Posts Tagged ‘Naomi Campbell’

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Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne (real-time track by track review).

August 13, 2011

Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative album, Watch The Throne, was always going to be a self-important, grandiose affair. To this end, the magnificent artwork (creatively directed by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci) exudes opulence, with the cover appearing to be engraved gold, while inside Kanye and Jay’s faces are morphed into tigers’ jaws. So the artwork is striking, fashionable, and strong. What of the music?

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Jay-Z and Kanye West have collaborated. From the former’s celebrated album The Blueprint, to West’s recent “Monster” single, the two have been a frequent pairing. One question is whether Watch The Throne, which is a near-perfect melding of the two rappers’ most recent albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (West’s magnum opus to date) and The Blueprint 3, would exist without West’s latest solo album. It certainly wouldn’t sound the same, built on a similar set of soulful samples (courtesy of Otis Redding, Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield, among others), classic Wu-Tang-esque production (partly courtesy of the RZA) and an incorporation of unusual effects (“Lift Off” has a countdown to a rocket launch and deliberately stutters Beyoncé’s hook at the end) and modern styles for dizzying effect (“Who Gon Stop Me” thrillingly and unpredictably descends into dubstep). Unfortunately, Fantasy means that Watch The Throne sounds less innovative than its predecessor, but judged on its own merits, it is nevertheless a strong entry in both rappers’ catalogues.

Another question might be which rapper comes out on top. Although at times they sound less in sync than others, this isn’t really the issue; it’s not about one guy against the other, but what they can accomplish as a team with their two considerable powers put together.The album is bombastic, swollen with the promise that hip-hop’s magnates have to live up to. Here is a track-by-track review.

No Church In The Wild

A sinister bassline accompanied by Frank Ocean’s singing opens Watch The Throne. “What’s a god to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?” Mysterious and cryptic, the song is nevertheless thrilling. Autotuned vocals hark back to West’s 808s & Heartbreak. Both rappers seem to be authoritative and yet feel outcast by religion… are they trying to be socially conscious? “Love is cursed by monogamy – something that the pastor don’t preach / something that a teacher can’t teach / when we die, the money we can’t keep / but we probably spend it all coz the pain ain’t cheap” (West). Are these men, who are fabulously wealthy and not particularly modest about it, trying to be human? If so, it’s a commendable move.

One thing that is confusing – several songs have little instrumental interludes at the end – what purpose do these serve? These do seem unnecessary and swiftly become irritating…

Lift Off

Pianos and strings make this song sound big and propulsive. Beyoncé sings the hook impeccably. “I’m supercharged / We’re about to take this whole thing to Mars” – they’re aware how big stars (!) they are, and also aware that this album is an Event that should be launched. Just the way that the album was launched in a planetarium… The rocket launch countdown could perhaps be a subtle link to “Countdown” on Beyoncé’s 4?

Niggas In Paris

Another sinister-sounding song that has echoes of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”. “What’s 50 grand to a motherfucker like me, can you please remind me?” Jay-Z is rich. Again, by demonstrating how big stars they are and how much they reign over the game, they are proving how much of an Event this album is. Jay and Kanye go back and forth on this track, which shows however that this album is far from a phoned-in effort. Jay-Z is rich, and Kanye has had sex with many girls. Thematically, this doesn’t break any ground for rap!

Otis

The Otis Redding sample brings soul, and harkens back to West and Jay-Z’s work on The Blueprint (as well as most of West’s early output which mixed hip hop and soul samples to thrilling results). Kanye: “Last week they didn’t see me cause I pulled up in my other Benz” (sounds like “underpants” !!).  West coins the phrase “luxury rap” – looking at the album cover as well as the duo’s individual reputations, is this the genre description they would ascribe themselves? Is it because of wealth, or rhyme quality (or both)?

Gotta Have It

The moaning at the beginning sounds like a black spiritual. There are elements here that also draw upon Nas’ Untitled, with that albums specific evocation and reference to black culture’s past of slavery. “LOLOLOLOL White America, assassinate my character” – Kanye sounds like he is challenging or second guessing people. Is this in reference to the infamous Bush / Katrina incident? Or when Kanye West humiliated Taylor Swift at the VMAs? “Oh shit, it’s just blacks on blacks on blacks” – West again… realising that discrimination and misunderstanding comes from his own race as well as others? Who is to blame?

