Last week, I reviewed Common’s latest album The Dreamer/The Believer and mentioned a track called “Sweet”, which goes directly at the jugulars of “soft” rappers.  Of course, the blogosphere and myself made plenty of jokes alluding to the fact that Common didn’t have to do Drake like that, as the Louboutin seemed to fit in terms of the song’s sentiments.  Jokes became reality as Common himself confirmed that yes, Drake could take offense to the track as well as any other rappers he labels as soft.  Personally, I thought of a few rappers that could have taken offense to the song.  It seems that these days, there are too many MCs trying to be singers and too many singers trying to be MCs.  That isn’t to say that you can’t walk the line, but to say you’re the greatest or dopiest doing it when there are clearly greater acts in both categories is off-base and deserves calling out.  It takes an established MC who isn’t worried about the politics or the possibility of working with the more popular artists in the game.  

This happened.

Of course, the Drake stans’ first plan of action is to point out Common’s age (39), as if that has any bearing on anything.  If anything, the fact that Common, like The Roots, can still release a critically-acclaimed album after so long in the game without pandering to mainstream audiences by a bunch of mismatched guest appearances and keeping up with the trends, speaks to longevity and a hard-working MC’s ability to remain relevant by staying true to his core audience.  The problem with many of the 90’s-babies calling themselves hip-hop fans today is that they came along long after hip-hop had merged with pop.  They’re not used to the word-of-mouth classic LP.  Disposable and current wins the day and some of them don’t even realize that a lot of what they call “hot” today will not be something they can whip out five years from now and still have a connection to.   Damn shame when hip-hop gets to a point when the youth claim a rapper is no longer relevant solely based on age and don’t commend the ability to keep making solid music after all these years, whether it’s their taste or not.

Why you mad, though?

As Common admitted on Shade 45 with Sway (see interview below), I also must say that Drake is a talented individual: not the best singer and not the best rapper, in my opinion, but he has a good ear for the contemporary and knows how to create what will sell.  That being said, if we’re talking superlatives, in terms of “best” and “greatest” in this here rap game, longevity rules.  The fact is, through all the faux sensitivity and crooning, Drake will never have the depth to make a “Retrospect For Life” or if we want to go back to Electric Circus, a “Come Close”.  Drake has yet to achieve anything close to Like Water For Chocolate, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, or a Be and frankly I don’t see it in the cards.  The depth is not there.  I’m almost mad that Common even addressed the supposed beef, as an MC of Common’s caliber “calling out” Drake is puzzling, to say the least.  While the younger set will say he’s “hating” or trying to get attention, it’s quite clear that Common is well aware his fans are cut from a different cloth than Drake fans and that  “Sweet” is the result of certain things needing to be called out in the game and it takes an artist with some history in the game to see it and point it out eloquently…or to just kick in the door and let folks know what’s what.

Though I’m a fan of Common, let’s be honest…the problem that has plagued his career and consideration among top MCs is his inconsistency.  Though it’s unrealistic to expect an artist to keep doing the same things for twenty years, a problem can arise when you stray so far into outer space that you lose your core audience (Electric Circus, anyone?).  Common is, however, an MC who will always be welcomed back warmly.  The Dreamer/The Believer marks a triumphant return for the Chi-town giant.  After two relatively (in this writer’s opinion) forgettable albums (Finding Forever and Universal Mind Control), Com is back to the balance and inspiration found on the stellar Be.  

Production was placed entirely in the very capable hands of No I.D., giving the album a sense of cohesion you don’t hear too much nowadays when guys are splurging for one or two tracks from a “hot” producer and delegate the rest to various unknowns, which can make for too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the sauce.

 Common seemed to apply some of the formula used on Be to craft a well-rounded album with something for everybody.  While the conscious Common is of course present and accounted for, Com also brings some edge on certain joints that’s just hard enough without contradicting himself.  On “Sweet”, Com goes directly for soft rappers’ jugulars, which can be viewed as a shot at a few specific people if you decide to take it that way.  It could also be general commentary on the current state of mainstream hip-hop.  “Ghetto Dreams” boasts a Nas feature and dropped this past summer, which would have probably been a better time for this album to drop, judging by the summertime vibe I get from a lot of it.  “Raw (How You Like It)” is just dope rhymes and no pretense.

