4:44 Is Incredible For Music, But Streaming Exclusivity Is Not

While this won’t be everyone’s fight, this is the hill I’m willing to die on, so come at me. It’s only natural that the majority of music consumers will simply eat however they’re fed. The path of least resistance is always the most frequently traveled and I get that. I just feel too strongly for the art to allow business to get in the way of my ability to consume the music the way I want to in the long run. While it’s a great move for Jay himself (the business/man), I think he’s setting a dangerous precedent by going the exclusivity route with not only 4:44, but with his entire discography aside from a few exceptions (Streets Is Watching soundtrack, anyone?).

Continue Reading

Young Fan’s Game: A Perspective On Ageism In Hip-Hop (by Juliet Gomez)

On Friday, June 30th, Jay-Z is releasing his fourteenth studio album, 4:44. Before its announcement, mysterious signs with the numbers “4:44” were popping up all over New York, including a full screen ad in Times Square. From there, the speculation began and a hope was born among fans, old and new. Were we FINALLY getting another Jay-Z album? When it was confirmed that the 4:44 ads were in fact promotion for his album, there was a mixed response. Elation from his fans tempered by ambivalence or disinterest from the folks who don’t get down with Hova. And, with reason, a bit of nervousness hangs in the air. Those who love Hov have been disappointed with his recent releases and so are managing their (ok, fine, our) expectations appropriately.

With his album release announcement, there was something else that crept into the broader discussion, though. Unsurprisingly, the intolerance for older hip-hop heads creating, consuming, and taking up space in hip-hop made its appearance. It’s been questioned whether a father, a husband, and a rapper who is just a cup of coffee away from 50 has anything interesting to say.

Continue Reading

Why Streaming Exclusivity Doesn’t Quite Make Sense To Me

B7r9F4qIMAAbP5y.jpg large

I haven’t been interested in new Drake material since 2009’s So Far Gone. For those that know my writing, it’s no surprise that I’m still not interested, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared that I once was. My little sister actually put me on to Drake’s Comeback Season mixtape back in ’07 and I liked it so much I told everyone I knew about it. This was back when he was making records with the likes of Dwele and Little Brother and not jacking the style of an entire region every other song. Nevertheless, I’m still a rap critic of sorts, so I find it necessary to listen to everything I can, especially since Drake is one of the most (I hate that I’m saying it and you’re gonna hate that I’m using the word) important rap artists of the decade. Granted, that isn’t saying much for rap’s current crop of fans, but I digress. Drake’s Views album dropped today, but is available exclusively on Apple Music and iTunes. While it’s unclear whether the album will remain restricted to just Apple availability, it’s difficult to understand from an artist’s standpoint why this new tactic makes any sense other than to appease the powers that be (Apple, Tidal).

I canceled Apple Music about a week ago. I had meant to do it months before, but just got around to it recently. The same thing happened with Google Music, though as an Android loyalist, I still buy music I can’t find on Spotify from the Play store as opposed to iTunes for convenience’s sake. I gave up on Apple Music due to the inability to embed playlists onto my blog, which was a deal-breaker for me. I was an early adopter of Spotify and have been using it to embed playlists and the occasional single song onto my blog for some time now. Other than that glaring omission and the lack of any real social aspect (because who doesn’t like to silently judge their friends for listening to Nickelback or the likes of Rae Sremmurd on Spotify), Apple Music was a beautiful service. I also tried Tidal during its debut month, but canceled within a week, quickly identifying it as utter rubbish in a shiny wrapper – I once wrote that it was the Emperor’s New Clothes of streaming services, a vanity project that only served to show how out of touch Jay-Z and friends truly are with the average music fan. It was clear very quickly, I’m sure, to the numbers folks at Tidal that:

  1. Nobody gave a fuck about what artists make per stream, and
  2. Nobody gave a fuck about the edge in sound quality Tidal was claiming to offer.

Third – the app is trash, fam. You’re charging people more than Spotify or Apple, yet lack a desktop client, the ability to upload your own music to listen to via the app, any social aspect, or really anything the other services don’t offer, aside from “exclusive concerts”, which I’m also sure nobody gave a flying fig about. So instead of heading back to the lab to come up with a better product, the bunglers at Tidal decide “hey, we’ll just hold some popular musicians’ music hostage and they’ll have no choice but to subscribe” (Tidal also offers no “free” tier of membership). This seemed to work at first when Kanye decided to drop The Life Of Pablo this year and Tidal was happy to report the number of people who had subscribed that week, but they conveniently failed to report the number who had unsubscribed once the free trial had ended or at the end of one or even two payment cycles. What was absolutely rich though was the staggering number of people who took to the torrents to download the album illegally. A mere two days after release, Torrent Freak reported a whopping 500,000 downloads from BitTorrent and was the most popular download on Pirate Bay.

