So, for him to do a collaborative album with someone like Kanye, who has a few awesome innovations himself, well, that's just bound to be good. I've heard a few of these tracks, but have yet to give this the proper full listen it deserves.
This was nominated for 4 Grammys, including:
- Best Rap Performance for "Otis"
- Best Rap Song for "Otis"
- Best Rap Album
- Best Recording Package
Originally, this was only supposed to be a 5-song EP in-between other records for each artist, but it built into so much more, especially give then amount of work they've done together previously. It has produced many singles already (I'll try to mention each as we go), and hit #1 in the US on its debut, as well as in the UK, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Australia.
"No Church In The Wild" includes Frank Ocean (there's a decent about of guest artists on here) starts things off. Already, there's the great wild beat to it, fitting of them both. It's a city beat, but there's a natural feel to the instrumental sounds used. If I have any loyal listeners, they know I'm about to complain about that auto-tune bridge thing worked in. At least the beat continues though. That's the best part. There's samples in this one from Phil Manzanera's "K-Scope," Spooky Tooth's "Sunshine Help Me," and James Brown's "Don't Tell A Lie About Me and I Won't Tell the Truth About You."
Proud new mama joins daddy for "Lift Off." By the way - my one gripe with Jay-Z - the Beyonce tease at Bonnaroo SUCKED. K, gripe over. But really, this song isn't going too much for me. I don't know - maybe it's trying a little too hard to be something impressive? There's just something a little boring here. Nevertheless, this is one of the singles that was released from this album.
"NIggas In Paris" is one of the singles released, complete with video:
Next up is the song that scored them two more Grammy nods aside from the full-album ones, "Otis." Mr. Otis Redding is appropriately credited as the third artist here.
"Gotta Have It" is the latest single released. James Brown is making another appearance, this time with three songs sampled, including our old friend "Don't Tell A Lie About Me And I Won't Tell A Truth About You," and two more: "People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul" and "My Thang." Who knew James Brown was this hood? Ha. I crack myself up sometimes. It's got a pretty cool beat, and the mix is done pretty well. Not a bad job at all.
Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" is sampled in the next song, "New Day." Yeah, right off the bat, hating the auto-tune here. It's like the entire vocal backing to the song, and I get that it's the sample's doing. Why couldn't this have been Michael Buble's version of that song? It's just dead for me there, I can't ignore it.
"That's My Bitch" makes me question my allegiance to this album and these artists, but I'll give them their one. Usually Jay-Z keeps it all pretty relatable, or at least clean enough in subject for everyone. Oh well. James Brown is sampled again, this time with "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved," along with Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache."
Damn skippy I tried to find out if GNR was sampled for "Welcome To The Jungle." No one is actually credited with samples for this one. Oh well. It's a cool approach to the subject of being tired from it all. I can only imagine how run down these guys get from everything they've got going on, but they keep going.
"Who Gon Stop Me" sounds really familiar - actually in the rap, not the music. Flux Pavillion's "I Can't Stop" is quite obviously sampled in the background. It's kind of a great rap rhythm over it, and additional chorus theme. It's a little dirty, but who cares sometimes? It's a good, intense movement and they keep it pumping the whole time.
Indiggo's "La La La" and Quincy Jones' "Celie Shaves Mr./Scarification" are sampled for "Murder to Excellence." I think this is where some of those socioeconomic statements come in. It's kind of a statement on coming from the bad times and horrible stereotypes and happenings (i.e. black-on-black murder) to the better life, building up, etc. It's about making a change, and there's even this cool transfer in music from one thing to another, almost sounding like two separate songs.
"Made In America" includes Frank Ocean again. It's got a really great backing to it musically, and is, again, about making it to more. I think this one would really make an awesome single. Radio, even mainstream, would probably pick this up with a little censoring. It's a lot about blacks in particular, but it's still a pretty powerful song about some incredible people, and serves as a great tribute to so many.
This one hasn't charted in the US, but "Why I Love You" is a single from the album, and includes Mr Hudson. It samples "I Love You So" by Cassius. Oh wow, how has this not charted? I've heard this - a lot. About half of the sampled music in here really bothers me, but it's halfway tolerable. It's kind of cool how they let the sampled piece be the entire chorus, instead of just rapping over it. These guys definitely did different things with their samplings throughout the album. Also, the ending trade-off of words is awesome.
"Illest Motherfucker Alive" (I never said I would censor the words in my blog, sorry) starts completely quiet. Um. Kay. Waiting... It's an 8:23 long song, so let's see how this goes. And then at about three minutes in, we get music. It's actually an expansion of this little theme with horns we've been hearing after a couple of other tracks with no real explanation. The song itself, I feel, was not worth the wait. It's a bunch of uneceesary bragging with a epic operatic voice in the background.
The next one is the final single that we have to share a video for off this album, "H*A*M."
"Primetime" sampled Orange Krush's "Action." You can kind of feel that the album's winding down. There's something a little less intense here, but the lyrics keep rolling on. It's just missing something to take it to the next level, but gets kind of close with those intense build moments that happen momentarily in the middle of verses. They don't continue or do anything, but it's interesting to the ear.
Finally we have "The Joy" which credits Curtis Mayfield as the third artist and closes out the album. Curtis' "The Makings Of You (Live)" as well as Syl Johnson's (also a Grammy nominated artist, btw) "Different Strokes" are sampled. It's kind of a great way to end the album as a whole. It's a bunch of styles and cool moments from songs compiled together, speaking to the interesting combination we've gotten with the album as a while.
FULL ALBUM SPOTIFY LISTEN LINK
Okay, here's the deal. I did really enjoy listening to this entire thing. There was a lot I didn't get total enjoyment out of, but there's a lot I enjoyed and appreciated that they did musically.
Jay Z knows how to pick singles - he's got some of the best ones out there that have been stuck in all of us for ages. Kanye's had a few as well. "Run This Town" is one of the better artist combo songs we've had some along in quite some time. An entire album may have been a little much, but they did manage to do a great job experimenting with different types of music and ways of using their samples. Overall, a really awesome job done by all.