Have you ever made a gold picture frame? The kind that costs a few hundred bucks an inch? I have. They look fucking rich, right? Those ornate, spandrels wrapped around your piece of art should seem ostentatious enough; adding a layer of gold, of course, nudges a rich piece into decadence. The interesting thing about making gold frames, though, is that, besides wood, they’re mostly made of dirt. Well, gesso. The most ostentatious, flashy gold frame (the original rim?) is made of sweat and dirty clay silt, with the thinnest application of gold. The gold comes from a packet that looks like a pack of rolling papers. Each leaf of it is about as thin as a blue Rizla.
Watch The Throne brings the image of a fine frame to my mind: an ornate gold surface laying over humble gesso and arthritis-inducing craft. It’s as stupid-flashy as it is delicate, with a bit of precariousness thrown in. It’s as pointless as all that. A frame, rather than a picture, need not be taken as art. As the cover of Watch The Throne may imply, Jay-Z and Kanye have substituted the frame for the picture:
So if we’re being really serious, it would seem that Watch The Throne is too ostentatious. (By how much? It’s probably impossible to say.) Chuck D, of course, makes some good points. Watch The Throne is too ostentatious by exactly as much as the extent of its complicity with a society that’s never been shy about ignoring the rampant systemic oppression, degradation, and destruction of black men and women. Touré, on the other hand, also makes a good point when he makes the case for confidence rap, saying, “I’m all in favor of Black men having bravado and brandishing their outlandish self-esteem, given that there seems to be a multimillion-dollar multimedia campaign to destroy Black self-esteem”.
There seems to be a bit of a posture (better put: a slouch) of populist derision aimed at Watch The Throne. Why are two multi-millionaires, the first- and third-highest rap earners of the year, with a combined income of $53 million making a collaborative album to, seemingly, just rub our noses in their affluence?
It’s funny that no one ever asks, say, Josh Beckett how he can be such a callous asshole, going out there night after every five nights, taunting us with his $17 million salary. ($1 million more than Kanye’s.) What about Todd Phillips (of Hangover and Hangover 2 writing/directing/producing fame) and his $35 million year—equal to Jay-Z’s? We all knew Hangover 2 was a quick snatch at the cash, and that it sucked, but who could blame him? The money was there for the taking.
Imagine, someone working at their chosen profession in order to be successful, to make money. Christ, what an asshole.
Well, so, ok. I’m not going to beat around the philosophical bush: what is the point of doing anything? Like, really?