All of you may not remember the struggle of pirating music from Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, or Frostwire, but we old-timers (allegedly) used to go through hell trying to get albums free and sometimes early and none of it was very convenient (though at the time, it was the best thing in the world for people who would have otherwise got stoned, went down music’s memory lane and woke up to a $60 iTunes receipt for purchasing random Stevie B or Blue Oyster Cult records). It was the Internets equivalent to walking five miles in the snow to get to the soda fountain or whatever the fuck your Paw Paw used to talk about. When streaming came about, ex-Limewire experts who had graduated to torrenting elsewhere were able to give out a collective sigh of relief because for a lousy ten bucks a month, one could have convenient access to damn near everything they wanted to hear – ever. No more having to unzip folders, check if they were legit, transfer to iTunes, then go through the epic hell of having to rename all of the songs therein to fit within your iTunes library or wherever you store your tunes. You’ll feel me if, like me, you feel like a clean music library is neck and neck with godliness.

For many of those same people to return to torrenting to get ahold of the Kanye album should show just how unappealing Tidal is to anyone with any modicum of savvy. Sure, you might snag subscriptions from the relentless Stans and/or people not particular about their music apps, but you’re missing out on an unidentifiable mass of casual fans and people who just want to use whatever app they’re most comfortable with to play music. And the thing is – they’re going to find a way to get your album in some fashion and you won’t even get the credit for the stream. Why? – because you wanted “control”.

When the awful news broke that Prince had died, fans like myself were stuck at work without access to their favorite Prince videos or songs to binge-enjoy. Within a few hours, though, the Internets were silently buzzing with Dropbox folders a-flying. With semi-obvious names like “Purple Doves”, people who weren’t willing to subscribe to Tidal were sharing music the old way, albeit the illegal one, like it or not. While I understand that people want to respect Prince’s wishes about access to his music, Prince was also notoriously Internet-shy and I doubt he had a real grasp on how the average web-savvy music head operates or how the plugged-in youth consume music. Despite their infinite access to almost everything in music history, many just don’t care about anything that’s older than five years and if they do, they’re not bending over backwards (clicking a YouTube link) to go find out about it. The sad thing about the latter group of music fans is that making music inaccessible to them will only ensure that that music dies along with the older generations that popularized it and who remember it fondly. It’s a shame in Prince’s case, considering how well Purple Rain stands to this day as a perfect album, one that could come out today and still be called a flawless record, even by smart music fans who weren’t born until over a decade after its release.

The competition between streaming services shouldn’t be about who can get what artist. The competition needs to be who can build the better, more intuitive apps. The way things are set up currently, the end user loses. The slow-witted uber-dedicated will pay for more than one app just to have access to one or two artists, some will find ways to access the music they want and get it on the app they like, and others will just ignore albums they don’t have access to altogether (this is what I did with the most recent Adele album, since “Hello” was available on Spotify – I’ll just assume there’s nothing good on the album because I refuse to seek it out to transfer to Spotify). People listen to music in different ways. As a music writer, I want to be able to both hear music without having to pay for every single record and also share it with my network and readers conveniently. Some people just want to stream whatever an app is willing to spoon-feed them. The streaming services should be building out their services to fit the most needs possible instead of trying to hold their artists’ releases hostage.

 

Continue Reading

Front-Free’s Best Music Of 2013

YearEnd

I can’t tell you what was “hot” in 2013 or why people considered it “hot” aside from me wanting to set some of these so-called top notch albums on fire.  If you notice, a lot of the music blogs and websites that do “Best of 2013” lists exclude mixtapes and only list LPs you can buy off iTunes like upstanding American citizens.  You may think this is because mixtapes “don’t count” when discussing albums, but some of the most complete projects (at least in hip-hop) to drop in the last few years have been mixtapes and they’re more than fit for the challenge of standing next to LPs.  So the reason they aren’t included isn’t because they don’t compare, but because they’re free.  If no money exchanges hands, then how can one hand wash the other between the for-purchase bloggers/site owners and the major labels?  Music blogs are the next evolution of the payola system.  People realize urban radio is no longer a taste-maker for the discerning listener, so this role has shifted to bloggers, but the blog game is looking more like urban radio every day…

Anyway, I don’t listen to music for the purpose of saying this album’s better than that one, so this list will not be in any particular order, but I do think it’s important to let my readers know what I thought was dope in 2013 in case they missed something I raved about or in case I forgot to mention something I was feeling until now.  Hopefully, you’re able to check out something you slept on this year and if you thought there was something dope I missed that I didn’t already deride at some point, post it in the comments section.  Let’s discuss.