New Day

It’s quite audacious to autotune your Nina Simone sample, especially when it’s her most famous song “Feeling Good”. Kanye West and Jay-Z are trying to push music forward, and symbolise that after the follies of youth, the two men have reached a stage where they enjoy being mature and responsible – “It’s a new day, and I’m feeling good”. Here, they talk about how they would raise their children and the mistakes that they themselves made in their youth, which humanises them and exposes some truth underneath their bravado. “I just want him to be someone people like / I don’t want him to be hated all the time, judged / Don’t be like your daddy” (West) / “Sorry junior, I already ruined ya / Coz you ain’t even alive, paparazzi pursuin’ ya / Sins of the father already made your life ten times harder” (Jay) – “Teach you good values so you cherish it… My dad left me I promise never to repeat it” (Jay). A touching song that is a lyrical highlight.

That’s My Bitch

Both rappers praise their women. Beyoncé gets a shout-out or two. West name-drops Basquiat. “Why all the icons all white?” (Jay, who then name-drops Naomi, Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek)

Welcome To The Jungle

This song picks up on the pictures of Jay and Kanye’s faces merged with tigers. The songs works off a “the world is a jungle / life is hard” metaphor. Jay – “My tears is tatted / my rag in my pocket / I’m just looking for love / I know somebody got it” – he inhabits the character of a gangster who can’t express emotion in public because that’s not how the stereotype works. It’s not generally something that’s permitted – but West and Jay have got to a point where they are comfortable eschewing stereotypes and exposing a little more of who they genuinely are.

Who Gon Stop Me

This sounds grimy, dirty and modern all at once, and is one of the standouts on the album. West and Jay stand, confident in their unstoppability, “Heard Yeezy was racist / well I guess it’s so on basis…. I only like green faces” (Kanye) – “This is something like the holocaust / millions of our people lost” (Kanye) / “Black on black” (Jay) – urging people to “beat the odds” and achieve their dreams and be unstoppable. A thrilling entry. Jay-Z references how far he has come from being a drug-dealer in his youth.

Murder To Excellence

A song of two halves, “Murder” and “Excellence”.

“Murder” – Chants jostle with clashing drums and a tuneful bass guitar, while Kanye and Jay-Z rap socially / racially conscious lyrics. “41 souls murdered in 50 hours” (Kanye) Again, they fixate on the crimes that black people commit against themselves. “314 soldiers died in Iraq… 509 died in Chicago” (Kanye) – some interesting reality.

“Excellence” – an immediate transition to a different sample and ominous piano vaguely reminiscent of an Eminem production, except less thunderous. From talking about murder on the streets, to the injustices the rappers have seen on their path to excellence: “Domino, domino / only spot a few blacks the higher I go” (Jay). “In the past, if you picture events like a black tie / What’s the last thing you expect to see? Black guys” (Kanye) – an axe to grind!

Made In America

A sweet song, where Frank Ocean eulogises the rappers’ parents, along with Biblical figures and leaders of the black / civil rights movement in the US. Kanye tells an abridged version of his meeting with fellow producer No I.D., and how he was able to use his new-found wealth to treat his late mother well. Jay-Z does an appreciated bit of storytelling, pretending to be boiling water in the same kitchen where his grandmother cooked banana pudding, when really he’s cooking up something quite different. “The streets raised me, pardon my bad manners” (Jay). This song feels like we are reaching the home stretch of the album (which is true), and gives us something positive, as well as lets us in on the sense of accomplishment that the rappers feel not only to have survived the streets and their upbringings, but also to have ascended to such heights of fame. They are aware and appreciative of how comfortable their lives are.

Why I Love You

Dirty guitars and beats slam in and interrupt the peaceful reverence of the previous track for this album closer (on the standard edition). The rhyme speed has picked up, and Jay pledges his loyalty to those nearest and dearest to him. Mr. Hudson, singing the hook, for once does not irritate! Now that is progress. Kanye and Jay-Z thank one another for the positive effects they’ve had on each other’s careers – which is why this (rather than the previous track, which would have been sonically more appropriate) is the album closer. Unless you have the deluxe…

Illest Motherfucker Alive

Climactic piano, synths and operatic choruses back Kanye and Jay’s various boasts. This sounds too big for its lyrics (“what the ending of Scarface should feel like”, apparently), and perhaps explains why it was relegated to just the deluxe.