While the familiar boom-bap of hip-hop’s roots is there, Common is also known for making beautiful music with depth, such as classics like “Retrospect For Life” or “G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition)”.  That, to me, has always been the appeal of Common’s music: still being able to spit with edge when necessary but to also be able to show spirit and free thought and put positive energy into the music as well.  “The Believer” with John Legend serves up some Black pride for the masses, while “The Dreamer” is a work of art that features the legendary Maya Angelou finishing with some spoken word.  I could really go through every track pointing out the artistry, but I’ll just say the album is worth a listen of your own.  “Gold”, “Cloth”, “Lovin’ I Lost” and “Windows” all make for an album that can be played front to back without a thought to skipping.

I could even see the art in the one song I didn’t like, which was “Celebrate”.  My beef with it lies solely in its syrupy hook, which does an injustice to the soulful loop and keys reminiscent of a Naughty By Nature party joint, namely “Uptown Anthem”.  Regardless, between choruses, the block-party feel of the song is still well-accomplished.  Common’s father, Lonnie “Pops” Lynn appears on the final track “Pops’ Belief” to drop some jewels.  

In short, Common won.  So in addition to getting busy on the acting tip in AMC’s Hell On Wheels, Common may very well have dropped one of the top five albums of the year.  Common’s an MC that more up and coming MCs should study.  He’s not an artist who has had to pander to mainstream audiences and dumb his art down in order to receive recognition.  He has put the work in over time to perfect his craft to a point that the product can’t be ignored and, though there have been some minor missteps, few can real argue against the influence and relevance of Common in the rap game now and in the long term.  Respect due.

Video: “Sweet” x Common

You’ve got to prepare to listen to a Roots album.  Off top, you know this isn’t gonna be the kind of album you’re gonna mindlessly put on while you’re getting dressed for the club or keep in the background while you’re rolling joints with friends.  Nah, you’re going to have to invest some quality time and attention to The Roots’ work.  This didn’t change with Undun, the band’s latest offering, the 13th studio album since they hit the scene in the early 1990s.

Undun is a concept album designed to chronicle the life of a fictional character named Redford Stephens.  One must question the decision to create a concept album in 2011, the a la carte era of music, where most listeners will simply purchase the tracks that sound good to them on iTunes or listen to the tracks out of order on a streaming music service like Spotify or Grooveshark.  The likely response to this question would be to consider the fact that The Roots is aware that fans of the band are not “most listeners”.

Honestly, I wouldn’t know this album was a “concept” album if I hadn’t known before playing it.  Each track really stands on its own and there isn’t too much cohesion…but I mean that in a good way.  There are some beautiful instrumental tracks toward the end that almost sound like music you’d hear between segments on NPR.  Before that, you get The Roots as you know them.  The usual players like Dice Raw, Truck North and Greg Porn make appearances, as well as folks like Bilal Oliver, who blesses “The Otherside” with a familiar Baby Huey-esque wail that accentuates and doesn’t overbear.  Phonte spits with Black Thought and Dice over the plodding piano on “One Time”, a track that’s almost instantly likable.  The introspective “Make My” features Big K.R.I.T. first up on the mic, lending a southern flavor that blends seamlessly.  While many of the tracks stand on their own, the entire picture is drawn when one listens to it in order, even as the songs vary in texture and don’t immediately seem to go together until you get to the end.  I’ll admit to not “getting” the picture they’re trying to paint in its entirety, but this is the kind of multi-layered project I’ll enjoy breaking down on future listens.