Action-Bronson-Party-Supplies-Blue-Chips-2

  • Blue Chips 2 x Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Any follower of Front-Free knows I’m a big supporter of Action Bronson.  Part of his appeal is that he does great work with a number of different producers and each time, the chemistry is different.  With Party Supplies, you’re probably getting Bronson at his most experimental, gettin’ busy on tracks that are at times clearly unorthodox for a rap project and sound more like the score for a 1970s Blaxploitation flick (see “I Adore You”).  Those still calling Bronson a Ghostface knock-off are at this point just not listening because the man has clearly put himself in a lane occupied only by himself.  Download Blue Chips 2 for free here.marci_b_cover
  • Marci Beaucoup x Roc Marciano – Roc Marciano has been on a hot streak for those looking for an alternative to the paper-thin quality of mainstream hip-pop.  Though subdued in the energy he gives off, Roc is no slouch when it comes to clever wordplay and imagery.  Marci Beaucoup is one of his finer recent projects.  On the appropriately soulful “Soul Music”, Roc brings along A.G., best known as one part of D.I.T.C., which to me speaks to Roc’s appreciation for hip-hop and ear for an authentic sound.  Cop it on iTunes.Haim-5
  • Days Are Gone x HAIM – It’s not pretentious.  It’s not angsty.  It is, however, fun and refreshingly light and, dare I say, girly in the vein of Pat Benatar.  I can’t carry this particular energy with me on a daily basis, but I have a great respect for the authenticity I hear in their work and was impressed with the production value.  My wife put me onto this band a long time ago and I fronted for a couple months before giving it a spin, but I’m never one to not give props where they are due.  Cop it on iTunes.
  • Orange Starburst Baboon x Oscar O’Malley – I love EPs.  This particular one is almost disappointingly short, but given the density of O’Malley’s rhymes, it isn’t impossible to listen to the five tracks over and over again and find something new each time.  The ODB-sampling “Ol’ Dirty Snorlax” breathes fresh life into “Brooklyn Zoo” a Wu classic that would under any other circumstance be nearly untouchable.  Download it here for free. sza-650
  • S EP x SZA – I slept on SZA until very recently when I caught her feature on Isaiah Rashad’s “Ronnie Drake“.  While her most alluring work to date, to me, remains the unattached “Teen Spirit”, the S EP dropped this year and is evidence of how unique this artist is.  Throughout S, SZA comes across with an almost uncomfortable vulnerability.  Quite the refreshing project.  Download it here for free.earl-sweatshirt
  • Doris x Earl Sweatshirt – When all the hypebeasts were sniffing after Odd Future, I was checking it from a distance and hoping these guys would eventually grow out of their shock-rap phase.  Earl, easily the most critically acclaimed of the bunch, has clearly matured a little, relying more on actual skills than saying the most offensive thing possible.  Sweatshirt even acknowledged the progression saying “I hope I lose you as a fan if you only fuck with me because I rapped about raping girls when I was 15”.  He also was hopeful of gaining new ones based on the growth and I’m excited to say he accomplished that goal, as I’m eager to see what he’s got in the works for 2014.  Cop it on iTunes. jayz-6.21.201311
  • Magna Carta Holy Grail x Jay-Z – I’m old enough to think fondly of Reasonable Doubt and must admit that when I heard Timbaland and Pharrell, etc. would be producing MCHG I was disappointed.  However, if anyone has mastered growing up as an MC, it’s Jay-Z.  Maybe being married with a kid makes me appreciate Jay’s situation a little more, but life isn’t the same now as it was for Jay when RD dropped, nor should he rap like it is.  Cop it on iTunesstatik-selektah-extended-play
  • Extended Play x Statik Selektah – This album made me remember what it was like to unwrap a new DJ Clue mixtape back in the early 2000s.  Statik called in a rack of favors on this one, making unlikely pairings like Mac Miller and Sean Price (“21 & Over”) actually work.  Prodigy puts down the solo banger “Pinky Ring” while on “Camouflage Dons”, the veterans Smif-N-Wessun join the newcomers Flatbush Zombies.  There’s a lot going on here and that’s basically what mixtapes used to be when DJ Clue, Funk Flex, and Kay Slay were putting out regular compilations as opposed to arguing over Nicki Minaj singles on-air.Willie_The_Kid_Aquamarine-front-large
  • Aquamarine x Willie The Kid – Hands down, the dopest artwork on anything released within the past couple of years as far as I know.  Willie the Kid is an easy MC to ignore because of his mundane name choice and unassuming image, but he’s a rapper’s rapper with an impeccable flow and a great ear who I’d ignored for too long before AquamarineDownload it for free here.

