Saturday, April 28, 2012

Watch the Throne

The discussion we had in class about “Niggas in Paris” reminded me very strongly about an article by Alex Pappademas that I read in GQ magazine about the great Jay-Z. The article is extremely entertaining and relates directly to our class; I encourage everyone to check it out (Link provided below).

The article boasts that Watch the Throne is an album with many deeper meanings, and having listened to the entirety of WTT, I feel like I have two possibilities for WTT.

(1) One viewpoint is that the album is just about “two grandiose motherfuckers explor[ing] the theme of grandiose-motherfuckerdom,” which many people would consider accurate. I mean, come on, even the cover of the album is a solid plate of gold. To strengthen this view, the “Niggas in Paris” song is the unofficial anthem of this album and has been played numerous times during the latter leg of the concert to close. With this view though, it seems Jay-Z and Kanye (Jay-Z especially, coming from the projects) are creating a gap between them and the lower class. And without this lower class, their music wouldn’t sell as much or mean as much to many, so this view doesn’t make much sense to me.

(2) The article also boasts another thought, that “Watch the Throne is an honest record about trying to find your moral compass when insane wealth and success have knocked down every boundary that once gave shape to your world.” Many tracks on Watch the Throne have this theme at heart, such as “New Day.” “New Day” explores the feelings and goals that Kanye and Jay-Z have towards their unborn sons (at the time) after living their lavish lives of glamour. Watch the Throne is about ornate extravagance, but the root of the album is self-discovery and self-analysis rather than braggadocio. In class, we also talked about the luck and chance that had to be a part of Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s skyrocketing careers, and they themselves even say that much of the album is about being shocked that they’re here at the top, partying hard. They question themselves, “What are we doing here? How did we get here?” Now this explanation is more humble and humane than any political affiliation of the album. Perhaps Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s blatant ostentatious behavior on the album is really an expression of the inconceivable nature of how blatant ostentatious behavior comes about. The two top hip-hop artists today can’t even believe that they can afford Gucci, Louis, Fendi, and Prada.

Ultimately, Watch the Throne is a multi-faceted album, and despite efforts, I don’t think WTT can be labeled with just one theme.

What do you all think?


  1. My apologies for the weird way the blog posted this entry. I have tried to fix it, but the problem doesn't go away. If you want to read it, then just highlight the text, and it will show up!

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  3. In your explanation of the first viewpoint you mention that Jay-Z and Kanye's "music wouldn't sell as much or mean as much to many" if the music was merely blatant braggadocio; it seems to be a fairly valid explanation, but you have to wonder if Jay-Z cares about alienating a few fans now that he is already at the top.

    Anyway, the following line from Jay-Z's verse shows how at this point in his career the rapper (or at least the rapper persona he adopts for this song) is simply taking everything in as his life passes: "The Nets could go 0 for 82 and I'd look at you like this shit gravy // This shit weird, we ain't even spose to be here."

    The article (which was very interesting by the way) definitely highlights ideas expressed by quote above and your second viewpoint, which after some thought I seem to agree with; then again, I may be biased because I personally don't feel alienated by the song.

  4. I believe the video for "Otis" is what really throws the album under the bridge with the classification as "two grandiose motherfuckers explor[ing] the theme of grandiose-motherfuckerdom." The rapping duo are driving around in a souped-up car, created from the breaking down of a Mercedes Benz (an expensive car in the first place). Not only do they drift in this remade car, but they have supermodels in the back enjoying the ride. And through this video, they have the American flag in the background, as to suppose that this can be acheived with hard work. As we said in class, a lot of their success amounts to luck, someone hearing them rap, somehow ending up in the right connections, and making it into the mainstream.

    However, this could also be a representation that the wealthy in America can still maintain their personality and style with such riches. They are not consumed by such financial growth, rather using it to complement who they already are. I believe it would defeat the purpose if the video was made to portray the coming of "blatant ostentatious behavior". If it is, how are Jay-Z and Kanye supposed to be viewed then? They are obviously blatantly careless if others view them as such by the production of this video.

    Thus, I conclude that they are merely sending the message to the public that riches do not have to corrupt the personality and style of the beholder.

  5. While I see that both of these viewpoint could be valid, I personally believe that it is a mixture of the two. I believe that Jay-Z and Kanye are both arrogant self-adoring rappers who actually go out and live out the actions they rap about, like spend their money on luxury goods and such.

    However, I also think that your second point makes sense too. I think there is a deeper meaning within these songs towards self-analysis and self-exploration. Jay-Z and Kanye West are very talented rappers so its hard for me to believe that they wrote these raps just to brag about their extensive wealth and power. I also do not think that they would alienate their fan base, who definitely is not living their lives like Jay-Z and Kanye are. It could be that Jay-Z and Kanye are trying to create a surface persona of being these rich, powerful, and wild rappers, but deeper down, the lyrics show that they are humble and astounded that they got as far as they did.

  6. I agere with the first analyzation you present--they are both very rich with disposable incomes, so why not live extravagantly and over the top. However, I also believe that Kanye West and Jay-Z are making a mockery of how rediculous the topic of bragging about wealth and extravagant lifestyles are in hip-hop. The album exemplifies this well in the music video for "Otis" where Kanye and Jay-Z destroy a Maybach for their own amusement. The album conveys a parody-esque approach to modern rap.


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