Jay-Z-Holy Grail ft. Justin Timberlake

jay z holy grail
Many are confused by this album’s release, so here’s some clarity: it was released via Jay’s app for Samsung phones today, and has hence leaked everywhere. Its official release is on Monday 8th. Clear?

So, for those avoiding the leak or without the app, here’s the track’s opening effort. New best friends Jay and JT come together for a solid start point for the album, boasting a production that switches through two distinct styles to good effect, though certainly not to perfection. Justin probably takes on most of the vocal duty here, opening with a great performance backed by a steady introductory performance that constantly threatens to explode the track to life; unfortunately, rather than building on that production’s mellow qualities, the track completely switches direction to a bassy, rather less grandiose beat. Jay arrives with that switch-up, delivering with a level of intensity suited to an opening track, but not quite with the lyrical dexterity he’s known for, whilst a badly-placed, poorly-used Nirvana sample breaks his momentum quite significantly. With that said, his second verse is rather more impressive, with his flow moving through the gears before cooling back down, though the track could probably do with being a minute shorter/with less JT at the end. It’s overkill, but finishes off what’s likely to be a track that’ll grow with more listens.

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The-Dream-IV Play (Full Album Stream)

The releases to date have been slightly hit and miss, but they seem to have found a pretty solid mainstream audience, which should stand The-Dream in good stead ahead of this LP’s release in a week’s time on 28th May.

In a rather confident move, he’s allowed the full project to be streamed today, which should help many fans make their purchase decisions ahead of time. The on-again-off-again Beyonce feature has seemingly made the cut, so apparently those sample issues were overcome; good news for many listeners I’m sure, and it’ll be interesting listening to have what should be a complementary set of vocals working alongside one another. I’m a big champion of Dream’s back catalogue (particularly his outstanding debut album), and despite my mixed opinions on the pre-releases singles, I hold hope that this will be another strong addition to his collection. Stream at his Vevo home below.

The-Dream-IV Play (Full Album Stream)

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The-Dream-High Art ft. Jay-Z

high art
Whilst the Beyonce feature originally slated for this album has been dropped due to sample clearance issues, Mr. Carter’s appearance remains intact and is delivered as the latest offering from The-Dream’s IV Play album, set to arrive on 28th May.

Thus far, none of his pre-album releases have provided much to be excited about, and thankfully this effort is a cut above what he’s offered so far. The production has a hip-hop feel to it, combining strong slow-paced percussion with melodies from across the board, and whether its the Asian-influenced elements or the Future adlib samples (I think?), there’s a lot of dynamism and activity on that top layer. It creates much more depth and quality in comparison to the previous releases and suits both artists well, with Dream alternating between a rap delivery and regular singing for the verse and hook respectively, and whilst Jay’s verse isn’t exactly a classic, it’s a fun contribution on a production that suits his cadence extremely well. Better signs from The-Dream ahead of that impending release date.

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The Great Gatsby OST (Full Album Stream)

We’ve heard full versions, snippets and rough edits of various tracks from this official soundtrack, and ahead of its release on Tuesday we get a full stream of the album in its completed format.

As listed previously, artists include Beyonce, Andre 3000, The xx, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, Emeli Sande, Q-Tip, Jack White and many more. Of course, Jay-Z also contributes a track in addition to being the album’s executive producer, rounding off what is surely one of the most star-studded film soundtracks in recent memory, whilst also remaining sonically diverse through its range of artist choices. I’ve got no doubts that there’ll be something on here for everyone, and you can stream it all courtesy of NPR below.

The Great Gatsby OST (Full Album Stream)

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Common-Open Letter Remix

Within days, about 100 rappers have tried their hand at the buzzing Jay-Z single, but none with the profile or consistency of Common.

He contributes a verse to the popular track, and it’s a nice blend of modern-day and conscious Common. In one verse, he addresses several recent goings on, from his issue with Fox News to the spate of gun crime in Chicago, whilst also throwing in some nice historical reflections. It’s only a short verse, but certainly throws in more depth and meaning than the entire original manages, though of course Jay’s wordplay is what’s primarily on show there. Worth a listen for sure.