  • SHE x Alice Smith – If this were released yesteryear and I had SHE on cassette, repeated plays of Smith’s CeeLo cover “Fool For You” alone would have made this tape pop in the player.  In what was otherwise a boring year for R&B, Alice Smith came out of left field with a deeply soulful album that is a throwback to when people worried less about glamour and more about getting some hurt or joy off of their chest and onto a record.  Cop it on iTunes.Prodigy++Alchemist
  • Albert Einstein x Prodigy & Alchemist – I have mixed feelings about Prodigy as a solo artist, considering his nasal, at-times-monotonous flow, but Alchemist is a capable enough producer for his production to compliment P’s flow almost like an actual rhyme partner.  The dense soundscape becomes its own multi-layered contribution and comparison to P’s plainly-delivered, murder-laced narratives and braggadocio.  On “Bible Paper”, Alchemist himself reminds you he can rhyme, too and also shows off on the boards.  Cop it on iTunes.retch-psg
  • Polo Sporting Goods x Retch – This is one reason I waited so late to drop this list.  In the last few days of 2013, Retch dropped his own mixtape produced entirely by Thelonious Martin.  Martin himself is the silent star here, producing a seriously dope set of tracks that showcase newcomer Retch’s style perfectly.  Download/stream it for free here.Beyonce-Album-2013-750x400
  • Beyonce x Beyonce – Some critics get so jaded to the pop machine that they can’t even recognize pop music that’s been done well.  There was a time when pop was actually respected because artists put in actual work to make it as opposed to following a formula composed of what will sell for sure.  While Beyonce could literally sneeze on a track and it would sell, it’s clear she has no plans of getting lazy any time soon.  While it isn’t something I got a whole lot of play out of (I’m far from its target audience), I found it enjoyable and I’m glad this was done to set a benchmark for what pop and R&B artists should be striving for.  While a little silly and trite at times, the music wasn’t disposable and the astute listener can tell there was a vision to this album that was achieved without having to watch all of the accompanying videos (I didn’t).  Cop it on iTunes.131007-boldy-james
  • My 1st Chemistry Set x Boldy James – I’ve never understood the problem people seem to have with MCs who tend to rap almost exclusively about one topic.  Usually, this complaint is directed at “drug rap”, which Boldy James is well versed in.  I’d much rather hear a talented rapper like Boldy rhyme about the life he seems to know well than rap about romance just to please critics and fail or abandon his criminal roots.  While it’s difficult to say these days how authentic a rapper is, Boldy James sells you nothing but authenticity, kicking his lingo with such skill and versatility that you forget he’s still rapping about crack.  Alchemist gets busy here as well, making this an unquestionably hard album including well-placed guest spots from Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, and others.  Cop it on iTunes.JT2020
  • The 20/20 Experience x Justin Timberlake – If you couldn’t at least get loose to “Let The Groove Get In”, then you’re probably too cool for this album.  I just had to get over myself.  While I was of the minority who loathed the peppy “Suit & Tie”, the ethereal cool of “Blue Ocean Floor” was enough to get multiple spins from me.  Like Beyonce, JT showed the music biz how pop was done this year by letting the work ethic speak for itself and then adding some panache to take it over the top.  Cop it on iTunes. quadron-avalanche1
  • Avalanche x Quadron – The fact that this album was considered a commercial failure is a testament to the fact that the majority of people don’t know good music.  This Danish duo comes off like a European Groove Theory, with more soul than one would expect from the songstress and amazing production on each track.  Hopefully, people get hip to this album so that Quadron gets their due props.  Cop it on iTunes.

