Thursday 31 Jul
 
 

Sobering sounds

Copperheads with Depth & Current, Dudes of America and Oblivious

10 p.m. Saturday

Opolis

113 N. Crawford Ave., Norman

opolis.org

447-3417

$7

07/30/2014 | Comments 0

Pony expression

Wild Ponies

8 p.m. Sunday

The Blue Door

2805 N. McKinley Ave.

bluedoorokc.com

524-0738

$15

07/30/2014 | Comments 0

Music Made Me: Josh Hogsett

Few, if any, Oklahoma bands have seen a rise as meteoric as Tallows over the past year, yet its seemingly overnight ascension didn’t happen by chance. The Oklahoma City four-piece is well-versed in the ways of modern pop songwriting, drawing from both glitchy electronica and cathartic indie rock in equal measure. Last year, the band pulled off a rare musical feat with its debut album, Memory Marrow, which was steeped heavily in the breadth of recent history yet managed to sound like nothing else before it.
07/30/2014 | Comments 0

Planting the seed

Chelsey Cope’s new band, Elms, is as earthy and native to Oklahoma as the trees that are their namesake. The soulful folk four-piece’s debut EP, Parallel Lines, was recorded at Bell Labs Recording Studio in Norman and is on its way in September. But the band has already given us a tease, with its first single, “Burn,” going live on SoundCloud on July 14.
07/22/2014 | Comments 0

Commercial rock

Center of the Universe Festival featuring Capital Cities, Young The Giant, AWOLNATION & more
Friday-Saturday
Downtown Tulsa 
centeroftheuniversefestival.com 
$35-$50 

07/22/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Reviews · Hip Hop/Rap · Kanye West and Jay-Z —...
Hip Hop/Rap
 

Kanye West and Jay-Z — Watch the Throne


Modern-day hip-hop legends pair up to go ‘hard as a motherf***er.’

Matt Carney August 15th, 2011

Hey, have you guys heard of this new rap band called Kanye West and Jay-Z? Yeah, apparently they released an album exclusively on iTunes last week that pissed off a lot of record-store owners. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, so I’ll try to break down “Watch the Throne” for you, since these guys are kinda obscure.

watchthethrone
Or … not.

This marks three consecutive years of blockbuster hip-hop releases from these two guys who’ve built a close friendship around their megastar lifestyles, respective talents as artists (technical rap wizardry for Jigga, arena-blasting, prog-rap production from ’Ye), and incomparably massive ambition as pop stars. Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” prompted more sterling reviews than any other album in history and Jay’s “The Blueprint 3” sold remarkably well, considering the currently dour market for new music. These are two dudes in their years of maturation, friends, who are bigger than they’ve ever been and working on a big-ass project because they thought it’d be cool. Turns out they were right.

While each pop star does stick to his respective guns (Howitzers, in both cases) on “Watch the Throne,” they venture into new territory at times and encourage the best in each other at others. Jay actually emotes to the listener for once, lifting “Welcome to the Jungle“ and the RZA-produced “New Day” with his introspection. It’s surprising, unsettling stuff from the always-cocksure guy known for telling stories that begin with “Once upon a time, not too long ago/ Nigga like myself had to strong-arm a hoe.”

Kanye doesn’t really deliver anything lyric-wise that stands out from any of his work on “MBDTF,” but he and Jay do bust out a little buddy-rap that ranges from playful to dangerous. It’s most easily evident on the Otis Redding tribute-sampling “Otis,” and even more clear when you watch the Spike Jonze-directed video that hit the Internet last Friday. The anthemic stomping on “Who Gon Stop Me” turns terrifying when you realize two of the biggest rappers in the game are playing off each other, and their back-and-forth banter even elevates “Why I Love You” from a potential throwaway track into something very dangerous-sounding.

It’s hard to say that Jay’s presence is more vital to the collaboration when each track features a beat that’s either the soundtrack to a robotic Armageddon or anchored by a dead soul singer’s grunting and crooning. Combined with his “MBDTF” material, the tracks from “Watch the Throne” and a couple of songs on his third album,“Graduation,” it sounds like Kanye’s stocking up for an assault on arenas and outdoor stages the world over. But more on the R&B sampling: “Otis” and “The Joy” are both backboned by two of Mr. Redding’s and Mr. Curtis Mayfield’s finest works, chopped and screwed into a very sexual and playful rhythmic grind that prompts Hov to ask, “Sounds so soulful, don’t you agree?” We’re forced to comply.



Even after a few listens, it doesn’t become immediately clear who benefits more from “Watch the Throne,” so I’m going to cop out and say it’s smooth, up-and-coming R&B voice Frank Ocean. Still impossibly young (he’s been cutting his teeth with the Odd Future crew), Ocean lends immediate, memorable choruses to opening track “No Church in the Wild” and the tender “Made in America,” that, cushioned in very posh Kanye synthesizers, set distinct tones for each song.

Other observations: Kanye is as culturally savvy as ever, sampling a Will Ferrell line from “Blades of Glory” to prove David Byrne’s point that sometimes music just doesn’t need to make sense (“I got my niggas in Paris, and they goin’ gorillas”). And don’t forget Ocean’s Ricky Bobby-referencing “Sweet Baby Jesus” chorus that’s actually more sweet than boneheaded. And the “married Kate & Ashley” tease at Prince William on “Niggas in Paris” is just hilarious.

Beyoncé’s chorus on “Liftoff” (her only tangible contribution to the record, surprisingly) doesn’t really manage the same level of pop brilliance as Rihanna’s more provocative guest spot on “All of the Lights” from “MBDTF.” I think this actually serves as a good illustration of the difference between the two albums, that “Throne,” while all over the map in terms of its thematic and lyrical focus (I didn’t even mention the men discussing life for their unborn children or the list of black saints sweetly sung on “Made in America”), doesn’t delve as deep into that twisted, American pop-star ethos as the previous record.

Which isn’t to say that “Watch the Throne” isn’t socio-culturally charged. Kanye starts off pretty aggressive against “White America” on “Gotta Have It” before backing off to name-drop Ferris Bueller and diving in again. “Murder to Excellence” is probably the most fixated on this topic, ending with “Black excellence.” Also, Jay’s observation that “all the pretty icons is all white” is out of place behind Kanye’s too-cool club verse on “That’s My Bitch,” but valid nonetheless. Perhaps he’s trying to apologize to wife Beyoncé for his collaborator’s views on women?

Anyhoo, here’s a brief message to each guy on this album: Kanye, get out on the road and start blowing stadiums up! And Jay: It’s OK to let that tough-guy façade down every once in a while. Give us an album full of raps about how you feel, and I guarantee people will reciprocate well. —Matt Carney
 
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