This is what happens when you listen to "Watch The Throne" nonstop for five days while riding the big body truck to work, to the gym, to Kroger, to the bar, and back home. You think of craziness and try to make sense of it all.
As the release of the newest project from the masterminds Jay-Z and KanYe West dropped on August 8th called "Watch The Throne," the anticipation of greatness was at an all-time high. I'd been waiting with baited breath for the album to come out, as two of my all-time favorite artists were collaborating on a tracklist that was protected like gold in Ft. Knox. When the album reached the masses, folks were quick to put their stamp on the album. Proclaiming that it was an all-time great, or that it was overrated. How you could make a statement either way seemed blasphemous...the album's only been out a week. Chill out.
Yet, what really made me scratch my head was something that's fundamental in hip-hop and has a crossover affect in sports. "Man, did you hear KanYe give the work to Jay on New Day?" or "Hov out shined KanYe in No Church in the Wild, no question." Two of the greatest hip-hop artists of all-time collaborate to make something beautiful, yet the conversation is all about, "which one is better?"
What are we really doing here?
Look, I'm no fool. Hip-hop was built on the premise of battle rap. Which one of us is better on this mic, simple and plain, is the question that's asked by the fickle mob. However, is our perspective so focused on how these two artists compare to each other or on their output as a unified duo on a mission? Watch The Throne's lyrics, production, and theme are all pulled off brilliantly. Brilliantly so that the cockiness, the arrogance, the brashness, the egotism, and their belief in their own swag is slathered all on the album. Is it what we're used to from Jay-Z? Not really. Is KanYe's rapping ability at an all-time high? No doubt. Is one crushing the other on the album?
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Not at all.
It's a fire album. If you wanted the old Jay-Z or the old KanYe...then go buy their old album. What they came together to do was a masterpiece, and it should be celebrated for what THEY accomplished more than what one individual did.
Sometimes I think that athletes, the media, and sports fans get this philosophy all wrong in the sports landscape.
From the Miami Heat, to the Philadelphia Eagles, to the New York Yankees, to Manchester City, to Hendrick Motorsports, to the New York Rangers....it will never matter how many stars you put together on the field/court/pitch/track/ice. It matters how well that TEAM performs. That team has to go out there and be unified in their actions, their belief, and their goals. If any of these things are askew, the team will ultimately fail.
So for as much as we were all excited about the forming of "The Heatles," in actuality, we saw three (yes, three) superstars come together who all had their own agenda, their own belief system, and maybe even their own goals. To quote the great philosopher Justin Tinsley, "Yeah, cats would check up to see if Miami won...but the first question after that is always, 'Well, what did DWade do? What did LeBron do?' like the final score of the game didn't really matter." If you're not winning basketball games, and ultimately winning championships, then who really gives a damn who out shined one another? Miami failed to perform as a singular unit and ,instead in the crucial moments, they performed as a group of individuals.
If Michael Vick, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Steve Smith all go to the Philadelphia Eagles organization, perform at a high-level, yet the Eagles don't win that ring....those three aren't getting a pass for the team's failure.
If Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, and Alex Rodriguez ball out in the playoffs, yet they don't bring home ring #28 for the Yankees organization...those three aren't getting a pass.
Same for Balotelli, Aguero, and Clichy at ManCity. Same for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Hendrick. Same for (insert three good NY Rangers hockey players) in NYC.
KanYe and Jay-Z won with this album. Their greatness is unquestioned at this point. If KanYe's the MVP, then he's the MVP. Doesn't mean Jay-Z didn't win. Doesn't mean KanYe's better than Jay-Z. Just means that they came together, put in work, and set the streets on fire with another banger of an album.
This isn't slander against those teams and players I referenced, but it is a call out to the fact that you are among the most talented of what you do in the world. As a maestro taps his easel to prepare his orchestra to perform, you as the elite of the elite have the same ability. To perform at the highest level and achieve the ultimate prize as a team, not a group of individuals. As sports fans, the ultimate praise is about the team's success, not the individual glory. It's not the other way around. Sometimes, I think we value an MVP more than we do a championship ring, yet the ring validates how valuable those players were to each other.
Watch The Throne indeed. We'll watch it...together.