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The paint hits the canvas, a wide smear as the brush gently glides along erasing any white and replacing it with a pastel of gold. The painter looks at his subject, atop the throne: his snowy fur coat draping down to the spotless stone floor, and on his head sits an immaculate gold crown matching the one in the painting. Somewhere in the distance church bells chime, and the subject removes his crown and steps down from the throne. The painter protests, nowhere near done with his portrait. The king dismisses him; they will finish another day.

 

He sits on the step, letting the cool breeze from the open window calm his nerves. He fingers the jewels on his crown... this hollow crown. He is covered in blood, but he doesn't mind. What's done is done, what's foul is fair. The ambition to be a great man, let alone a great king makes the crown feel heavier than it actually is. Ruthless? Holy? Merciless? Good? What is he when he turns to dust? He stands, looking out the window, over the city as it burns. And everyone below still shuffles about, oblivious. The city crumbles. The church bells stop. And the king replaces the crown on his head.

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Kanye West and Jay-Z. With the beautiful gift of hindsight, looking at these two giants who have continued to consistently produce culture-shifting works and are currently standing on the Mount Olympus that is the music industry, it is difficult to conceive of a time where a track title like "Who Gon Stop Me" might have been anything but rhetorical. Nevertheless, Kanye, who started out as a producer selling many of his beats to Jay-Z, is not even ten years later dropping a collaboration album with the man. Looking back this album feels like it must have always been inevitable, but at one time it probably felt like a pipe dream to many.

 

The relationship between the two artists is central to the concept of the collaboration. Much like "Big Brother" on GRADUATION, this album poses an interesting perspective on the idea of idol worship. Tracks like "No Church in the Wild" is seemingly a renunciation of this false hero worship. While this may seem like a contradiction, with track titles like "Illest Motherfucker Alive", and "No Church" opening with the soulful tones of Frank Ocean asking, "Human beings in a mob. What's a mob to a king? What's a king to a god? What's a god to a non-believer? Who don't believe in anything?" But Jay-Z later clarifies, preaching, "Socrates asked, whose bias do y'all seek? // All for Plato, screech // I’m out here balling, I know y'all hear my sneaks // Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats".

 

The case could (and has) been made for whether both Kanye and Jay-Z have earned their place on the Mount Rushmore of modern rap (or, just music). Basquiats, Warhols... they're the muses. Now the Kanyes, the Jay-Zs... they're ours. The rap laureates of Brooklyn and Chi-Raq. When the man who gave us THRILLER (a man who's been maybe the primary case study for questioning idol worship in recent years) deems Kanye worth playing and playing over and over during the final years of his life, maybe (maybe...) Kanye usurped even his own wildest dreams. The new king was crowned. Who would’ve believed it?

Kanye West and Jay-Z. With the beautiful gift of hindsight, looking at these two giants who have continued to consistently produce culture-shifting works and are currently standing on the Mount Olympus that is the music industry, it is difficult to conceive of a time where a track title like "Who Gon Stop Me" might have been anything but rhetorical. Nevertheless, Kanye, who started out as a producer selling many of his beats to Jay-Z, is not even ten years later dropping a collaboration album with the man. Looking back this album feels like it must have always been inevitable, but at one time it probably felt like a pipe dream to many.

 

The relationship between the two artists is central to the concept of the collaboration. Much like "Big Brother" on GRADUATION, this album poses an interesting perspective on the idea of idol worship. Tracks like "No Church in the Wild" is seemingly a renunciation of this false hero worship. While this may seem like a contradiction, with track titles like "Illest Motherfucker Alive", and "No Church" opening with the soulful tones of Frank Ocean asking, "Human beings in a mob. What's a mob to a king? What's a king to a god? What's a god to a non-believer? Who don't believe in anything?" But Jay-Z later clarifies, preaching, "Socrates asked, whose bias do y'all seek? // All for Plato, screech // I’m out here balling, I know y'all hear my sneaks // Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats".

 

The case could (and has) been made for whether both Kanye and Jay-Z have earned their place on the Mount Rushmore of modern rap (or, just music). Basquiats, Warhols... they're the muses. Now the Kanyes, the Jay-Zs... they're ours. The rap laureates of Brooklyn and Chi-Raq. When the man who gave us THRILLER (a man who's been maybe the primary case study for questioning idol worship in recent years) deems Kanye worth playing and playing over and over during the final years of his life, maybe (maybe...) Kanye usurped even his own wildest dreams. The new king was crowned. Who would’ve believed it?

- Written and Designed by Bryson Edward Howe