Though the group has become more popular since becoming the house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, The Roots has not done too much to distance itself from its core audience who were listening to them as far back as 1996’s Illadelph Halflife or even 1993’s Organix!  The Roots’ journey is one to be admired and reminisced upon.  Whereas MCs used to be underground for years at a time before they saw the light of mainstream appeal, many now take the quick road to stardom and unfortunately sacrifice the quality of the music in the process.  The Roots are a rare treasure, as they’ve flipped the usual script by not changing too much, but biding their time until people decided to give them a listen.  They’re a testament to hard work paying off by putting the time in to make your music the way you want to make it just long enough for people to say “what’s so great about The Roots”…and being pleased that they took the chance and hipped themselves to it.  Better late than never.  

The difference between a fan and a stan is simple when it comes to music.  A fan appreciates the music of a certain artist and will support them and put others onto it, but also remembers that they do not know this person.  A stan has deluded themselves into basically thinking the celebrity that they worship is beyond reproach and how dare anyone speak against them or critique their work.  A stan fails to see the flaws in anything the artist puts out, so can’t discuss their work intelligently.  They also fail to see any humor in ridicule of said artist, as they have romanticized them to a degree that makes you wonder if they keep a shrine at home.  If you will take time out of your day to angrily respond to a blog post or album review that disagrees with your opinion about an artist, you might be a stan.  You can disagree, but to immediately go in on the author and throw a bitch-fit over somebody else’s opinion when it’s 100% free to start your own blog and get your own ideas out there?  You might be a mark-ass buster-ass stan, dawg. 

This is how I see stans...

Everybody isn’t going to like what you like.  And that’s okay.  I don’t know what the f*ck a lot of you people are doing to your iTunes library and sometimes I think it’s unfortunate, but I’m not stopping you from listening to what you want to listen to.  On the same note, you can tell me what I like is wack and I can think you’re crazy, but one monkey don’t stop no show.  If you’ve got a valid point and can argue it intelligently, why would I not give the discussion a moment of my time?  And if you’re cracking jokes and it’s genuinely funny, why would I not laugh?

Example: I’m a fan of Raekwon.  However, that doesn’t mean that Rae’s yearbook photo will ever not be funny:

Yep…still funny.  Also, this…

Basically, nobody is above jokes or critique of their work.  Prince is an amazing entertainer and will always be remembered as such, but let’s not sit here and act like he didn’t put out some highly irrelevant work from time to time.  And let’s also not act as if the image Dave Chappelle put into our minds of Prince shooting hoops in a blouse isn’t funny as all hell, also. 

 Stans actually do the artist a disservice.  If you’re willing to accept any and everything an artist creates as without flaw, the artist will not see any reason to grow or progress and will continue releasing subpar work, or just work that isn’t as great as what they could be doing, had their fans been pushing them to improve.  So next time you think about jumping up to defend a celebrity who doesn’t pay any of your bills, channel your inner O-Dog, dawg…


Over the past week, it’s been interesting to read and hear some of the feedback from readers, followers, peers, and others about Wale’s Ambition, the MC’s sophomore effort and first official release on Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group.  It really warms the heart to hear people having debates that concern more than comparing one rapper to another.  No, there have been more points being brought up about artistic integrity and the business over art approach that artists tend to take in order to move units.

This is not a review.  I gave Ambition a few spins and decided it was not for me, for the most part.  There were some tracks I could get with, but many more I couldn’t.  One of my pet peeves when listening to hip-hop studio albums is when I can listen to an album and, track for track, can tell where an artist said:

“Yeah, this one’s for the bitches” (Wale went OD on this particular one for Ambition)

“Yeah, this one’s for the club”

“Yeah, this one’s for the radio”

This was all too apparent on Ambition.  I’m not sure what I expected, though, since his debut, Attention Deficit didn’t get much play in the ride, either.  Thing is, I happen to live in DC, where Wale had a presence on mixtapes while my friends back home on the west coast were saying “who the fuck is whale?”  I was actually a big advocate for him as an artist.  Then he got signed.  Then came “Chillin'” (Lady Gaga?  You serious?), which to me marked the “welp…respect don’t pay the bills” point in Wale’s career.  And that’s okay…teenyboppers need some music to Dougie to in their tapered skinny jeans and what-not.  Just admit that respect isn’t what you’re here for as an artist.  Admit that you’re not here for props.  Doesn’t seem like Wale got that memo, though.  The guy will rant and rave on Twitter about people’s opinions of him as an artist as if he were a passionate, hungry, young MC and then proceeds to put out “I’m just here for my check” records. 