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Jay-Z-Open Letter

jay z
You’ll have to forgive me being a couple of days off with this, laptop problems have conspired against me in recent days. Nonetheless, it’s new Hov, and hence it won’t go ignored.

It’s weird how a single holiday to Cuba can spark so much. The lyricism here seems mostly centred around the “controversial” trip undertaken by Jay and Beyonce, with some very smart lines thrown into a rap that essentially pushes back a little on the US government’s policies around interactions with Cuba. Whilst the track comes with a sense of aggrievement at the restrictions, it seems to bring out plenty of creative wordplay from Jay, with line after line of fun lines that’ll have you scrambling for that Rap Genius article. Co-produced by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, the beat is relatively easygoing with a little bit of punch, throwing together chunky percussion with flashes of synth, keys and more, with the end result a mellow yet slightly dark production that rides along slowly to give Jay’s raps enough room to breathe. It’s good for a few listens no doubt, and whilst the novelty of the targeted lyrics will wear off soon, it’s good to hear Hov away from the more pop-oriented work.

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Kendrick Lamar - B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe ft. Jay-Z (Official Remix)

On Wednesday night, Jay-Z’s DJ, Young Guru, treated guests at a SXSW party in Texas by playing the official remix to this excellent Kendrick track with new verses and Jay-Z also hopping on. Given that we had no idea this was in the works, this had the internet going nuts – especially as this song being played at the party was fully caught on film.

A CD quality version of this has dropped (albeit the clean version, boo, Kendrick just dropped the dirty version, yay!). Kendrick was one of the few bright things about hip hop in 2012, so it’s always refreshing to hear new material with him. Major co-sign for him as well with Jay-Z jumping on this track, and it says a lot when I say I genuinely prefer Kendrick’s verses. Listen below.

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Justin Timberlake-Suit and Tie ft. Jay-Z (Video)

I’m sure it’s been pointed out before, but a section of the hook repeats ‘sh*t tie, sh*t tie’. Unfortunate.

As per my previous audio review, the highlight of the track is definitely the more uptempo section of this, and the same applies for the video. The slow intro’s rather boring, showing JT mostly milling around, before the video steps up considerably with a lively performance of the trac accompanied by a couple of flashes of his great ability as a dancer.

The monochromatics, costuming, lighting and regular glimpses of live instrumentation all combine to add a vintage veneer to the clip, clearly an intended effect given the theme of his recent Grammy performance, and its an effective mechanism here in adding an organic touch to proceedings. It also does Jay’s verse a lot of favours, as given it seems to derail the audio’s momentum, the consistency of the video’s theme keeps it in line with the rest of the track and hence it feels much less out of place. A likeable visual that enhances the song well enough, and will certainly find favour with mainstream fans and outlets alike.

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Justin Timberlake-Suit and Tie ft. Jay-Z

Another act who decided to announce a comeback, with the announcement of The 20/20 Experience album, due for release at an unnamed point this year.

Hooking up with his frequent collaborator (well, back in 2006 anyway) Timbaland, it’s a reunion of sorts that promises much, but ultimately fails to deliver. The track opens almost bizarrely, wrongly combining a dark, creepy fairground-esque production with JT’s pop rap-style hook, before launching into something much more likeable, that being a jazzy production comprised of horns, chunky percussion and inclusions of several softer elements from key hits to light electronic effects. There’s definitely something likeable about the production here, with an uptempo feel that almost evokes images of a lively Vegas night, whilst JT’s vocals are in good form and infect that beat with even more positivity. However, the structure of the song seems very loose at best, and the track’s movement back down to the slow beat for Jay’s verse kills its momentum, whilst his verse itself drags a little. Cut off the start and the section shortly before, after and including Jay’s verse and it’s good, but as it stands it’s not going to see much time from me.