H.A.M

The first single finally shows up towards the end of the deluxe album. Next to the album’s tracks, this sounds somewhat flimsy production-wise (until its apocalyptic bridge, at least). A re-evaluation of the album’s aims by Kanye and Jay-Z probably relegated this to the end of the deluxe.

Primetime

This song is perfectly adequate. I’m tired. This album is long!

The Joy

Samples Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You”, giving a warmth to the deluxe album’s end that feels like proper closure after the epicness of the whole thing. It was bloated, bombastic and at times could have been trimmed somewhat, but it was very engaging! Once again, Kanye and Jay-Z expose their tenderness and talking about their families, and how this is just as important as the wealth and beauties they’ve promoted elsewhere on the record. A laid-back treat for those who get the deluxe.

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bits and pieces.

July 29, 2009

First things first: if you happened to read my previous post, you might think that I am a teensy bit crazy.  I want to promise you that while I can be less rational at some times than at others, the only reason why I sounded so unhinged was because my father was driving me insane.  He finally went to bed at 12:30, after I drank some of his cider behind his back to hurry up the process.  He slumped away from his laptop, defeated and worn down.  I think I made my point. 😉 But please excuse my temper (not physically violent Naomi-temper, but hot-blooded Italian super-stubborn arm-waving raised voice temper), I’ll try to keep it in check for y’all 🙂

I can’t get this new song by LeToya Luckett out of my head:

It’s called “Don’t Need You”, and it’s going to be on her new album Lady Love, which I am highly anticipating.  I relate to the song because as much as I should appreciate the freedom of single life and the fun of being able to appreciate who’s hot and who’s not, and being able to flirt when I want (something which I continued to do during my brief period dating L, which was an indication that it just wasn’t right), I still feel like I want to be with somebody, and I still feel lonely.  So this song reminds me that really, we don’t need anyone but ourselves, because 90% of the time people, especially boyfriends or potential boyfriends, only let you down in the end (or quite often, at the beginning).  But the reason why I have been listening to it is because of the very first lyric:

It’s Monday morning, checked my cell phone / but nobody’s calling me.
I try to ignore it but it’s sinking in / that I’m all alone with me.

If you’ve been reading my blogs lately, you’ll have picked up on how important being able to communicate is with me.  I don’t expect a constant barrage of attention (that’s actually a big no-no, because you should have better things to do with your day 😉 ) but I do expect a little bit of consideration, and I expect any correspondence I make to be returned within a decent period of time (I think 24 hours is lenient and appropriate).  So I keep kicking myself when I find myself constantly checking my phone wondering why I seem to send people texts which don’t get returned, asking questions that get ignored and realising that the effort that I put into laying foundations for dates and maintaining friendships isn’t always reciprocated.  Why bother? Why keep trying?  Does that make me the fool?  I’m not exactly glued to my phone, but it is a mobile phone, the concept behind which is that I keep it on me so that I can contact and be contacted when I am not at home.  The mobile phone does not serve its purpose when its battery is depleted, when you cannot hear it or feel it, or when you leave it in your bag on silent for 3 days.  You might as well chuck it out of the car window and then reverse over it a few times.  What’s the point of having a cell phone if you’re not going to use it, and what’s the point of swapping numbers with me if you don’t want to talk?  That’s why the above lyrics speak to me – because obviously I’m the dumb one (and my friends are of the same philosophy, so we are all dumb together) expecting these things and checking my phone regardless.