There’s a big difference between wanting an artist to keep making the same music forever (illogical) and wanting an artist to show progress throughout his career (perfectly sensible).  A true artist can keep his original fan base and still rope in new listeners through crafting quality music and putting in good old-fashioned hard work.  That isn’t to say that Wale is or isn’t a “true artist”, just that Ambition sounds like pandering for crossover appeal and airplay and Wale has potential to be above the need to do that. 

I’m no hip-hop purist.I honestly want better for not only him but for today’s hip-hop.  With all of the resources at our fingertips thanks to technological advances, there are still those who have no desire to seek out anything that isn’t being spoon-fed to them by urban radio. 

One of my favorite Wale joints off of Paint A Picture: Mary Mary x Wale

One of the joints off the new album I actually liked: Double M Genius x Wale

Phonte is the type of artist you’re glad to have in your iPod and don’t necessarily mind if nobody else does.  You might not reccomend his music to all of your friends, just the ones who have taste…the ones who expect a little more out of music.  The same can be said of the two groups Phonte has been a member of: Little Brother and Foreign Exchange.  Though you want the artist themselves to do well, it’s the type of music you almost don’t want to get too popular for fear of it losing its integrity and its quality in the process.  Phonte’s debut Charity Starts At Home is like proof that Phonte is probably not the artist who will blow up all crazy and sacrifice quality in doing so.  That is, if Phonte himself or the buying public elect for him “blowing up” in the traditional sense.

It’s easy to appreciate the production as much as the rhymes.  9th Wonder surprisingly appears on four of the 12 tracks, but the other producers get just as busy.  For example, Fatin 10 Horton produced “We Go Off”, which features Pharoahe Monch exchanging bars with Phontigga over a beat reminiscent of Little Brother’s heyday, similar to “Eternally” which features Median.  Elzhi appears on “Not Here Anymore”, a joint with a soulful hook and chock full of rewindable lines.  

“The Life Of Kings” is a thoughtful, jazzy 9th joint that boasts Phonte in the company of the very capable Evidence and Big K.R.I.T.  Phonte meshes well with all of his guest artists in the sense that they’re complimenting him and not the other way around or overshadowing him altogether.  Some of the best tracks are Phonte holding it down dolo, though.  “The Good Fight” is a track that briefly touches on job loss and the economy, flying in the face of mainstream hip-hop’s all-out denial of these things going on in the world.  

“Everybody prays for the day they see the light / but the light at the end of the tunnel is a train” – Phonte “The Good Fight”

There’s a strong soul element to Charity Starts At Home, with a lot of tracks being joints you could easily play for your woman when you’re in that smoothed-out state of mind.  Eric Roberson appears on “Who Loves You More” to lend vocals, while “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” featuring Carlitta Durand, is almost a pure new soul joint that only features a verse from Phonte.  “To Be Yours” is a piano-laced interlude that probably should have been longer.  However, Charity Starts At Home is masterful in its brevity: twelve tracks without any unnecessary components or uncalled-for intros or interludes.  

“They say the streets turn niggas into sinners / but them jail cells be turning niggas into dinner / so they sing in the summer, be home by the winter / interrogation room be turning niggas into tenors”  – Phonte, “Who Loves You More”

What I appreciate about this album overall is its honesty.  I like Rick Ross just as much as the next open-minded hip-hop fan, but I’d question a person who could listen to that type of music all day, every day, without any soul or anything different thrown in for good measure.  Can’t be pouring Ciroc on model bitches every night…some nights you might just wanna sip a brew after a long day at work.  Phonte speaks to those of us who want something more; those of us who have steady jobs, children, and some responsibilities…and does all of this while still making fun records and not preaching.  Granted, this may not be your cup of tea and it’s definitely not for everyone, but “for everyone” isn’t something I give much weight to when determining quality music. 

