Thursday, November 19, 2015

Song of the Day #228 - Jay Z and Kanye West - Why I Love You

Picture if you will that the throne's burning

I couldn't find this on Youtube but I found a dozen lame acoustic covers that make me wish the guitar was uninvented. And a million EDM remixes that make me wish kids had way more homework.

When Watch the Throne first came out I was actually pretty unimpressed with it... Like, "Otis" and "HAM" were on heavy rotation, and the rest of the album didn't really stack up. I think it was cause I listened to it for the first time on my terrible netbook speakers, a truly regrettable decision. Anyways in the subsequent listens, this was the track that first really stood out to me, even before I understood the sheer power that was "Niggas in Paris".

This track has it all, this track is like... all the proof you ever needed that a collaboration album between Kanye and Jay was a great idea, was basically necessary. There's an intense emotional drive here of... feeling betrayed, and feeling a level of abandonment and futility because of it, but then, on a more fundamental level, still feeling absolutely invincible. It is best summarized by the line "If you got a shot then shoot", a line that does not actually appear in the song, but is similar enough to Kanye's "These niggas got a shot they'll shoot" that I think it's reasonable that I misremembered it for four years. Like basically saying "alright, if you can do it, then do it, because then I was wrong, and I deserve to get taken down", with the bravado of "hahaha hell no you won't do it" but also the torment of "man what's the point if they're just gonna try to take me down".

It's all based around the infamous falling out Jay Z had with a bunch of ex-Roc-a-Fella guys, which, beyond being dramatic and major and all that, actually happened! Like, if you can forgive a bit of conflation between "shooting at me" and "reneging on deals" (which I think is fair, given that Jay Z also used to literally get shot at), this song is, if anything, understated compared to the truth. And, just like you'd expect if you were put in this position with dear friends, he's wrapped up in all sorts of feelings, with the bottom line is that he's still got love for you! Even if he doesn't know why, he still feels that love!

If this sounds vaguely Christlike, then you should know that the vagueness is just because you haven't read the lyrics, which are explicitly Christlike, and Ceasar-like on top of that. The grandeur of the opening lines - "Picture if you will that the throne's burning, Rome's burning, and I'm sitting in the corner all alone burning", which speak not just to the Roc-a-Fella dynasty but to the album that preceded it - matched with the closing lines - "Please Lord forgive em, for these niggas know not what they do" - creates a lineage of leaders that seems uhh basically unresolvable, like, how are you gonna be Jesus and Nero, Jay?

Probably in the same way that they'll make this track that has... HudMo recreating a beloved Cassius jam in both classic rock and EDM registers, some of the tightest and tryhard flows of the whole album, stunning interplay between Kanye and Jay Z, a guitar solo, a string reinterpretation of the beat... like, even if you didn't know anything about these guys, anything about their history and legacy, the proof of their words is in the unstoppable power of the song itself.

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