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9th Wonder-Black American Gangster (Mixtape)

9th wonder black
My word, this has unbelievable potential. Mash-up mixtapes are one thing, but when helmed by the veteran talent that is 9th Wonder, you know it’s going to be coated with a professionalism that trumps most other projects of this kind. Add to that the concept of blending the entire American Gangster album with some fantastic old-school pop and soul works, this becomes a must-have mixtape.

Those vintage inclusions feature such names as Curtis Mayfield, The Jackson 5, Kool & The Gang alongside more, whilst also seemingly retaining the original’s guest appearances. A combination that promises much, and you can grab the entire project for free below.

9th Wonder-Black American Gangster

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Big Sean, Jay-Z and Kanye West-Clique

The next single from Cruel Summer finally drops in full ahead of that album release date in just 11 days.
It’s a great lineup that sets the expectation of getting something worthwhile, and that’s exactly what you get.

The beat straddles the line between mainstream appeal and hip-hop head-nodder beautifully, throwing a bassy electronic melody in with insanely addictive percussion. There’s plenty more going on, from grand vocal samples to additional intense blasts of percussion, making for a production that’s part funky, part nasty. Sean opens with the hook which is simple and undoubtedly has the potential to become rather anthemic, before stepping into a verse that adds more urgency to his usual laidback style and squares up nicely to the beat. Jay’s up next with an excellent contribution, his confidence oozing all over the track with a handful of diverse deliveries that demonstrate his sheer dominance of a microphone, and ‘Ye closes the game out with an extended performance that loses none of his energy and vibrancy, but does hang around a little too long. Probably my favourite track from the album so far, and the timing couldn’t be better. 18th September, mark the date.

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Jay-Z and Kanye West-Watch the Throne Documentary

A look at the making of Kanye West and Jay Z’s collaborative album, “Watch The Throne”. Directed, Edited, and Photographed by Robert Lopuski.

Somehow, I doubt there will be a shortage of people to watch this. It’s quite a unique video in that it doesn’t entirely focus on the Watch the Throne ‘process’, instead having a very flashback-style that intersperses WTT-related events with throwbacks to (assumedly rare) footage of Kanye’s formative days, very personal moments between the duo, and plenty more in between. Not only do those clips humanise both rappers, but they go some distance to adding a grand scale to both the video and the collaboration as a while, a factor that makes for very engaging viewing from start to finish.

A very well-made video that’s insightful, entertaining and undoubtedly worth a watch.

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Rick Ross – 3 Kings ft. Dr. Dre and Jay-Z Video

For a video primarily made up of archival footage, this is actually a half-decent effort for what remains a disappointing track given the calibre of the features.

Dre’s verse features plenty of footage from throughout his career, as far back as you can imagine and as present as some previously unseen interactions with Ross, whilst Ross’ clips are similar though understandably span a much shorter time period. Jay’s clips are probably the highlight (mirroring the audio), using both the contextual and archival footage much better in terms of highighting Jay’s various punchlines and wordplay, and undoubtedly it solidifies his status as the real star of the track. It’s something a little different in terms of video style, and certainly adds a layer of grandeur to the track, though once again its not enough to rescue it from really being all about that last verse.

On a side note, if like myself you wondered why Diddy was giving Ross/this album so much love on Twitter recently, the last 10 seconds of this video should explain that well enough…shameless.

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Rick Ross-3 Kings ft. Dr. Dre and Jay-Z

Easily the most anticipated track from Rick Ross’ upcoming God Forgives, I Don’t album (which seems to be lacking any sort of lead single), with one of the biggest lineups of the year.

Considering the talent involved, this is disappointing. The production lacks any real urgency and instead sticks to Rick Ross’ perennial backup choice of a slowed-down, faux-regal style, if option A of an ominous Luger-esque beat isn’t available. It was great back in 2009, but now is every bit as repetitive as option A, and featured guests of this magnitude should surely be looking for something more unique and impactful. Dre’s contribution (which must be written by Ross) is OK enough, though the highlight of the track is certainly Jay’s closing verse, with plenty of nice reference points (including his daughter and the Brooklyn Nets) making for a more striking verse than the others. It’s not enough to recover the track though, and this should have been much more than it was.

