Everyone, including my friends, want a classic, but they have the wrong thinking cap on in terms of a classic if you ask me. Run-DMC, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy had some classics, but let’s assume for a second that not enough hip-hop albums had yet to be made to really have a high bar for what a “classic” was.
So what are the bonafide hip-hop classics of the last 20 years?
A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Nas’ Illmatic, B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP, Kanye West’s College Dropout…that’s just a sampling, I’d assume. Let’s say there are five others by solo rappers (which Tupac album is tops?). Now, can someone point to any groups besides Tribe, Outkast and Wu-Tang Clan that produced bonafide classics?
I don’t think you will. The fact that you’d have to argue so-and-so’s album is a classic is reason alone to say it’s not bonafide. Basically what we’re looking at is a dozen or “classic” hip-hop albums in the last 20 years, of which only three duos/groups have contributed.
So why the hell do you think that Jay-Z and Kanye will produce a classic hip-hop album together? Because they’ve each made classics individually? Thinking that would be like saying “Say, Say, Say” is the best song Michael Jackson ever did since Paul McCartney was involved. Or maybe Scream, since it was MJ and his lil’ sister Janet. Or how about #1, you know that song Pharrell and Kanye did together. Hell, even Snoop Dogg and Akon were better collaborators.
Let’s face facts: classic individuals don’t make classic teams. I saw the documentary and I love Q-Tip as much as anyone, but I’d pay three times more to see Tribe perform as a unit. Similar, I loved the idea of Jay-Z and R. Kelly doing an album together, but the actual material was never going to top The Blueprint or R.
And that’s ok with me. Kanye West and Jay-Z make great music together. Hits and bangers, people. Do we need more? Is it reasonable to ask for more? Based on history, I don’t think so.
Let’s just acknowledge this album for what it is: a chance for the two to show their closeness, dominate the rap industry even more, do a monster tour, make a ton of money, rap to each other about their perceived perils and brag about the things they own.
That’s why songs like “N*gg*s in Paris”, “Illest MotherF*ck*r Alive” and, yes, “H-a-M” make perfect sense and fit into my expectations for an album of these proportions. Considering the soft sweet sampling by Pete Rock (“The Joy”) and Kanye (“Otis”), it’s almost like they were able to capture the best of both worlds. Something Jay-Z and R.Kelly never got around to.
It may not be a classic in your book, but it’s definitely a high standard for others to try topping. Besides, I don’t expect another Outkast album for a while, do you?