Album Review, Angie Martinez, Atlanta, Bad Boy Records, Beyonce, Big Daddy Kane, Blue Lines, Blue Lines Blog, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Key Yemaya Walker, Lonnie Liston Smith, Marcy Projects, Myla Wyndham, New Jersey, New York, OutKast, Q-Tip, Ralph McDaniels, Sean Carter, Show & Prove, Shyheim, The Notorious B.I.G., Tracey Lee, Watch the Throne
It was a late fall day in Bridgeport, Connecticut listening to Angie Martinez on Hot 97 in New York. The days were short, and the sun began to set in the gritty northeastern city around 4 pm, just before the end of class, but making it very dark before dinner. Night I vaguely remembered from a childhood stint in New Jersey. At the time Wu-Tang still ran the local airwaves, along with Biggie and Bad Boy remixes. I infected the campus with the hometown sounds of Outkast, but this night, the light piano of Lonnie Liston Smith’s “A Garden of Piece,” wrapped this amazing opus from an unknown artist we had last seen on an appearance on Big Daddy Kane’s “Show & Prove.” Believe me I know, being a Wu-Tang fan from high school, I knew tracks they or affiliates, Shyheim, appeared on.
Again, I first heard the amazing “Dead President’s” which eventually accompanied the B-Side track, “Ain’t No,” closed out my tenure in school up north, as I thought I was listening to another underground regional artist the likes of Tracey Lee, Akinyele, etc. my homegirl waited, as I affected, sat and listened to the entire track, likely penning something as we most likely left her room, my hideout, before eventually landing at Famous Pizza.
Later, he would release an album, I heard that Biggie had appeared on the track, and my friend Myla Wyndham who was a buyer at Tower Records told me he was coming to the store. As a good friend and I attended, we walked past the empty table, scanned the album, laughed and then waving to her, I left, knowing I would see her during another visit. Little did I know.
Beginning school again in Atlanta, I befriended a pure Atlanta resident, who would play, “Reasonable Doubt,” nonstop. It was then that my appreciation grew for this unheralded artist. At this same school, I would meet the same girl that our conversation consisted of, the obvious as Reasonable Doubt played in her car as she dropped me off at Marta.
“Do you like Jay-Z?” I tried to break the ice.
“Yes,” she simply stated.
Why do I open my review of the highly rated, yet much maligned and effectively prevented from leak Jay-Z and Kanye West opus, “Watch The Throne.” I find it funny that an artist once thought of as underground, achieved excessive success, yet his every move now is questioned. Now, this by no means is a piece in defense of Jay-Z, the album is a complete work that spans production by the aforementioned Kanye West, also including production credits attributed to RZA of Wu-Tang, and Q-Tip formerly of A Tribe Called Quest.
From the opening bell “No Church In The Wild,” emboldens the spirit that though we may know right from wrong, in those real life situations, your instinct takes over. “Lift Off,” is a Beyoncé fueled attempt by Kanye to pull off a song that works in the vein of late 80’s Diana Ross, or Chaka Khan, crafting a song around vocals that are meant to take a life of their own, and bring more than the added element of and R&B singers appearance.
Sure “Otis,” named after the sampled Redding, “N**gas In Paris,” and “Who Gon Stop Me,” speak to the extravagance that the general public “expects” to hear from a Jay-Z or Kanye West album, however the elements and effort placed into crafting the wordplay and tracks propel these tracks. “…scuse my French, I’m in France..” add to an album that is multifaceted, but also aims primarily at using the Hip-Hop vehicle to make you dance.
Again, never the apologist for either artist, I would lie that my favorite Kanye album is his “808 And Heartbreaks,” because it came at a time that I needed it. With that said, a highlight of this album is “New Day,” a track that allows you to listen to Kanye and Jay apologizing for the trials they have set before their yet unborn sons (or daughters, thanks Jay). To hear please that a) long for those children, and b) apologize for the scrutiny that lie before their hopeful births, is the same, however on possibly different levels, that anyone wanting, or expecting children may have before them (like I know).
Another highlight is the Cassius fueled “Why I Love You,” you may have seen several verses from the track scattered across my blog, since the making of video first hit the internet. Again, a track that speaks to me and my life in many different ways, and to different people, evoking emotion and empathy.
“Wasn’t I a good King, huh?
Maybe Too much of a good thing,”
Is a plaintive wail, that speaks to loss, betrayal, effort and trying, and failure.
“…You ripped out my heart, and you stepped on it,
I picked up the pieces but you swept on it.
God damn the s–t leaves a mess don’t it,
S–t feeling like death don’t it,
Charge it to the game, whatever’s left on it,
I SPENT about a minute, maybe less on it,
Fly pelican fly, turn the jets on it…”
Whatever you may say regarding lyrics, content, etcetera, these words can strike straight to the bone, and speak to anyone, same as the vein of “Dead President II’s” line “…murder is a a hard process / it’s hard to digest / but I ain’t got nothin’ but time…”
My last highlight is premiered and including name dropping of Russell Crowe, “Illest Motherfucker Alive.” Though, I was more a proponent of the musical transition in the advance version, “P—y can’t be your only hustle,” is not a braggadocio line, but one of the hardest that you can say looking at the state of how, especially in my field, the levels of self-respect in our community are permeated.
The album is strong enough to carry previously released “That’s my B—ch,” and “The Joy,” and is perfectly punctuated in the Deluxe version by “H*A*M.” An excellent album, and a break. Are you looking for Jay-Z to push a message? Look back at Blueprint II’s “Meet The Parents,” or the attempts with the Frank Ocean fueled “Made In America.” Jay-Z’s talent lies, regrettably, in singing about regret, (“Regrets,” and “You Must Love Me.” Drug ballads that make you guilty as you sing and dance, “I Like.) Watch The Throne, easily outshines most albums this year, promotion and content (music-wise).
The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.
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