THE TOPIC: Jay-Z & Kanye West's "H.A.M." (The first single from their upcoming Watch The Throne)

PREMIERED: 1/11/2011 at 12:01 AM by Facebook

THE CONSENSUS PANEL: Miss Info (MissInfo.tv), Andrew Barber (FakeShoreDrive.com), John Gotty (The Smoking Section), Combat Jack (DailyMathematics.com), Robbie Ettelson (Unkut.com), Eskay (NahRight.com), Anthony "ILLIONAIRE" Osei (YouHeardThatNew.com), Brian "B. Dot" Miller (RapRadar.com), Hoff (OnSmash.com), Jake Paine (HipHopDX.com), Paul "Gooch" Cantor (PaulJCantor.com), Andrew Noz (CocaineBlunts.com), Nigel D. (RealTalkNY.net), Maurice Garland (MauriceGarland.com), Nation (ItsTheCalm.com & NahRight.com), Peter Rosenberg (RosenbergRadio.com), Meka (2DopeBoyz.com), Jeff Rosenthal (ItsTheReal.com), and Noah Callahan-Bever (Complex).

AVERAGE RATING:

See mini-reviews from each panel member below...

PANELIST: Miss Info, MissInfo.tv
REACTION: "Who knew that if you put Kanye West and Jay-Z in a castle out in the English countryside, these two aristocrats would start spitting like it's 1996 on the Southside of the Chi? I love it! Now, the beat sounds like a mash-up of all the things that any 19-year-old rapidly rich, highly buzzing producer like Lex Luger has stored on his iPod. A smidge of the Scarface and The Exorcist soundtracks, some Knight Rider, and a lot of Luger's own 'B.M.F.' But that opera overdose at the end, smells a lot like a Kanye audible. Overall, I really like the energy of the track: aggressive without being too deep, vintage flows but a synthetic beat for the kids. It's cocky without the pretension these guys can serve up when they spend too much time talking about their speed-dial or steamer trunks. Maybe that castle came stocked with 4-Loko and Call of Duty? [Shrugs.] I'm sure we'll still hear some elegant wine-and-cheese rap on Watch the Throne as well."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Andrew Barber, FakeShoreDrive.com
REACTION: "Who would've guessed the first single from a Kanye West and Jay-Z collabo album would be so polarizing? Immediately the Internet was abuzz with some love, but mostly hate for 'H.A.M.,' claiming that this recycled Lex Luger beat was going straight into the recycle bin. Despite the reactions from both ends, I enjoyed it from the get go. If cover art ever looked like a song sounded, this would be the instance. I was hoping for something along the lines of 'Poppin' Tags' or 'Monster' (or at least something in between), but 'H.A.M.' was a complete curveball.

"As my esteemed colleague Miss Info pointed out on the Twitter, Ye's delivery is reminiscent of that Do or Die/Po Pimp-flow, which gets a thumbs-up from me. Both artists appear to be taking pot shots at their respective foes, with Fabolous and Lil Wayne being the alleged targets. Most have downplayed Jay's shots at Wayne as strictly Internet instigation, and granted Jay would never cop to the diss, he does have a few eyebrow raising bars in there. But that's what Jay does best. Haven't you read Decoded?

"While it's not 'B.M.F.,' 'H.A.M.' still has that raw energy (and bold acronym) that will make it a staple anywhere drinks are served and rap is played. And for those who think this is just a warm-up track, think again, as I've been told Def Jam reps and promoters are being sent to clubs this weekend to begin working this record."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: John Gotty, The Smoking Section
REACTION: ''Lex slightly breaks the 'B.M.F.' mold (but we all know 'Ye provided the ending rideout) and Kanye slides through with the usual shits and giggles, dropping an Eli reference and sexual innuendo. All of which would be very notable if Jay hadn't come in on a downbeat and completely upstaged both. We all know Hov ain't about that life any more but he uses his past accomplishments and challenges as solid reference points, reminding all competitors and detractors that he's still completely capable of defending his crown and it's his until he's dethroned."
RATING:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PANELIST: Combat Jack, The Source
REACTION: "I love the track, a Lex Luger club banger. Some ig'nant shit. Ig'nant enough that I'd love to hear Waka, Jeezy, Gucci, or Cam'ron on this. Maybe even Wayne. Booming voices with stupidness in every verse. Kanye West's voice is a lill too whiny for this, plus he sounds uninspired. Like he's exhausted after running his post My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy victory lap. I like crazy wild eye'd Kanye, spazzed out Kanye, drunk Taylor Swift Kanye, 'Oh No He Didn't Say That Shit' Kanye. Tired, bored, yawny Kanye... not so much. Jay-Z on the other hand is sounding more hyped than he's sounded in a while. Like he's finally tired of lil brother murdering him on every track kind of tired. For being the "old head" that he is, he taps into his old school double time rap thing well; like he's semi-brand new. But without someone else with mad bass in his voice on this track, Jay's voice doesn't provide the contrast to Ye's whinyness to make this the full on trap muzik which it really needs to be. I still need to be drunk and hear this in a club to see if I really appreciate it though. So for now, I'ma have to give this a 3.5."

RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Robbie Ettelson, Unkut.com
REACTION: "Is this an old Disco Rick song? I feel like I'm trying to watch a French art-house film while someone is parked in the front of the spot playing an old Project Pat tape at an extra ignorant volume. The rapping sounds like a couple of dudes who got really drunk off of expensive champagne and start doing their own versions of songs on the radio, which is shits 'n giggles if you happen to be one of 'em, but just plain audio torture for any innocent bystanders. Kanye seems to be doing his own version of a 'top of the dome' freestyle, which everyone figured out was a bad idea for 99% of rapper dudes around the time that the Lyricist Lounge shut down. Jay at least has the common courtesy to rap properly, being 'the gentleman, the rapper' that only he and Positive K can claim to be, but any goodwill generated by his bars is quickly obliterated the instant he launches into that infernal hook. As for the operatic pretensions of the world's longest outro? This sure as hell ain't no 'Paparazzi,' son."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PANELIST: Eskay, NahRight.com
REACTION: "Cool record, I guess. Doesn't really do it for me like I thought it would, but I wouldn't be surprised if it grew on me. The beat sounds like what would happen if that Busta song that sampled the Knight Rider theme and any random Jeezy anthem had a baby. Also, Pill might be coming in for 700%."
RATING: -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Anthony "ILLIONAIRE" Osei, YouHeardThatNew.com
REACTION: "If you asked me whether or not 'H.A.M.' lived up to its hype, I'd tell you that anything that generates an immoderate amount of hype never lives up to its hype. The song, however, is actually good, though. It's tasty Country Ham and not that spiral sliced shit you can get at Costco at like $2.00/lb. The production is crazy too (thanks to Lex Luger). We could probably also thank Kanye, No I.D., Jeff Bhasker, Mike Dean, and Plain Pat (who more than likely contributed to the 'Help Upgrade Lex Luger's Sound Fund'). Ye's verse was witty as usual, but I think we can all agree that Mr. Knowles had the stand-out verse here. Jay tells a pretty deep story and paints another poetic picture into our heads, 'I played chicken wit' a Mack truck, y'all motherf*ckers woulda been moved/I swam waters wit' Great Whites, y'all motherf*ckers woulda been chewed/I hustled wit' vultures late nights, y'all motherf*ckers woulda been food.' That's that classic Hov flow and wordplay for you. He also reminds us how long his wifey's money is, grieves for his nephew and uncle, and tells us to pay fucking homage. I'm not sure what to say about the Comme des Garçons plug, especially coming from one of the worst dressers of the 21st century. Peace, God."
RATING:
"4.76 slices of H•A•M out of 5"
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Brain "B. Dot" Miller, RapRadar.com
REACTION: "Before the beat dropped, I thought I was going to need an E pill to get into this. But Kanye and Hov were right: This is hard as a muthafucka. I think Jay really lived up to the title and blacked out on his verse. Lex Luger stepped it up too. The sound is different for him, but his fingerprint is still there with those high hats and drums. The only downside is that there isn't another verse from either of them. But, it's a dope record nonetheless. Watch The Throne should be something serious."
RATING:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Hof, OnSmash.com
REACTION: "At the stroke of midnight, all the hype and speculation about Jay-Z's and Kanye West's upcoming collaboration Watch The Throne quickly subsided as the first single "H.A.M." dropped via the album's Facebook page. Upon first listen, we quickly learn the track name's acronym stands for 'Hard As a Motherfucker.' With that title and Lex Luger production, I was expecting an earth shattering club banger. Was I expecting too much? Probably. Am I disappointed in this single? Not really. I am really interested to see how this reacts in the clubs though.