Rating: BUYABLE + Attend the live show

Not Here Anymore x Phonte f. Elzhi


The Life Of Kings x Phonte f. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T.



Okay, people.  I really tried to sit down and give an unbiased listen to this album.  I really opened up WordPress with the intention of writing a solid, thoughtful review.  However, the more One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, mixtape-freestyle-level federal-assistance bars this man Li’l Wayne dropped on the first several tracks I listened to, the more I came to an unfortunate realization.  I can’t very well put more thought and effort into writing a serious album review than Li’l Wayne himself put into making a serious album that his fans (this does not include me) have been anticipating.

Wayne and his fans tout him as the best rapper alive, but how do you claim this if your music declines in quality over time and you show no maturity or evolution over the span of your career?  Basically, he evolved into a rich toddler.  Wayne is a 28-year-old grown man and is still to this day (on studio album #9) kickin’ Romper Room raps like there’s no tomorrow.  Let’s get into a few of these anemic bars:

Really, Wayne? You’re “going in like your water broke”?

Really, Wayne? They left you out to dry like a towel rack?

Really, Wayne? You’re all about your riches so your name should be Richard?

When it Waynes, it pours?!?!?!  Really, Wayne?  Really, Wayne?

Weezy F. Baby. The F stands for Fuckouttaheeeeere...

I can’t believe his fans are really about to be okay with this project.  I mean, I guess you can get anything past people who condone their favorite rapper screaming Blood gang whilst rocking vermillion skinny jeans.  I would think a prison bid would have given this man time to think a little bit and master his art a little more, but all these raps tell me is that Wayne probably had a Nintendo Entertainment System in his cell with one game: Bubble Bobble.  Dwayne had two books in his cell during his entire sentence judging by these bars: Harold & The Purple Crayon and Goodnight Moon.  There was no personal growth, no reflection, no Eye of the Tiger style preparation for his ability to get free and back in the studio…just a whole lot of pushups and he mighta learned origami or flipped through some Archie comics.

The sad thing about the Carter 4 is that the only things that make the album listenable or noteworthy have nothing to do with Wayne himself.  Every rapper featured on the album (yes, even Aubrey Graham) make an example out of him on each track.  Andre 3000 waltzed into the studio in a bow tie and gaberdine slacks and made a grandson out of you on your own joint; how’s that feel?  Tech N9ne probably rocked a Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat outfit to the studio and embarassed you, Dwayne.  I can’t recall any album in recent memory where the best tracks are the interlude and outro and I definitely can’t remember any previous album from a solo artist where the best tracks don’t even feature that artist.  On top of all this, the production is pretty damn good.  Too bad Wayne didn’t do anything but smear some primary colors on these canvases.

On a sidenote, Dwayne…get ya man Juelz and do that collaboration album y’all were talkin’ about 16 years ago or some such shit.  I don’t think anybody wanna see him doubting himself like this…


Couldn’t resist:

The Game represents a conundrum many consumers of culture face in the modern day: in the information age, we know way too much about celebrities and their personal lives and everyday emotions.  Not only do we have more access to celebs than ever before; they also have more access to us, via emotionally-charged Twitter rants, blog posts, video blogs, DVDs nobody really asked them to make, etc.  The Game is one such rapper: a talented MC who is unfortunately known more for his feud with 50-Cent and company than for his actual output.  I’m born and raised in California, so when Game first appeared I was appreciating seeing the west coast back on the scene, but the more Game’s personality emerged, the more I distanced myself from him as an artist.  Though musically I felt he was talented, and still do, his material has always been plagued by his now-trademark incessant name-dropping and constant whining about his estrangement from mentor Dr. Dre and issues with Interscope and 50.