Looking at my tag cloud, it strikes me that the 3 biggest things (at the moment) are “appreciating life”, “music” and “relationships”.  I guess I am glad that I am not a one-dimensional person, and I am able to write about lots of different facets of my life, because I suppose it means that I am not totally boring.  Today I went and had coffee with Hannah, saw a totally beautiful but too expensive Armani bag that I will not even consider buying before I have a paycheck again (or at least until my credit card ticks over to September 😉 ), got an interview for a call centre which I am going to do even though the hospital thing seems more or less certain (I take nothing for granted in the current job market!) and had some good news regarding university funding which I might well receive after all because I have XY chromosomes. But I was wondering, a couple of my friends say that my blog goes deeper than “today I did this and that” and say that I should be the male Carrie Bradshaw.  Apart from being a huge compliment, one reason why I don’t know if I am ready for that is because I don’t know if I could choose one niche to write about.  I suppose relationships is the most meaty topic, and there are plenty of music blogs that are much more devoted to the daily developments than I would be.  I wonder how you get to be a columnist?  In any case, I have noticed that (the Whitney Houston post aside!) I tend to get more views on writing about topics that are personal to me and yet relatable to everyone, like relationships and frustrations and life’s mysteries and conundrums.  I find that touching, and while I hope for my life to go smooth and to live happily ever after with a rich Brazilian model and a lucrative music and fashion career, that might never happen and it’s still a work in progress. 😉 So I hope to write more about my relationships and life’s trials and tribulations, and maybe someone will notice and want me to write a column for them.  Anything is possible!  And I am happy to do it, as long as you’re all right here with me. 🙂

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throwing naomis.

July 22, 2009

It’s interesting, but the people who know me seem to see different aspects of me.  My family tell me I should have more patience, whereas my friends say that I am a very patient person.  My family often tease me for always listening to my ipod, having my headphones in my ears and therefore never hearing half of what they say (although I hear a lot more than they give me credit for 😉 ), while most of my friends think that I am a good listener (something I pride myself upon, because it’s always important to have someone there who’s willing to hear you out and be your sounding board).  I inherit from my family the fact that it can sometimes take a lot to piss me off, but on the wrong day, I have an extremely short fuse.  My friends tend not to see that side of me, and are shocked that I have thrown things against walls and have a propensity to “throw a Naomi” (as it was yesterday christened).

The situation was at my nan’s where the mobile internet just stopped working for no apparent reason.  I grew more and more frustrated, and blamed my nan’s area (the signal is generally not great there, though it usually works) for my lack of internet.  We left the house, it came back briefly, I was vindicated (or so I thought).  We returned home, it was gone again.  Restraining my screams and stomping around in irritation, I had the irresistible urge to fling my Prada II phone which cost me nearly £400 and is utterly beautiful and does everything I want across the room in rage.  This is exactly what I did with my Nintendo DS Lite (breaking it and making me sell all the games, ultimately netting me £120.  I don’t miss it.), and as a result I realise my temper is alive and well.

When I was about 8 years old, I had Street Fighter II for the Amiga.  I got a bit obsessed with it, and I would judge myself quite harshly if I didn’t win, even though I was playing on the hardest difficulty setting.  I remember thinking of myself as a failure, and one day I was crying and crying and I just dug my nails into my cheeks and scratched my face.  I must have done this so hard that it left marks, and when my mother saw it, she went APESHIT.  She said she was going to take me to the ‘nut hospital’ (“Mummy, what’s a nut hospital?” “YOU’LL FIND OUT IF YOU DON’T CUT IT OUT!” I realised I probably didn’t want to go there.) and I had to wear foundation and concealer on my face for a day because I went round to a friend’s house either that afternoon or the following day.  The game was confiscated for a while, and I remember creeping around the house early on weekend mornings trying to find where my mother had hidden it… she kept having to switch hiding places because I would find it and then she’d wake up to me playing it.  Eventually I proved to have my temper under control and I was allowed the game back, and I generally behaved better.

So my temper is back! After breaking my DS, playing Street Fighter IV on PS3 has required me to get my moods under control (so I just swear to my friends on msn and occasionally growl / curse / shout).  And I made sure to throw my phone against something soft yesterday (the bed, the sofa) so nothing broke or was damaged.  Of course, I got home and found out that two of my friends had had similar issues with O2 mobile internet and it was nothing to do with my phone, my nan or the area.  I felt a little silly.  But I remember reading an interview with Christina Aguilera during the Stripped era and she was saying how therapeutic it is to throw champagne glasses against a wall when you’re angry.  I can only agree… there’s something about destroying something pretty / complex / delicate in a fit of rage that just does the trick and calms you down (when a cigarette won’t hit the spot).  When I have my beautiful big mansion house I will make sure there is a room with a punching bag in it, and a wall where I can throw my supply of champagne glasses when I get pissed off at the computer or technology or whatever it is.  After all, I find I never tend to break too much because you have to clear it up afterwards once you’ve calmed down! 😉