Continue Reading

Nickels & Dimes x Gonjasufi

gonjasufi_A_MG_5811

In my quest to find an mp3 of the Gonjasufi song Jay-Z sampled on “Nickels And Dimes”, arguably the best song on Magna Carta Holy Grail, I came across this video of the song set to visuals of 1987 New York City.  The description says to “Enjoy High…”

Continue Reading

[Album Review] Magna Carta Holy Grail x Jay-Z

Not for nothin’…but Kanye West had me worried.  As a hip-hop fan and as a music fan, the disappointment of Yeezus had me tempering my anticipation of Magna Carta Holy Grail with preparing for the possibility of a hip-pop offering from big brother Jay-Z under the guise of a “boundary-breaking” LP.  Luckily, the major difference between Jay-Z and Kanye is that Jay-Z understands that in an attempt to make the next great hip-hop album, one must actually create a hip-hop album.  The comparisons to Yeezus will end here, though, as MCHG will surely knock that album off most discerning listeners’ playlists as the premier LP du jour.  It’s apparent from MCHG that Jay understands and accepts his role as one of few with the power to take hip-hop to that ever-elusive “next level” that rappers so fondly speak of without making the mistake of abandoning the genre entirely for the sake of pretense and shock value.

While I’m probably one of a cultish group of old school Roc-A-Fella-heads still yearning for Jay to pick up the phone and get Sauce Money or Jaz-O on a track or getting Primo or Ski on the boards, at a certain point you’ve got to begrudgingly accept that Jay has reached a point where he’s not returning to old territory and though it’s a missed era of rap for many of us, Jay pushes his current cohorts to new levels of creativity where, although a Timbaland record is easily identified, a Timbaland record made specifically for Jay-Z is a whole other animal entirely, and a vicious one at that.  Even Frank Ocean, who I’m usually underwhelmed by, brings a certain indispensable texture to the mournful horns of “Oceans”.  “Nickels and Dimes” employs an eerie Gonjasufi sample and is probably the best song on the album, representing both the top-shelf Jay-Z we know and the elegant, alternative-inspired production style we started seeing back when he gave us “Beach Chair” with Chris Martin. 

JayBey

While I initially cringed at the idea of a duet with wife Beyonce, “Part II (On The Run)” is easily a highlight of the album and the studious listener can determine why they’re such a pair musically and as a celebrity couple: they don’t inundate the public with their relationship, instead leaving the expression to their art.  This makes the potentially sappy concept of a couple’s duet more palatable…the talent level both exhibit can almost be considered a given.  “Jay-Z Blue” touches on issues of fatherhood and succeeds at popularizing traditional family values in a genre where absentee and partial-custody fatherhood is so often considered the norm, with so many rappers content to referencing their “baby’s mothers” and not their wives.  In the same vein, “Heaven” inspires independent thought about religion and spirituality in a genre where religion is only mentioned as a firm conviction, if at all.  On tracks like these, Jay shows the growth from the cool, collected customer we first encountered on Reasonable Doubt to the more vulnerable, more complete individual we now know as probably the most influential MC in rap history.

Sadly, “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” to me represents one of the album’s biggest flaws.  A lazy, uninspired Rick Ross collaboration, the song succeeds as a mindless track to drive around to, but not as a viable component to the album as a whole.  Though the production quality is there and Jay-Z himself supplies a good verse, the overall concept covers too much of the ground that’s been tread over a million times over the past few years by lesser artists, Ross (whose contribution strangely monopolizes nearly 75% of the song) included.  This is a trap Jay didn’t need to fall into at this point in his career.  Granted, the track isn’t, by any means, un-listenable, but could have easily been relegated to bonus material.

Criticism of a Jay album, though inevitable, must be put into perspective.  While critics have panned certain albums in his catalog, those same albums could still probably be placed miles ahead of recent albums by other artists that the same critics have labeled “good”.  As Jay is quick to remind you, he’s light years ahead of a lot of other artists both in skill level, reach and influence and his music reflects this.  With MCHG, Jay solidifies his lonely spot in the “grown-ass MC” category, a place for rappers who age gracefully and are not afraid to rap about their life as-is as opposed to trying to convince listeners that, at 40 plus, they’re still the same guy they were 20 years ago, which just doesn’t make sense.  MCHG is an album for slightly older hip-hop fans who have evolved to a wider appreciation for other genres, as some of the inspiration here may be lost on young or less-sophisticated palates.  Good music is ultimately good music, but the current soundscape may have some minds clouded as to what that sounds like, as the bar’s been set low.  Luckily, Jay-Z isn’t dumbing it down for the knuckleheads.  It just remains to be seen whether anyone will rise to meet the new standard.

Tracks Kept: 16 out of 16

MCHG1

Continue Reading

[New] Open Letter x Jay-Z

1358789558_jay-z-beyonce-640

 A new Jay-Z song these days is an event.  Today is no different.  Jay addresses the Nets, Obama, and his recent criticism about his Cuban honeymoon (“I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans”).  Frankly, he doesn’t give a damn and it’s great.  Kept it simple and killed it.  

Continue Reading

Album Review :: Watch The Throne

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.

Continue Reading