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Jay-Z and Kanye West Perform No Church In The Wild at the LG Arena (13th June)

If it isn’t front row, it isn’t worth watching. We’ve seen plenty of Watch the Throne footage filmed from what appears to be 2 buildings away but here at OTU we strive to be better, so enjoy some up-close, exclusive footage from last night’s Watch the Throne show.

We’ve got several clips for you, but this is certainly the best (and longest) of the bunch. Many thoroughly enjoyed this track from the album, and its accompanying music video, and there’s no doubt the track was done absolute justice in one of a series of excellent live performances from the duo. Start to finish, the show was full of energy, skill and heaps of chemistry between the two hip-hop superstars, with Kanye’s natural showmanship and entertainer’s streak complimenting Jay-Z’s flawless rhyming and effortless charisma.

Enjoy the video, and keep an eye on our Youtube channel throughout this evening for the rest. They’re only short, but will surely give you a sample of what was a phenomenal show.

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Jay-Z and Kanye West-No Church In The Wild Video

An engaging and aggressive video for the opening track and one of the highlights from the otherwise-mixed Watch the Throne album. Director Romain Gavras takes strong inspiration from the riots that have taken place all over the world over the last 12 months, giving the video a real world feel whilst making it relatable to many on a national level-inevitably, over here we’ll draw comparisons with the London riots, whilst our Greek readers will do the same and so on (not to be ‘that guy’, but it’s disconcerting that riots are a closely-relatable theme globally).

It’s an intense video that would probably be better suited to a more aggressive track, but nonetheless links up with the audio to give these anarchical scenes a slightly different context, painting the streets as the new ‘wild’, and enhancing the menacing qualities of the production. The dark palette and apocalyptic environments create an ominous aura, adding a gravity and seriousness to the audio, whilst the contrasting addition of lasers and other effects add to the freneticism of the video.

It’s a great video but I’m not convinced it’s the absolutely ideal fit for the audio. That’s not to say it doesn’t work as it certainly does, but a rougher, edgier song would have fully utilised the powerful visuals. Worth a watch for sure though, and credit to Gavras for directing a very detailed video.

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Jay-Z and Kanye West-Ni**as In Paris Video

It’s been a very long time in the making, but almost 6 months after its release (and positive reception), Jay and Kanye’s banger is given the video treatment.

The video is comprised primarily of live footage, accompanied by a mastered version of the matching live audio, which also boasts one or two new production additions, namely a new sample in the hook and an altered outro.

The key seller here is the vast number of effects used throughout the video to make it a little more lavish than the typical live video, including double and triple vision, plenty of sharp scene changes, big, bold lettering thrown in sparingly, amongst many more. It’s a fresh, unique twist on using live footage, and feeds off the natural energy of the song with a high-octane, perpetually-moving style.

Grab this, if for some reason you don’t already own it, on iTunes now.

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The Defining Moments of 2011: #1

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Just a day after the world’s most famous baby was born, the proud father took to the studio to record an ode to his newborn daughter.

The lyricism is heartwarmingly simple, as Jay expresses his sheer delight and awe, whilst also once again (assumedly) mentioning to the miscarriage he referred to in This Can’t Be Life. It’s not a track you’ll get for any complex wordplay or multi-layered production, but certainly a raw, honest track from Jay that strips away the bravado and gives listeners a look into what’s probably the most emotional moment of his life. Oh, and it officially lists ‘B.I.C.’ as a feature (her cries and wails are included towards the end)-she’s 2 days old and already getting royalties!

Jay-Z-Glory ft. B.I.C.

