RECORD REVIEW: Kanye & Jay-Z’s H.A.M.

According to internet jabber, Jay-Z and Kanye West are in the south of France polishing up their collaboration EP, Watch The Throne, due mid-2011. They leaked three tracks from the EP. The first two tracks “That’s My Bitch” and “The Joy,” produced by Pete Rock and Q-Tip respectively, were promising, to say the least.

However, on Tuesday, Kanye announced that a third leaked track, “H.A.M. (Hard As A Motherfucker,” would be the lead single for the EP. In a nutshell, “H.A.M.” is a remake of Rick Ross’ summer hit “BMF.” Sure, the beat has changed mildly to include choral dynamics, but Lex Luger (the producer) wasn’t even bright enough to change the tempo. That’s amateur, and it’s demoralizing to see two veteran artists on this type of song.

Kanye is promising a dark and promiscuous, almost vaudevillian vogue with “H.A.M..” In truth, it is a slab of bass-driven pop-rap. There’s neither eccentricity nor risk in this. The song is a comfort-food, of sorts. Rather than being an exciting flambé, or a savory Spanish pastry, this is more of a home-style H.A.M. sandwich with some mu’uh’fuckin Pringles.

Jay-Z might be feeling cautious about this collaboration, and he should. His previous collabs with R. Kelly permanently blemished his discography. Time has shown that Jay-Z needs to redefine himself every so often, and in 2002 he easily transformed his persona to fit the “bling-bling” era of hip-hop. However, he needed to mingle with a new crowd to stay relevant. Sadly, that meant he had to mingle with the RnB elite— Robert Kelly, the self-proclaimed King of Soul. The collaboration between the Jiggaman and the pissing piper was unavoidable — like high school, when the star quarterback slept with the popular girl. He might forget her, but not the gonorrhea.

Nine years later, mainstream hip-hop is in a much different position. Despite a slight ‘80s retro-mania and a short stint with auto-tune, the genre is noticeably pliable. Artists are encouraged to experiment, and, thankfully, the marriage between hip-hop and RnB was annulled. Yet, Jay-Z is in the same position as he was in 2002. He’s now a veteran of three eras; ‘80s battle rap, ‘90s street allure, ‘00s bling and braggadocio. If he wants to continue as an artist, he needs to retain his relevancy. “H.A.M.” puts a damper on that goal. Jay-Z needs a hit, “H.A.M.” is just a “meh.” — MATTHEW HENGEVELD

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