The R.E.D. Album is like a slow re-structuring of Game’s whole approach to music, though transition is not complete yet.  The usual issues still pop up, only peppered in amongst quality music and decent choice of guest stars here and there.  The elephant in the room here is the re-appearance of Dr. Dre like a wayward father, providing vocals on several interludes as well as the track “Drug Test” along with Snoop Dogg and Sly, an appropriately West-Coast club banger also co-produced by Dr. Dre along with DJ Khalil.

Kendrick Lamar without question steals the show on “The City” with a stellar verse and hook contribution.  “Heavy Artillery” brings us the Rick Ross we’re used to and the Beanie Sigel we’ve been wanting since The Roc fell apart some time ago.  “Paramedics” is a frantic joint that Young Jeezy should have probably tried to put on his mixtape from a few months ago, considering his contribution here is better than anything I’ve heard from him in a while.

The mournful “Ricky” has a cinematic feel to it and is probably one of the best tracks on the album, but might have been better if Game had stuck to a specific topic or linear storyline as opposed to just arbitrarily rhyming.  “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” provides that storytelling missing on “Ricky” with Game adopting a whole other flow for the time being.  This is the stuff of vets; changing up the flow and subject matter adds texture to the project so the listener isn’t hearing the same “look I can rhyme” 16s on every track, but hearing new approaches to keep the interest there.  “Born In The Trap” is produced by the legendary DJ Premier, who predictably gets busy on the boards.  If only Game could have avoided dropping the name of every single rapper with a record contract on this track, this would have been a highlight.

The Game’s gang affiliation is no secret and is even more prevalent on this album and at the same time it’s even more questionable.  On “Red Nation” and “Martians vs. Goblins”, Game joins forces with fellow Hollywood-Blood Li’l Wayne for a bunch of questionable flag-waving (what kind of Blood says “when I’m with my uncle, fuck it, then I’m a Crip too”?).  On the latter, Tyler the Creator shows up to spit some trite, unnecessary-expletive-ridden and predictably homophobic shock-rap over what’s coincidentally a pretty dope No-ID track with Game emulating his style to lackluster results.  Kind of a waste, in my opinion.  “Red Nation” might have been worth a damn if anybody really took either rapper’s affiliation to the Bloods seriously…and if this was ’92 and anybody cared.

May need more people.

Game puts the guns and the bandana away on a few tracks to mixed results.  “Hello” featuring Lloyd goes overboard with the “take you out the hood and buy you everything in the world, girl” Captain Save A Ho rhymes, with Game dropping every single brand name he could think of just like he usually does with MCs.  Lloyd’s vocals are just way too predictable and terry-cloth soft.  “Pot of Gold” featuring Chris Brown is so cheesy it made me uncomfortable, just like when the Game was rocking a red mohawk.  I understand the motivation to move units, but there’s a line between mainstream appeal and just making rap songs that sound like they came straight off the One Tree Hill soundtrack.  Where The Game does the crossover properly is “All The Way Gone” featuring Mario and fellow emotional rapper Wale, where the rhymes actually compliment the syrupy backdrop instead of sounding copied-and-pasted.  I’ve never been a Drake fan, but the pairing with Game on “Good Girls Go Bad”,which sounds like a knockoff Kanye track, is actually not bad. 

As far as studio LPs go, The R.E.D. Album isn’t as bad as most people expected and Game might be back on the radar for the time being.  You take the good with the bad: the records where the artist is actually spittin’ along with the records where he’s trying to reach the women and the party scene.  Though it’s clear The Game hasn’t listened to the criticism over the years and made the changes he needs to, it’s clear he’s putting more effort into making quality music.  If only he’d allow us to see more of his lyricism and less complaining, flag-waving and name-dropping, hip-hop heads could begin to take him somewhat seriously, all butterfly tats aside.

