How Do You Say ‘Racially Awkward Choice of Music’ in French?

You know what’s so hot right now? Jay-Z and Kanye West! Well, not so much "right now" as much as "always," and specifically as a duo since August, which I suppose is long enough for their single "N***** in Paris" from last summer’s Watch the Throne to trickle down and across the Pond to the upper echelon of France’s political sphere. So here’s a question: if you were an older white Frenchman running for president, and you happened to take a stroll through some low-income Parisian suburbs to hang out with youths of certain minority groups, what song would you probably not use as the soundtrack to the video showing how cool, hip, and tolerant you are? 

Hint: it’s a song with a certain popular American racial epithet in the title. Smoooooth move, François Hollande!



(via Cord Jefferson)

Watch Mos Def/Yasiin Bey’s Video for ‘N—– in Poorest’ Kanye/Jay-Z Remix

One of the more popular critiques of last year’s Watch the Throne was that it spent too much time discussing gaudy materialism and not enough on the social issues one might expect two self-aware black artists to have some thoughts about. Surprisingly enough, it’s easy to see how Jay-Z and Kanye West could get caught up in their hubris, but the album had some more proactive rebukes: the recently rechristened Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, released a remix of their "N—– in Paris" song called "N—– in Poorest." The song has been floating around for a little while, but Bey just released an accompanying video, which you can watch after the click.

The video is not very subtle, no: It opens up with two faceless characters talking about how they need money, all of the original lyrics’ schemes and rhymes are replaced with words that fit Bey’s ideology (Sample awkwardness: "Prince William ain’t do it right if you ask me / If I was him I’d put some black up in my family" while a blackfaced picture of the Queen flashes), and towards the end, footage of deposed public figures like Bernie Madoff and Dominique Strauss-Kahn plays over the dubstep breakdown while Bey raps "Don’t get caught up in no throne." Oh, and there’s an interstitial in the middle of Malcolm X talking about his personal activism.

Points for good intentions and all, even if it comes off very heavy-handed. A few years ago, Bey was the socially conscious, culturally educated rapper it was okay to rep; now, he’s more or less been replaced by Jay and Yeezy, and they’ve largely used their position of influence to brag about how much money they have. Would you blame him for being a little angry about it?

Jay-Z & Kanye West Drop ‘N—– in Paris’ Live Video

Finally, finally: Jay-Z and Kanye West have released a music video for "N—– in Paris," the song they played up to like eleven times in a row on their Watch the Throne tour. It’s a live video, too, perfectly capturing the sensation of being bombarded over and over and over by the song’s walloping beat. A kaleidoscope effect doubles the ‘Ye and Jay we see, as well as the well-dressed fans losing their mind in the crowd. (Warning: if you’re sensitive to flashing lights, you may want to pass on this one.)

For the line when Kanye raps about a girl meeting him in the bathroom stall, the camera doubles up the cleavage of some well-to-do socialite. Classy! (Also, a lion shows up to roar a few times, whatever.) In other Hova news, him and Beyonce filed an official trademark for their daughter’s name, "Blue Ivy," because obviously no one else would name their child/business/marijuana strain something so goofy. Not to be outdone, Kanye filed a number of trademarks for his child’s potential name, my favorite of which is "Brickk" (girl).

Kanye West Envisions his Own Funeral

It’s not all rapping and gold bracelets and sneakers for Kanye West; he has deeper thoughts, he ponders his mortality. Less ‘what’s the meaning of life?’, Yeezy does it in his own typically self-aggrandizing fashion by daydreaming about all the famous and powerful people who will mourn him. Who is on the guestlist should he meet his end?

West took to Twitter yesterday, breaking a six month silence from the social network, to celebrate his Grammy nomination and give fans a sneak peek behind the scenes of his Watch the Throne tour with Jay-Z. In it he states:

"I was just thinking about my funeral and stuff a couple days ago and thinking who would be at the funeral, People who I want to be in the funeral? I wanna have world leaders that were, like, affected, that said, you know, ‘Kanye gave me my shot here.’ Or ‘he pushed me,’ or ‘he told me to believe in myself,’ or ‘when I saw this, it made me feel like that.’ I wanna affect people like that when I, like, pass away."

People who are in important positions of power.  Obama? Sarkozy? Merkel? Justin Bieber? He has his own army so he kind of counts. I bet Bieber would go.  It will be just like a meeting at the UN.

He doesn’t state who or how he would have given them ‘a shot,” but he does occasionally talk about politics and he did make a stop at Occupy Wall Street. Perhaps he’s hinting at a run for something or other? Mayor West 2016?

