Friday, August 26, 2011

Watching the Throne, but I Don't See Kings

The pride of your heart has deceived you,
  you who live in the clefts of the rocks
  and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
  ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
  and make your nest among the stars,
  from there I will bring you down,”
           declares the LORD. – Obadiah 3-4

Today’s Reading: Obadiah; Revelation 9

Two of my favorite artists, Jay Z and Kanye West came out with an album together called Watch the Throne.

I was both anxiously anticipating it and a bit worried. I was anticipating it because I consider both to be geniuses who are unparalleled in the hip hop culture right now. I was a bit worried because I had no idea where this project was headed. Would they make a statement about themselves or a broader statement about the culture, the world, or something else that I couldn’t imagine?

Unfortunately they talked mostly about how great they are.


I know that bravado is a big part of hip hop. It’s been there since the very beginning. Hip Hop is an art form created out of a need for self expression from folks who were extremely depressed and oppressed. Part of reacting to how small you are treated is to tell the world just how big you are.

But come on fellas. We know you are the best in the game so why are you telling me this for the whole album.

The thing about being the best is that you don’t have to tell people. It’s something that everyone can see by the content of your work and your life. They see it in the fruit of your labor. Greatness is in how great you serve, not in how great you look or how much money you have.

When I look at the throne metaphor it is easy to see this point. The greatest kings and leaders are the ones who are remembered for serving others. The founding fathers of America fought to preserve independence and freedom for this nation. Abraham Lincoln fought to preserve the union and won. Leaders like Gandhi and King used their greatness to fight for freedom. Even business leaders today, who are generally accepted as “great”, are using their resources to change the world for the better.

The perfect example of this in the Bible is King Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived. When God told him to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom to lead his people. He asked for something that would benefit his people rather than himself.

So as I “Watch the Throne” I am waiting to see how their greatness benefits those that follow them. I hope that I will see it before they fall from grace.


  1. very interesting. I have always admired their ability to make innovative and genre defining concepts, creativity, production, and lyricism. However, at this point in my life, and in my faith walk, so much of the content actually turns my stomach. Particularly on Murder to Excellence when Jay - Z defines excellence through opulence and decadence. It was brought up to me that Hip Hop ranks with Islam and Christianity as one of the fastest growing global movements in recent years. Because it professes values, has venerated figures, and influences people's daily living, in essence, its become a secular religion. If it does operate as such on a global level, what kind of message is it (speaking particular to mainstream hip hop) sending, considering Jay and Kanye are somewhat at the top of the influence list?

  2. @Kofi Great point man. I had a conversation recently about hip hop in this context. If hip hop is your religion then who is your god? What does it do to make your life better? In what direction is it leading you? These are important questions to ask about whatever it is that we choose to believe in. I love hip hop for what it has brought to our culture, but of course I stop short of it being the foundation of my values.

  3. couldn't disagree more with both you, still love you though

  4. hahahaah. still got love for you too K.

  5. i look at it as entertainment, along the same lines as a movie. also for those who have been to more concerts than Sunday morning services, the controversy surrounding the music may at least indirectly influence them find God

  6. @Raezor Good point man. Definitely possible.

  7. I like the comparison to a religion, but as you said, if it is a religion, who is your god, prophet, savior, etc? That main reason is why I don't believe that it is or should be treated as a religion. It's just like any other cultural value, subject, maybe even philosophy, but not a religion. It can be a philosophy which people study the way of thinking within hip hop, a subject matter which people can study and learn from such as economics, a form of entertainment and media. But there is no indisputable "higher power" to hip hop, nor a ultimate goal (i.e. Heaven, enlightenment, reincarnation, etc.).

    P.S. They also make far to many comparisons between themselves and the antichrist or devil, "My black card carries the mark of the beast". Makes me rather uncomfortable especially given their influence and monetary power in our society.


  8. @Marcel Yeah it's those spiritual comparisons in relation to their self defined position as kings that bothers me. It's just plain weird at this point.

    I agree about hip hop. When it comes down to it I don't think your avid hip hop fan views it as a religion. It is definitely a culture tho, and a dope one at that!

  9. @ Marcel. I wholeheartedly feel what you are saying, and hope what I was saying did not convey that I think hip hop "IS" religion, I 'm saying that they can (not that it necessarily does) take on similar roles in peoples lives. However, I do wonder, does there need to be a 'higher power' for something to be as a religion? Can money, lust, or fame be a religion if our lives show that we worship them like idols? I'm not theologian, just a brotha with questions.

  10. It seems like you all know eachother but thought I'd share my view anyway. Firstly, I believe so strongly if you look hard enough you'll find whatever you're looking for... so if you believe there are all these references liking themselves to the anti-christ, you will find it because in fact even the quote you used was taken out of context... the line is 'THEY SAY my black card bears the mark of the beast'... which reads very differently then beginning with 'my' card. And, no question they have tried to 'put the devil on him' and he says himself 'I would have preferred if n****s would squeeze the metal on me'. As Jay says, 'turn my musc up, HEAR ME CLEARLY'.

    I also think that if 'Watch the Throne' sounded like they consistently referenced their own greatness, maybe you need to listen more closely...

    "Giving you respect, I expect the same thing
    All black everything, Ni**a you know my fresh code
    I’m out here fightin’ for you, Don’t increase my stress load
    Ni**as watchin’ the throne, Very happy to be
    Power to the people, When you see me, see you"

    Yeezy's line 'Its time for us to stop and redefine Black Power' rang true to me and I believe the empowering and motivating content on the ablum encourages... black excellence rather than simply being an ego boost to Jay n Ye.

  11. @Adele thanks for that comment! I agree that they didn't only talk about themselves but after a full listen that is what I was left with. I've listened to it several times now and I still am not feeling the tone of the album. There are brilliant moments that I love but I'm still left wondering if they are Kings then who are their subjects? How are they leading them? In what direction? Perhaps I take them too seriously but I believe that their impact is that big, making these valid questions. Also the religion talk really raised an eyebrow for me...


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