 Ricky x The Game

The City x The Game f. Kendrick Lamar


People have forgotten how to listen to a hip-hop album.  In 2011, hip-hop fans have become accustomed to gauging a new album’s worth based more on the span between announcement of the project and actual release and, in this age of free music, whether or not it’s worth a buy.  Regarding the latter, an album has to basically move mountains to be worthy of a purchase, what with it being as effortless as a bodily function to acquire said album.  It’s also the era of the a la carte album…buy what you want, leave the rest.  That being said, there are a number of factors that will cloud most people’s perceptions of Watch The Throne, the product of an epic collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West.  I decided to listen to the whole thing front to back as opposed to

Watch The Throne can best be described as an event.  Jay and Ye succeeded in building just the right amount of anticipation for what turned out to be a pretty solid album, yet an album plagued by the hype machine that inspires fans to expect the gates of heaven to open as soon as they hit play. 

“No Church In The Wild” features Frank Ocean and succeeds in setting a sort of tone for the album, but unfortunately that energy falters once you hit “Lift-Off”, which is an accomplishment in terms of production, but Beyonce’s over-the-top vocals add a cheesy, Bond film theme song element to the track.  I almost expect a Kidz Bop rendition of this song to come out in a few months.  Luckily, “Niggas In Paris” and “Gotta Have It” make up for that misstep, giving you a little more of what you might have wanted/expected out of the project. 

As explained throughout the song, RZA joins the team on “New Day”, a mellow joint that attempts to strike some of the same chords as Jay’s “Beach Chair”, but doesn’t quite reach far enough.  Nevertheless, comparisons aside, as it should be, this is a dope song.  “That’s My Bitch” is almost purely disposable in my opinion, but may suit the palates of some.  Like all of the songs on the album, even for tracks you don’t like you still have no choice but to respect the talent behind the boards.  I’d even go so far as to say that an instrumental version of the album needs to be released ASAP.  The replay value would increase exponentially.   

I almost turned to the next track as soon as I heard Swizz Beatz’ voice on “Welcome To The Jungle”.  Like how and why are people allowing his tired vocal contributions into the recording booth?  He represents a personal pet peeve of mine,  but for the sake of giving the album a fair listen for review’s sake, it’s actually a decent track.  I suppose “Murder to Excellence” and “Made In America” constitute the socially conscious portion of the album, but came across as skip material to me, particularly with Frank Ocean’s unnecessarily sugary vocals on “Made”.   I grew to like “Why I Love You” after a couple of listens (I give everything a full 3 listens before reviewing it), but “Primetime” and “Illest Motherfucker Alive” (bonus tracks) could have easily replaced “Lift-Off” or “That’s My Bitch” as regular tracks.

There are a few fumbles here and there, but I don’t think it does the listener any good to sit there and pick an album apart for what it isn’t as opposed to appreciating it for what it is.  This project from these two artists doesn’t surprise me, but this level of artistry from any artist should be refreshing.  In an era of stale LPs and stellar mixtapes, West and Jay dropped an album that can be described as dope…buyable if people still really bought albums like they used to.  Perfect?  By no means…but how many albums can really be played straight through with no missteps or tracks that don’t appeal to you specifically as a listener?  And if you can think of two, how common does that make such an occurrence?  Quite simply, if you didn’t like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye, then you won’t like Watch the Throne Kanye.  If you haven’t cared for Jay-Z’s creative direction over the past few projects, then don’t expect Blueprint or Reasonable Doubt Jay to appear here.  However, there’s no pandering for new audiences or conforming to sell units in my opinion…just two artists trying to expand the artform based on what was palatable to their seasoned ears.  As usual in their respective solo careers, Jay and Ye set the trend and at the same time make it impossible for others to successfully follow behind.  Whether you can get into it or not, this is the kind of different that’s good.  Some will make it out to be more than what it is, while some will unfairly deem it trash, whatever the motive may be for such a judgment.

Personally, I’m grateful.  Not dumbfounded by the excellence of it or by any reinvention of the wheel (this was not that), just grateful for something to add to the collection.

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