Context – juggling
In the work sense. Like “How am I going to get all of this done before 5!?” kind of juggling, not like actually throwing and catching knives. That would be something, eh?
I debated about including this album, which has a top-10 Kanye song in “Ni**gas in Paris”, but the album also technically has a shared credit with Jay-Z. Ultimately it came down to Spotify, which includes this under Kanye’s discography. Ask and you shall receive answers to the tough questions about how to quantify an artist’s body of work.
I had really high expectations coming into this off the strength of the aforementioned “Ni**as in Paris” and “Otis”, both of which I love. “Lift Off” is another stand-out track (as is everything Beyonce touches), but the rest of the album delve into rather forgettable territory.
All of these songs are strong and just have the misfortune of not being selected as singles. This isn’t the kind of album where the singles stand-out and every other track is fine but ultimately filler; “Ni**as in Paris” and “Otis” may well have been chosen at random. Rather than serve as a strong point, however, the rest of the tracks just kind of blur together without too many standout moments. Without anything to help these songs shine beyond the rest of the reasonably solid tracks, everything comes off as a healthy “B,” which starts to feel like a “C-” just due to sheer lack of variety.
I really like the effort, though. I think rap works really well as a collaborative genre, with a mixture of producers and features to help break up the flow of the record. It’s fun to see that extra level of cooperation from two artists, even if they are IRL BFFs. The downside to this approach, if I may continue to be a Negative Nelly about things (granted) (but also where is Nelly? I feel like he’s been quiet lately), is that the lyrical content doesn’t vary much. When you get Jay-Z and Kanye West in a room together, they only talk about so many things. And in this case, they only rap about so many things. Which is a shame, because you expect an album with Jay-Z and Kanye West would be start-to-finish balls-to-the-walls spectacular.
Sidebar: why does Kanye shift focus so blatantly in “Ni**as in Paris” and “All of the Lights”? Both of these would fight for “Best Kanye Track EVAR” if they didn’t do an about-face after 2:45 of run-time. Not every song needs to be 4-5 minutes; why stretch it arbitrarily?
Griping aside, this is a fine record, but nothing to get too excited about. If this were a vinyl album I’d only ever play Side 1, but I would admittedly play that Side 1 at least once a week.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
- The College Dropout
- 808s & Heartbreaks
- Watch the Throne
- Late Registration