23. Jay Z & Kanye West "The Joy"
Album: Watch The Throne
A Pete Rock-produced "G.O.O.D. Friday" release from the lead up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and, later, a bonus track on Watch the Throne, "The Joy" flips a Curtis Mayfield sample for Kanye West and Jay-Z to reminisce over. "The joy of children laughing around you," Mayfield sings, his voice drawn from a gentle live rendition of "The Makings of You." In his first verse, Kanye talks a little shit, a dedication to those he raps for, leading into some inspired sex play: "She in her birthday suit 'cause of the damn cake/Now there's crumbs all over the damn place/And she want me to come all over her damn face." Then he gets wistful. He uses that image, that dripping semen that will inseminate nothing, to transition into contraception, wondering aloud about Planned Parenthood when nobody he knows ever "planned to be a parent in the hood."
There's this Gwendolyn Brooks poem called "the mother." If you've read it (and if you haven't, you should; it's great), you can feel her words behind Kanye's lines. "Abortions will not let you forget." She writes, "I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children." And, listening to "The Joy," you have Kanye conclude his 16 bars with, "But I still hear the ghosts of the kids I never had," the male perspective on what Brooks was describing in 1945. Some pain is universal. â€”Ross Scarano