Jay Z vs Kanye West Summer 2013

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The world was exposed to the first real blockbuster hip-hop album on June 18 when Kanye West, sans a high profile promotion drive, released his sixth studio album ‘Yeezus’, letting the controversy surrounding the title and lack of conventional album artwork as well as the mythologizing quotes by collaborators including Daft Punk on the experimental nature of the album’s content garner the bulk of the buzz around its release. Taking an entirely different tack a month later was Jay Z, striking up a lucrative partnership with Samsung to release his twelfth album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, for free to one million Galaxy smart phone users.

  Comparable to their respective marketing ploys, it is easy to paint a picture of the albums as polar opposites. On Yeezus, West has eschewed his penchant for r’n’b inflected, maximalist production, hinting at it on tracks like ‘Bound 2’, for a more dissonant, minimalist aesthetic, making the album sound like the rapper’s 2008 LP ‘808s and Heartbreak’ on a scary amount of acid. The production of Magna Carta on the other hand is very much in the mould of the last few Jay Z albums, the New York rapper choosing to work with long time collaborators Timbaland, Pharrell and Swizz Beats. As a result the songs on Magna Carta sound like Jay Z songs, they are evidently trying to reach the imperial heights of ‘Banger’ status. Lyric-wise it’s the same story, whilst Jay Z continues to celebrate the merits of materialism in ‘Tom Ford’ and questioning the role of religion in his life in ‘Heaven’, Kanye is more abrasive in his themes, exploring the relationship between capitalism and the African American’s place in society in ‘New Slaves’ and boldly affirming ‘I AM GOD’ in the song of the same name.

So which album ruled the summer? In terms of instant gratification, Magna Carta would seem like the obvious candidate, however for an album that would resonate further down the line, perhaps in the autumn, winter, or maybe even next summer Yeezus feels stronger. So, final answer, the ruler of the summer… Definitely Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s ‘Control’.

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