought it would be neat to partake in some target practice on private property. Was told to beat it and made the unwise decision to continue. Onward I go. As the day gets older I am hoping for some more top notch action. Over.

Danimal said...

Who wants to send me their license plate number

mayhugh said...

Igor - I'm way late on your question, but I'd recommend to you for the next day four drink something similar to your go-to: the transfusion. Vodka, sprite and welches grape juice. Not manly, but very refreshing.