Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Bomb the Throne"

Seems that more than a few other rappers have had their hackles raised by Kanye and Jay-Z's sampling of Otis Redding. First it was Chuck D's take, now it's Jasiri X.

Just to broaden it a little bit, Watch the Thone, the much-hyped Ye/Jay collab, is earning mixed reviews at best. Chris Richards of The Washington Post is probably the most fair-minded on the contradiction presented by this album when he says "Over the course of 16 tracks, rebellion is consistently tempered with gluttony--the two dissonant spirits that make this country great." Others have been less meta; Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly called it "cluttered and disjointed, as though Jay and 'Ye built their garish castle in the sky via FedEx and text messages." Those even less forgiving have basically called it a testament to just how overblown and disconnected mainstream hip-hop culture has become. Ugh.

But the track "Otis" in particular has really stirred some responses up. It's an admittedly hot beat, and its inclusion of one of the absolute greatest soul artists does indeed pull on the deep roots of Black American music. It's easy to see how some have interpreted the track as Kanye and Jay-Z's take on the African-American dream coming full circle.

Jasiri, like Chuck, sees that circle ending up in a very different place, however. His use of the beat puts two other "throne-dwellers" on the hot-seat. Even more than Chuck's take, Jasiri X's grilling of the Bush dynasty seeks to reframe rap's present context. While Jay and Ye almost appear to be retreating from it, Jasiri takes it head on. And to be perfectly honest, the lyrical content here is better suited for Redding's depth--at least in this writer's estimation.


Rob said...

Excellent song. It's very rare to be able to have such hard hitting political lyrics flow so smoothly. My one objection would be that it seems Jasiri X is a bit lenient with President Obama, seemingly attributing all of his failures to Bush's fuck-ups. It seems that by now it is no secret that Obama never intended to seriously challenge any of Bush's regressive policies.

Alexander Billet said...

Yeah it definitely comes across like that. Jasiri's done some other songs that I know are much more critical. In this song he's obviously more going after the Bushes, and I think it's fair to say that Obama is being expected to clean up Bush Jr's mess. That being said, he's obviously only added to it.

All the more reason we need a real, radical anti-racist alternative at the ballot box in 2012. Here's to hoping, right?