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Young Jeezy, Jay-Z and Andre 3000-I Do

Thug Motivation 103 is seemingly just around the corner, and the most anticipated track from the project emerges, as the Snowman grabs two of the game’s icons for one of the year’s better hip-hop lineups.

A very bright, perky sample sets a tone of positivity from the offset, with luscious bass amply supporting it throughout. Whilst it’s an uplifting production, it doesn’t overshadow the vocal work as many of these sort of productions can, and that’s just as well with three very enjoyable verses from each rapper. Each artist takes turns rapping about their siginifcant other, with Jeezy’s slow, husky raps opening things up in style, whilst Jay follows up and really throws back to the early 00′s, as his lady-centric raps effortlessly take to this soulful production. 3 Stacks closes the affair out and much like Jay, the throwback vibe is stamped all over his verse, as Dre’s subject and style slide onto this beat smoothly throughout. A very likeable slice of rap.

Young Jeezy-I Do ft. Jay-Z and Andre 3000

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T.I.-N***as In Paris Remix

One of the few rappers with a brand anywhere near Jay and Kanye’s, T.I. jumps on the next single from Watch The Throne with what deserves to be an official remix. T.I. slides onto the vibrant, energetic production with consumate ease, bringing his speedy flow to the pounding beat and lacing it with some very enjoyable raps. There’s nothing about his contribution that feels out of place, and hence it undoubtedly makes for the best remix of the track to date. Having not listened to the original in quite some time (I tired of the album quickly), it’s a great refresh of what is an excellent production, and hopefully there’s more to come from Tip.

Jay-Z and Kanye West-N***as in Paris Remix ft. T.I.

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J. Cole and Jay-Z-Mr. Nice Watch

Undoubtedly the most anticipated track from Cole’s upcoming debut album (released 27th September), the much-hyped Jay-Z feature finally lands as Cole promised earlier today.

The title suggests this track is rather jovial, but the opening will immediately realign that view: a booming, bassy production bursts into life from the off, boasting electronic and dub influences that immediately inject an intensity and urgency into the track. A beat that would have slotted in nicely on Watch The Throne, Cole takes the production on well, borrowing fom Kanye West’s style in portions (particularly the arrogant closing lines on the hook), alongside some quickfire flows of his own. Jay grabs the last verse with a passable performance, and whilst some of his wordplay on the watch theme is enjoyable, his rhyming is a little lazy in places. A decent track, though one where the production dominates to such an extent that there isn’t a standout vocal moment.

J. Cole-Mr. Nice Watch ft. Jay-Z (UPDATE: Dirty version added via J. Cole)

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Wiley-No Church In The Wild Remix

Arguably the best track on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne, Wiley is the first big name to jump on this terrific production as he throws a verse in alongside th0se on the original version for an unofficial remix.

A fairly decent verse too from Wiley as he brings a solid flow with on this bassy production, alongside flashes of quality with his lyrics, although they would have surely benefitted from a more emotional, intense delivery to add some real credence to a few of his more introspective lines. Still, it’s an enjoyable contribution to a fantastic track and certainly doesn’t affect the natural progression and momentum of the track.

Jay-Z and Kanye West-No Church In The Wild Remix ft. Wiley and Frank Ocean

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Jay-Z and Kanye West-Otis Video

The first official video from the collaborative album from the duo arrive, timed nicely as the dust settles on the album release.

Despite my slight disappointment in the album (review here), and despite already seeing criticism for this video in various outlets, I’m actually a fan of the video. There’s lots of positivity, energy and a feelgood vibe that’s been entirely absent from the careers (both visual and audio) of both men in recent years, and whilst at times they overdo it trying to convince everyone they’re still ‘young’ at various points, you’ll grin at watching the duo cut loose and take themselves less seriously for a change. It’s an infectious positivity, and works alongside the soulful audio to humanise them considerably.