It isn’t all pure egoism; he does manage to temper his statement by saying,

“When the light bulb was invented it wasn’t to stop a war, I understand we’ve got other issues that are way bigger. So I’m not trying to say that what I’m doing is the most important thing that’s happening on the planet, but what I’m saying is, what I’m doing is necessary. Just like if there’s one teacher teaching in a class, what she’s doing is necessary.” 

Kanye West, the equivalent of something between a human light bulb and a teacher.

Catch Aziz Ansari’s Cameo in the “Otis” Video

Excuse us for making the headline about Aziz Ansari when Kanye and Jay-Z take a chainsaw and a blowtorch to a Maybach in this video—we weren’t sure which of the two was more ridiculous, but we laughed more at Ansari’s 5-second cameo and his silly dance. In the Spike Jonez-directed clip for “Otis,” Ye and Jay hack apart a Maybach so they can drive donuts in a deserted lot, with a few models in tow.

If a few tracks on Watch The Throne get a bit introspective, it’s certainly not this one, where the new visuals magnify the fact that these two are simply rolling in money. But just to balance things out, the clip ends with a note explaining that the Maybach will be put up for auction, with proceeds benefitting the East African drought disaster. That’s just how the throne rolls, we guess. Take a look:

Jay-Z & Kanye’s ‘Watch The Throne’: A Review Roundup

For the remainder of the week, the running commentary, criticism, and praise of Kanye and Jay-Z’s monster album, Watch The Throne, will continue to pour out on Twitter, Facebook, via e-mail and text, and maybe even over a few live discussions, but the critics have already passed their final judgments. As to be expected, there’s a mixed consensus on the collaborative album, though numerous mentions of the word “ego” appear across the board.

Behold, a review roundup of Watch The Throne.

Time: Dip deep into the Throne, past the bacchanal celebration of the finer things in life, and you’ll find the album’s heart: two men grappling with what it means to be successful and black in a nation that still thinks of them as second class. The finest example of this is “Murder to Excellence,” which compares the murder rate in Chicago to the death toll in Iraq…What could have been a forgettable mishmash, or considering the egos involved, a bombastic vanity project, is instead a beautifully decadent album by two of hip-hop’s finest artists—men with a lot of things to say and a lot of money to spend.”

The New York Times: In this union the unflappable Jay-Z has given in ever so slightly to the restless Mr. West. Both men sound hungry and probing and, most important, not complacent, making Watch the Throne perhaps the most ambitious and effortful late-career album hip-hop has ever seen. This is the least obviously commercial album Mr. West has ever made; as for Jay-Z it rivals some of his recent artistic disappointments, failures of shortsightedness, not ambition.

Entertainment Weekly: In fact, the greatness of “New Day” drives home the album’s big problem: It feels too much like a Kanye West project featuring a clutch of Jay-Z cameos. They sound like they’re on the same page only during fleeting moments, and when those slip by, listening inevitably is more frustrating than fulfilling. Then again, neither Kanye nor Jay should worry too much, right? After all, this misstep officially belongs to the Throne.

Los Angeles Times: The result is a cocksure, fiery, smart, if problematic, collaboration that showcases the pair’s distinct lyrical skills, their way around a metaphor and an ability to execute both a grand narrative and the details that turn it into truth. Musically, the production is captivating — especially West and RZA’s odd, syrupy beat on “New Day” — even if a relative lack of structural variety within the songs makes the record feel a little longer than it actually is.

Chicago Tribune: Both artists have developed distinct, not necessarily complementary personas. Jay-Z is about imperious flow, bridging his gritty past life on the streets with his current status as a cultural tastemaker and business mogul. He operates at arm’s length from the listener, a self-styled godfather who never seems to break a sweat as he rhymes rings around his inferior would-be competition…West is more desperate, transparent, awkward, vulnerable; he’s not nearly the MC that Jay-Z is, but still he aims for the stars, often shooting well beyond traditional hip-hop subject matter and production in his desire to make an impression. He is the one more likely to surprise and enrage these days, which makes him one of the most compelling figures in contemporary pop.

Washington Post: Those expecting a disastrous ego clash will have to wait for Congress to reconvene — or until Jay-Z and West hit the road together this fall. Here, the duo volley between the contemplative and the petulant, dreaming contorted American dreams in which your worth is defined by your Rolex, your tenacity, your Warhol collection, your desire, the cars in your garage and the chips on your shoulder. Over the course of 16 tracks, rebellion is consistently tempered with gluttony — the two dissonant spirits that make this country great.