"While Lex Luger delivered his signature synths and drums on this beat, Kanye's fingerprints seem evident by the heavy orchestra and opera sample. The production gets a little gratuitous after the three minute mark, but I always enjoy seeing artists push the envelope. While Kanye brought his token braggadocio and witty wordplay, Hov sounds much hungrier to defend the throne. Jay-Z's verse shows the Brooklyn boy is not looking to give that crown up anytime soon. This single sounds like an introduction to what we can expect from undoubtedly one of 2011's most anticipated albums. Let's just hope the features are kept to a minimum."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PANELIST: Jake Paine, HipHopDX.com
REACTION: "Jay-Z steals the show by getting personal about his family while presenting a two-speed delivery that hints back to 'Nigga What, Nigga Who.' When the title Watch The Throne was announced, I wished for Jay verses like this. As far as Kanye's appearance, it has the grandeur, but is missing the substance. I like the fact that the track sounds like nothing heard on recent albums from either artist. While it feels jarring to imagine this song followed up by a Madlib or Pete Rock groove, on its own, the song take risks and doesn't pander to the mainstream. Still, I can't cross off my wish to hear these two tear up a Waka/Rick Ross-type Lex Luger beat quite yet."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Paul "Gooch" Cantor, PaulJCantor.com
REACTION: "I first listened to 'H.A.M.' on some tiny netbook speakers and thought to myself, 'Wow this shit really sucks.' Then I listened on my studio monitors, turned it up, and let it knock. I liked it more. I think you actually need speakers to appreciate the song. Every song sounds mediocre without a proper way to listen to it, which would sum up why everyone hates every piece of music ever posted on the Internet. But I digress.

"I think Kanye's one of the best songwriters/lyricists in the game at this point, but I wasn't too captivated by his rhymes on 'H.A.M.' They're cool, just not spectacular. Cool is good enough for some people. I'm not one of them. That said, I liked the line, 'A few white girls, asses flat as shit, but the head so good damn a ni**a glad he hit.' Not exactly clever, but certainly true (of white girls, that is). Hey, cheers to keeping it real, Kanye! There are other lines I like, but I find Kanye sort of taunting us here, and not in a way I find endearing. It's very, 'Let me poke my chest out.' Cool, you're a rock star, you're in a two-door, you fuck mad bitches. I get it. Tell me something I don't know. Despite its artistic embellishments and the fact that it was musically remarkable, I kind of just heard a whole album of that sort of self-indulgence (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy).

"Jay-Z meanwhile, he can get away with that sort of thing. Behind all the Decoded books and Charlie Rose interviews, he's been perfecting the smug prick shtick since he came in the game, basically. Why would he change things up now that he's 40 something years old and has oodles and banoodles of cash and critical acclaim? Oh that would just make all too much sense. That said, I love what he does here. He's got so many great lines, 'I swam waters with great whites, ya'll mothafuckas woulda been chewed;' 'Ni**as ain't got my lady money;' 'When my nephew died, daddy dead, ni**a took a price on my uncle's head, nobody called the cops as my uncle bled.' These are just a few of the standouts, but really the whole verse is stellar.

"Lex Luger's beat on 'H.A.M.' is pretty subdued, aside from the big operatic flourishes that come in on the hook. I think that particular feel sort of throws the record off. Cause when Jay-Z rhymes on the 2nd verse, they drop out, and the whole song sounds kind of empty until it builds back up toward the end. I guess if the goal was to have a few different moods captured by the track, to keep it from getting boring, they did that well. But I'm not crazy about having my mood fucked with in such dramatic fashion. That's the equivalent of a DJ in a club going from some dance floor smash to a piece of experimental jazz with no set-up for it whatsoever. I'm like, what the fuck just happened?

