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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews


Jay-Z and Kanye West
Watch The Throne

Tweet Rap. Yeah, sure we've been around the traps with the modern phenomenon that is Hash Tag Rap for more than a minute now. But that actually makes sense. Obvious punchlines, structured as an updated version of the metaphors-on-metaphors approach that hip-hop has been successfully re-tweeting for about 25 years. But this here, well it's just some 140 character top-of-the-head bullshit. And just like your own Twitter account, sometimes it's formed as perfectly encapsulated micro-quips ("write my curses in cursive") and sometimes it sounds like your Dad attended a Friday afternoon Social Media workshop down at the local TAFE ("I'm planking on a million").

On top of all these pan-flashing moments of decontextualized bragging is an equally overly-extravagant layer of production. "Higher! Higher! Make a wall! A wall!" said Sandi, the fake Elaine Benes, as she instructed the engineer to continue raising the height of the now ridiculous Great Wall of Hair. Huge bronzed pillars of sound. But supporting nothing substantial. And Watch The Throne is mostly just billion-dollar braggadocio production. Loud and brash, an obvious attempt to mask the lack of song structures and any form of pop focus. Chest-thumping so hard Benjamins flow from the nose like a bizarro version of the blow party fueled 1980s. And much like the baking-soda coke influx of 1991, this turns out to be mostly just some fraudulent shit. Leaving us with the overall feeling that Watch The Throne is just attempting to pull the wool over our eyes. Sure, it's 150% cashmere wool, sewn from the pubes of a thousand gold-plated Ethiopian children that were spawned from the tears of Jesus Christ. But, at the end of the day, it's still just plain old fashioned trickery.

Speaking of Cashmere Thoughts, it's impossible to ignore the laziness at which Jiggles spits rhymes on this record. When Kenny West is out-rapping you on an album then maybe it's just best to hang up the microphone and spend your days tightening the spinners on Lil Jig's stroller. It's painful though for us memory lane lovers, that the man that once constructed complex multi-faceted rhyming patterns and threw away venomous one-liners like he had billions more in reserve ("I talk jewels and spit diamonds: all cherry, like a hymen, when I'm rhyming with remarkable timing") is now building entire songs around weak 1997 Sean Combs t-shirt slogans ("ball so hard"). But I guess these references aren't important for those this album is aimed at, as — something perfectly encapsulated by those legends The Hiphoptimists — this is rap music for people who don't ordinarily like rap music.

And maybe this works with that intended audience in mind. If this is the only hip-hop record you listen to in 2011, then there's a strong chance it'll be your favourite. It'll probably make it towards the pointy end of the Best 1 Hip-Hop Records Of 2011 list that you're planning to post on your Live Journal in November. It'll more than likely dominate your summer barbecues, swiftly followed by the "Oh, I didn't know you liked rap music Beatrice" enquiry from one of your co-workers. To which you'll inevitably reply "Oh, no this is the new Kanye album" and/or "my name is Jonny".

But fuck that. Because everyone else wanted the awkwardly disfigured love-child of Dark Twisted Fantasy and Reasonable Doubt. Forming like a Louie Voltron luggage bag and playing a do-or-die game of dice on a private jet en route to a private fashion show in Milan. There are (overly obvious) attempts at creating this disfigured being (Niggas in Paris, Murder To Excellence) but arranged in this Tweet Rap format the connection between the two personas just gets completely muddled in a series of contradictory attempts to steal the spotlight for half a millisecond.

But it's not a complete nightmare. Frank Ocean shines on both his cameos — yes, even that one where he just croons about the "sweetness" of Mary, Prostitute mother of Jesus. Otis is an absolute banger, not just because Jigg Jigg and Kenneth actually sound like they were in the same room, in the same million-dollar-a-night hotel suite, in the same country, at the same time when it was recorded but because they're also complementing each other fairly graciously with their gentle back-and-forth sparring. The Beyonce cameo, although it's garnered a fair few cracks of criticism, is also a personal favourite and one of the few occasions where the ridiculous levels of grandeur is backed with a sense of believability — mostly because B sounds like she's about to burst out of the speakers at any moment, make violent eat-you-alive intercourse to you and then bite your head/dick off.

Overall though, Watch The Throne promises so much more than it delivers. It's creators piggy-back on their egos, rapping from above their audience, spitting down lazily arranged, frequently illogical one-liners, clumped together in mostly directionless and pointless songs about gold-plated cars and fashion labels that I've (thankfully) never heard of. Rap music has been egotistical and purposely separated from it's audience on countless other occasions before. But never in such a half-cocked manner.

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Record Reviews
Kanye West


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