Another day, another redefinition of the hip-hop scene by two of the genre’s most prominent figures with some help from a collaborative that banks on the star power of its founder. Crews have always been an exciting feature of the music industry. Before Polyphonic Spree donned their robes, Broken Social Scene was doing wonders for Canadian indie rock. NewVillager and the eight members of The New Pornographers continue to be vital forces in rock, too, but the phenomenon is nowhere more widespread and significant than in hip-hop. From Wu-Tang to Odd Future, the long-standing East Coast vs West Coast rivalry and the enterprising Georgians down south, the groups borne out of piggybacking off key artist’s success, unshakable camaraderie and allegiances and unnecessarily serious spats that can throw the rest of the individualistic music business into disarray, have been a fascinating element of hip-hop for time immemorial. Even as the threats and violence that once typified the genre leaves it and Lamborghinis and nightclubs arrive in their stead, the value of being part of a clique (Maybach Music, Grand Hustle, Roc, YMCMB et al) is yet to diminish.
Kanye West and Jay-Z are on top of the world. As much as I disliked it on first (and second, and probably third) listen, ‘Watch The Throne’ has been so overplayed as to render opposition to its Anchorman-sampling, Frank Ocean-featuring, Otis-Redding-borrowing track listing nugatory. You can try and escape it but, in the nosebleeds at Wembley, at Madison Square Garden and everywhere in between, the album – and the re-renaissance of two of the decade’s biggest artists it ushered in – is here to stay. Cashed up to the eyeballs and Kardashianed up to thereabouts, Kanye West appears to be on a bit of a Calvin Harris-esque run whereby he can try to alienate people with , or by but it just won’t work – G.O.O.D. Music is here to stay. From humble beginnings with Consequence, Common and John Legend, Kanye has expanded the stable to make household names out of Big Sean and Kid Cudi. Taking on Big Sean (who boasts a perfect chorus tone), and adopting the readymade audience that comes pre-cooked for any Jay-Z enterprise (who boasts some enviable math skills), ‘Clique’ is wobbly, heavy evidence that the growth plans for the group haven’t yet been met.
Produced by Hit-Boy (resident tune master who created lesser known ‘Niggas In Paris‘ as well as other tracks you might have heard of like A$AP Rocky’s ‘‘ and Wayne’s ‘‘), ‘Clique’ is new-era hip-hop. Gone are the chipmunk vocals, the happy reflections on The Good Life, even the more edgy reflections on sipping on gin and juice. Potentially compensating for that deficit of legitimate beef in the game, ‘Clique’ sounds darker and more aggressive than much mainstream rap to have hit the airwaves in recent years. The Stonemason-ish chants and tribal drums that percolate an otherwise strongly electronic bass line evoke the riot scenes of the . Even with the whole world knowing the answer to anyone who asks ‘What she order?’ (fish filet), Kanye seems disaffected, angry. That aggression makes for seriously interesting listening as Hit-Boy drives a minimalist beat so deep into your cerebellum that you can’t help crossing your forearms and clicking. As Kanye bounces between Tom Cruise, white people’s spending habits, suicide and his home movie-famous girlfriend, his distaste for structure, normalcy, expectations is palpable. When conventions melt and reform in his hands this easily and with an increasingly impressive G.O.O.D. family to chip in on the renovation, we could be worse off than with Kanye’s crew running things for the moment.
G.O.O.D. Music – Clique Ft. Big Sean, Jay-Z, Kanye West