"Overall, is the song good? Yeah, it's pretty good. But the bar is almost as high it can go for these two fellas. We're not just talking about two popular hip-hop artists. These are arguably two of the top five biggest pop stars in all of music. I understand you can't reinvent the wheel, but is it asking too much to have them do something that sort of leaps out at me from the speakers? 'H.A.M.' is good, and for Rick Ross or someone, this would be amazing. But for Jay and Kanye, despite Jay's incredible verse, it's just a little underwhelming."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Andrew Noz, CocaineBlunts.com
REACTION: "Kanye and his goddamn ambitions of ambition. Instead of just doing like every rapper before him and taking the generic Lex Luger 'B.M.F.'/'Hard In The Paint' beat to the bank he had to go and bougie up the formula. He is, after all, a very serious musician and so he piles on very serious musician things like anguished pianos and operatic vocals. On one hand these unnecessary gestures prove sonically sort of interesting, but they ultimately hold back the energy level, which is the last thing you want to do on a record about going ham. It also doesn't help that Jay and Ye have no idea what to do with the beat and are basically rapping like they're dead inside (No pussy-in-the-sarcophagus). Where's Waka when you need him?"
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Nigel D., RealTalkNY.net
REACTION: "With big names like Kanye West and Jay-Z on a track, huge expectations are created. The beat is a typical Lex Luger production and Kanye West's verse is forgettable. Jay-Z delivered a solid verse and caused some controversy with the, 'Baby Money,' line."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Maurice Garland, MauriceGarland.com
REACTION: "I think its cool that two of the most popular, polished, and mainstream accepted rappers on the planet hook up with a young producer like Lex Luger and make a song called 'Hard Than A Muthafucka.' I thought it was dope how the beat incorporated elements of this futuristic kick producers have been on lately, with some classical opera samples. The ending was a little too dramatic though, seemed like the beat was trying to tell a story that the lyrics simply did not. As for Ye and Jay themselves, if the rest of the album has stuff like this on it where both of them are actually focused on trying to be the BEST rapper on the beat and not the most IMPORTANT, I think it's something worth looking forward to. I was expecting some really artsy-fartsty shit honestly, and it seemed like they tried to make it that with that long ass ending. But, everything else about the song fits to me."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Nation, ItsTheCalm.com & NahRight.com
REACTION: "The song dropped at midnight and I had it on repeat until about two in the morning, because I didn't wanna make the rookie mistake of making up my mind too fast. Kanye's verse was definitely disrespectful, it was everything he couldn't say on MBDTF...yet, because it might have been too soon. Jay's verse is everything I imagine Kanye telling Jay what he should say on songs while they're in the studio together. The last time 'Ye even came close to saying something like this was on 'The Joy' (also with Jay) but it was much more toned down. In terms of how people received the song, I just think that if this was an album cut like 'Hate' or something, people would be falling over themselves...so maybe wait until the full project drops and have more faith in two rap behemoths like Kanye West and Jay-Z who have delivered nothing but great music over the years to do nothing different here."
RATING:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Peter Rosenberg, RosenbergRadio.com
REACTION: "Hearing the Pete Rock-produced 'The Joy' obviously made us all believe Ye and Jay were seriously on to something. And I still think that is probably the case, but in spite of 'H.A.M.'—not because of it. Lex Luger is the producer of the moment and this song is clearly the 'Let's do something current sounding' single. It is not meant for the backpackers like me that are anticipating the classic hip-hop ish that Kanye has been promising us for months and months. Not a bad song, though."
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Meka, 2DopeBoyz.com
REACTION: seanprice
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Jeff Rosenthal, ItsTheReal.com
REACTION: "It's a big swing to get a foul-tip on. With three marquee names on one marquee, how could something so fail-proof fail so badly? Sure, it's not the worst song—but with expectations so high, what a missed opportunity. Kanye's verse is most memorable for an eons-too-late mention of Eli Porter and for plagiarizing Drake's 'Kicking bitches out like Pam' line, Jay's not even going all in for the 'Takeover,' strapping on pads before (seemingly) elbowing Beanie, Wayne, and Baby.

"(Also confusing: why Kanye and Jay feel they have to explain that they're 'about' to go hard as a motherfucker. Real motherfuckers don't give warnings—these guys sound like Batman villains.)

"That's not to say that the song doesn't have its merits: Jay-Z sounds more like Jay-Z than he does Young Chris! He sneers over the snares. And Lex Luger came up with a second beat! It just could've been so much more."
RATING:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PANELIST: Noah Callahan-Bever, Complex.com
REACTION: "This shit hooooooard—and exactly what I was expecting. Predictably good verses (with memorable melodies and a handful of topical and personal quotables from both), backed by another Lex Luger beat that sounds dope in exactly the same way every other Lex Luger beat sounds dope (augmented, quite obviously, by a dash of the musical drama Kanye favors, of course). I'm in. [Insert clever/cliche ham kicker here.]"
RATING:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE YOUR OWN REVIEW OF "H.A.M." IN THE COMMENTS!