"Gotta Have It"
I was taken in by the head-bobbing beat and warbling vocals in the instrumental. The beat makes me move my body like a snake, a la R. Kelly. Lyrically, however, "Gotta Have It" could not hold my attention, though I'm sure both ballers Wade and LeBron James appreciate the anti-hater empathy extended by The Throne. Notable Quotables:Everyone who knows I mortally despise the song "Racks on Racks" will understand why I salute Kanye and Jay for incorporating this irritating cry of materialism into a much more lyrical verse than I anticipated possible. It reminds me of when Andre 3000 resurrected the hot mess that was "Throw Some D's On It." I also want to blow a virtual kiss to Jay-Z for painting the lyrical portrait of him "planking on a million." Sounds like he should use that as a Facebook profile pic.
I know people who hate "H.A.M." and consider it the epitome of arrogance, but this song fires me up. Braggng reaches unparalleled levels as Jay-Z and West verbally assassinate imaginary haters everywhere to a hard-hitting beat interspersed with operatic singing. This is the perfect song to prep you before a performance review, P90X workout, or maybe even a showdown with a cheating spouse. Notable Quotables: This track was run ragged on the radio, so we all know the lines, but my fave is when West says "like Eli, I did it." And that viral video nod folks, is why he is the Dave Chappelle of rap.
"Illest Mother[bleeper] Alive"
If it had not been for my Kyles Filers, I would have listened to this weak beat and boasting once and called it one. I listened three times to provide insight and ultimately found I have nothing constructive to say about it. It's filler. Fluff. In Jay's own words from "Show Me What You Got, "What you want me to do? I'm sorry." Notable Quotables: This is notable, but not in a good way. Did Ye' really say he has staples on his...um...Little Ye' from banging centerfolds? (Rewinding) Oh yes, he sure did. Slow down.
The truly beautiful vocals of Curtis Mayfield makes everything better. I appreciate 'Ye and Jay trying to get all real with us and share the pain of being tabloid targets. No, I'm serious. It's interesting to hear how they handle their enviable, but challenging lifestyles. But this pity party gets boring somewhere mid-way through, though I never wearied of hearing Pete Rock's production. Props to The Creator. Notable Quotables: West keeps serving up the one-liners. I didn't necessarily like, but was struck by the line: "Your life's cursed, well mine's an obscenity."
Whoever titled this track needs to get flogged with an old, cracked 8-track. Because contrary to said title, it doesn't go anywhere lyrically or instrumentally. I found myself chatting with The Throne's members and featured guests. Here are some of my mumblings. To 'Ye, I beg that he abandon that talk-singing co-opted and corrupted by Drake. Beyonce, do not let your husband pressure you into recording vocals if you don't plan to deliver. Jay, you stop singing too. You hate Auto-tune, do you? Well, whatever effect you are using ain't no better. The sad thing is this could have been at least a head-nodder if they'd stuck to the beat they belatedly switch to toward the end. Notable Quotables: I was too distracted by Bey's caterwauling to give an accurate assessment.
“Made in America”
This song was just plain silly to me. I enjoyed the black history shout-outs, but as Frank Ocean belted out such things as "sweet baby Jesus," I damn near giggled. Not sure if that is what they were going for. Notable Quotables. None, in my humble opinion. Second skip of the album.
“Murder to Excellence”
I understand where this song was going and I absolutely adore the beat, but I rolled my eyes like dice at the cliches parading as social commentary. Jay and Kanye don't need to get all Dead Prez on us, but damn, shouting "black on black," "crabs in a barrel," and "take care of your son" is something even Soulja Boy could do. Lupe Fiasco took on the subject of issues ailing the black community much more effectively in "All Black Everything." Notable Quotes: I rather enjoyed when West raps he'd rather watch a movie because "ain’t nothing on the news but the blues." Even as a reporter, I totally identify with that sentiment.
I love the RZA's work, so I was delighted to find that though he didn't go "36 Chambers" on the track, he offered Kanye and Jay-Z a haunting instrumental with an eery "Cold World" chorus threaded into the melody. Though this is a whine-fest of sorts, particularly on Ye's part, it may the the most relateable track on the album. Jay's letter to his unborn son seemed a bit more sincere than 'Ye, who threw some sarcasm into lyrics that talk about him warning his future son to be nice, skip telethons and settle down with his college girlfriend instead of giving in to groupie love.
"(N-words) in Paris"
Okay, the "HAM" lyrical delivery was energizing once. In this instance, it's just damn annoying. The beat was no better. Third skip. Notable Quotables: None to speak of.
“No Church in the Wild”
Frank Ocean goes all nouveau Nate Dogg on our arses. I enjoy the undulating Big and Rich-esque beat, which conveys the recklessness in the track title. This ode to hip-hop hedonism spits in the face of "Jesus Walks," but so what? Personally, I find it interesting to hear passages from the celebrity scrolls. Notable Quotables: West is one slick son of a gun talking about there are "no sins as long as there's permission." Tell that to Charlie Sheen, fella!