See Riccardo Tisci’s Animal Inspired ‘Watch The Throne’ Artwork

It’s August 8, and hopefully by now you’ve realized that all those tweets in your timeline about watching a throne were in reference to Kanye and Jay-Z’s new album Watch The Throne, and not the latest HBO show that you missed out on. A deluxe edition of the album, featuring “high-end art” by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci won’t be available until the 22nd, but the digital copy did come equipped with new images from the designer, that show a pretty catty side of Kanye and Jay.

Check out the artwork below.




A Recap of Kanye & Jay-Z’s ‘Watch The Throne’ Planetarium Playback

There are six days left until Watch The Throne premieres digitally, ten days left until physical copies hit shelves, and still, miraculously, the album hasn’t leaked. With tour dates now announced and an official tracklist locked down, Kanye and Jay hosted an invite-only listening session at the Museum of Natural History last night to play the 12 finalized tracks in full.

Most attendees would agree that the 6pm sharp arrival time seemed a bit excessive, with only four or five people being let in at a time. Phones were confiscated at the door and ticketed in ziploc bags, which meant that guests enjoying the top shelf open bar were forced to talk rather than tweet and exchange info manually.

Among the media types and the model types there were also rapper types, like Pusha T, who we spotted as he made his way upstairs around 7:30pm for the first listening session. We followed the red trail of his Louboutin sneakers and found Kanye West, smiling from ear-to-ear, at the top of the landing, greeting guests and leading the way to the Hayden Planetarium. At first no clear seating instructions were given, so listeners shuffled to available seats while guests like A-Trak, Q-Tip, Grizzly Bear, Busta Rhymes, and Warner CEO Lyor Cohen filed in. Kanye, still smiling, greeted familiar faces in the crowd with firm handshakes, then Jay-Z rolled in with Beyonce on his arm, and Kelly Rowland and Solange not far behind.

There was no formal introduction before the playback began, but suddenly the lights went off, the ceiling of the planetarium lit up, and Frank Ocean’s voice came floating through the speakers on Watch The Throne’s first track, “No Church in The Wild.” There was no pause in between songs, and it was only after the complete record played that Jay-Z finally took the mic, explaining that the album took 9 months to complete, and went through 3 incarnations.

Through the pounding bass, we could distinguish standout tracks like “New Day,” an RZA-produced number which finds Ye and Jay spitting to their unborn sons, and the Beyonce-featured “Lift Off,” a soaring number that literally put the room on tilt with the space show whirling above. Lead single “Otis” was just a light refresher in the midst of a record dripping with emotion, pain, and some beautifully dark moments.

On the Swizz Beatz-produced “Welcome to The Jungle,” Jay delivers some of his best verses on the album, preempting them with a declaration of himself as the “Black Axel Rose.” On “Made It In America,” Frank Ocean appears for his second feature, shouting out Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, and Coretta Scott King with swooning vocals that prove he’s destined to become legendary (yeah—we said it). And just like Jay’s Blueprint 3 album, Mr. Hudson appears on the final, rock-infused track “Love You So,” another light refresher compared to the previous tracks.

Jay-Z & Kanye West Announce Tour, Want to Be Called ‘The Throne’

After the release of “Otis” last week, we figured things would quiet down in terms of Watch the Throne updates. But according to Hov’s camp, there’s actually a tour on the way, plus a new hip-hip supergroup with Ye and Jay officially calling themselves The Throne. Guess we should’ve seen this coming?

Digital and physical album release dates are doubly confirmed for August 8 and 12 – the surprisingly long, 21-city Watch the Throne tour will kick off in September. Of note: There are currently no concert dates booked in NYC, which likely means that we can expect some celeb-studded, sucks-you-can’t-be-here type blowout show at MSG, Yankee Stadium, or something of the sort. Two New Jersey dates are confirmed, in case you want to play it safe.

9/22/11: Detroit, MI Palace of Auburn Hills 9/24/11: Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre 9/25/11: Montreal, QC Bell Centre 9/27/11: East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center 9/28/11: East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center 9/29/11: Washington DC Verizon Center 10/4/11: Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center 10/6/11: Chicago, IL United Center 10/7/11: Chicago, IL United Center 10/8/11: Minneapolis, MN Target Center 10/10/11: Denver, CO Pepsi Center 10/13/11: Tacoma, WA Tacoma Dome 10/14/11: Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena 10/16/11: San Jose, CA HP Pavilion 10/17/11: Sacramento, CA Power Balance Pavilion 10/19/11: Los Angeles, CA Staples Center 10/20/11: Los Angeles, CA Staples Center 10/21/11: Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena 10/25/11: Dallas, TX American Airlines Center 10/26/11: Houston, TX Toyota Center 10/29/11: Atlanta, GA Philips Arena 10/30/11: Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum 11/1/11: Baltimore, MD 1st Mariner Arena 11/3/11: Boston, MA TD Garden