Thematically the video is pretty simple, with the duo rapping in a fairly desolate environment and driving around in a ridiculously-customised Maybach. Sharp-eyed viewers will also spot a cameo from comedian Aziz Ansari, with his hilariously-awkward dancing at around 2:31 worthy of a few rewatches. A good video, and the audio can be found on the Watch The Throne album, available everywhere now.

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Jay-Z and Kanye West-Watch The Throne Review

After delays, rumours of unrest and much more, Monday saw the long-awaited release of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne. Arguably, one of the most anticipated collaborative albums in the past decade, it’s undoubtedly one of those rare events that captures the attention of the entire hip-hop community, consequentially resulting in thousands of reviews and opinions. Add one more to that list.

There’s been no hiding my positive opinions on Kanye West and his work over the years, whilst any appreciation for Jay-Z at this stage surely goes without saying (regardless of The Blueprint 3). The collaboration of the two should theoretically give rise to one of the finest synergies in hip-hop history, with two vanguards of hip-hop cementing the genre’s dominance across music.

Theoretically, anyway.
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Jay-Z and Kanye West-Otis

Well here it is. Finally a joint worth listening to from ‘Ye & Jay’s upcoming Watch The Throne (August 1st).

It’s all about the sampling on this. Kanye flips Otis Redding’s Try A Little Harder with spectacular effect, creating a looping soulful instrumental with subtle licks of drum to boot. ‘Ye and Jay’s chemistry is strong as they trade bars back and forth but lyrically the track comes up somewhat short, both in terms of rhyme content and also timing (at a measly 3:01, the sample deserved more airplay). Although even with that said, this is still top stuff and for me personally one of the best tracks either have released in a long time. I don’t think this will be an official single as such but might give us clues (hopefully) as to how the rest of the LP will sound.

Jay-Z and Kanye West-Otis

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Kanye West and Jay-Z-Watch The Throne Tracklist

The artwork was revealed 10 days ago, and now we get a confirmed tracklist to go along with it. The hype for the project is multiplying by the minute, and from the various previews floating around the web, it looks as though we’re in for a superb hip-hop album to dominate (what’s left of) the summer, if the rumoured August release is indeed correct.

No other rappers on the tracklist which is interesting, and got me asking ‘who could really feature on this sort of project?’. Eminem and Nas are the only two names that stick out for me, though you’re welcome to express opinions otherwise. Having said that, the vocalist features look good, with Beyonce and Frank Ocean alongside Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding (naturally, the latter pair will be samples). Click below to see the tracklist.
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Kanye West and Jay-Z-Watch The Throne Artwork

It threatened to descend into the swampy marshes of urban myth, but the official release of the artwork and pre-order has confirmed the much-anticipated release of the collaborative album from hip-hop luminaries Kanye West and Jay-Z, set to be unleashed on August 2nd.

The artwork was designed by Riccardo Tisci, and not only looks metallic but is reputed to actually be made of metal, a clever move to treat the under-utilised impact of touch to increase physical sales. Next up: scratch-and-sniff albums.

There are a few tracklists floating around, but none have been officially confirmed. Of course, we’ll deliver that to you when an official tracklisting is provided. For now, get excited that the project is happening!

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Kanye West, Rick Ross, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj-Monster Video

Originally leaked a few months back, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was already released, but it’s re-emergence marks the official release of the huge collaboration.

Having avoided the original leak of the video, I can’t comment on whether anything is actually different, but it is a pretty solid video from start to finish. Hovering somewhere in between the metaphorical style of his feature-length Runaway video and a regular music video, with hints of artistic flair alongside some gruesome, horror-inspired imagery that works with the more literal vibe of Monster. In particular, the oft-revisited scene early on involving Kanye rapping in front of/holding off a bunch of ‘zombies’ outside his doors has a very ‘us versus the paparazzi’ vibe, and hence makes you sympathise with the ‘monster’ that is Kanye West.

Some great fashion moments too, with Jay-Z’s rather slick smarts probably taking the win, though Kanye doesn’t exactly come up short either. Worth a watch, and I’m sure everyone has the audio by now.

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