Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Jay-Z ft. Rihanna and Kanye West – Run This Town

Doesn’t involve Jay outlining plans for recycling provision. Should, but doesn’t…


Al Shipley: At one point Jay was one of the most consistent and successful singles artists rap’s ever seen, but in the last couple years, as his LPs have sold on the fumes of his diminishing reputation, he’s taken a perverse sort of pride in never having a #1 single, in being more of an album artist. And even if “D.O.A.” was no great shakes, he was probably better off sticking to that hypocritical pose than making such a half-assed attempt at reaching out to the ringtone singalong market. There’s no point in getting Rihanna on a song if you don’t have a hook for her to sing better than just a long monotonous “hey,” just like there’s no point in dropping a sequel to The Blueprint 2.

Matt Cibula: Ho to the hizz-um / Beats sound so dizz-um / Hook singer’s boring / Reviewer snoring / Hova phones it in like an innocent bystander / Kanye starts off like grandstander / But lands faster than the Ab-Blaster / Tough to rise above limita-tion / When you think you’re God’s gift to crea-tion

Erick Bieritz: The verses both benefit and suffer from the sort of vague malleability that suits a star-studded lead-out single, although Kanye does manage to characteristically mention religion, money, sex, incarceration, and, uh, shoe advice in his brief turn.

Chuck Eddy: Possibly impresssive — unless it isn’t — if you give a shit about the lives and mythology of those participating. (Note to Kanye: Forget shoes without shoestrings; ever have shoestrings without those little plastic things at the end, where you have to keep wetting them with spit just to get them into the holes? That sucks.)

Spencer Ackerman: A surefire hit thanks to another great Kanye production job, but look: Rihanna’s voice — very well used, by the way — is very obviously pitch-corrected. I’m giving this a 7 because it’s fucking audacious to release this after “D.O.A.”.

Anthony Easton: Aside from all of the meta-work, which is kind of impossible to forget, Rihanna is central: not really saying anything, stringing cliches together, but when she opens her mouth and just sings, the o’s working through double channels is so (and this is where the words fail me: beautiful, gorgeous, open?)… and so, I wonder, if Kanye and Jay Z are the two separate ways to Hip Hop shangri-la, if both of them run this town as individual fiefdoms, then Rihanna is a middle path, willing both to name her own autonomy/power (she is the one who says we are going to run this town), and in opposition to the masculinist discourses of the traded verses, which brings us back to the meta — she is more in control here then she is in her personal relationships, she runs the town, but seems to fail to control her own life… so when she asks here who is going to run this town tonite, the answer she wants to say is her, but this seems to not be the case, which is enough of a textual hole to allow Kanye/Jay z to make arguments in favour of themselves? It’s deliciously ambiguous.

Alex Macpherson: Jay-Z proves again that there hasn’t been any point paying attention to him for – being generous – over half a decade. Kanye sounds bored senseless, his verse feels like it goes on and on for weeks and by the time he finishes you’re not sure whether you or he fell asleep first. Rihanna is all but comatose.

Jordan Sargent: Back when Jay was the best rapper in the world, his pointed, clinical and scientific flows were a thing of beauty. Now, though, when he has nothing to say and even less inventive ways of saying it, his verses are stilted and plodding, in the way a drunk tries to walk down stairs. And all this despite the fact that he’s still often getting some of the best work from the best producers in hip-hop. “Run This Town”, which is brooding and quietly beastly, is no different, but it only goes to underscore the ridiculousness of the claims that Jay makes within. And that’s becoming a trend.

Colin Cooper: Jay-Z likes to rap over bluesy electric guitar these days, it seems – and it seriously suits him. Problem is, he’s not actually present for much of this, instead letting Rihanna’s electric sugar voice do most of the work, with Kanye doing a longer-than-normal guest rap on the third verse. The whole package is slick, and I’d maybe want to hear the three of them collaborate over a longer, less showcase-y project in the future, particularly if it meant Jigga got do more than add rhythmic ‘sups” to the admittedly rich vocal mix.

David Raposa: If there’s anything that a “Jesus Walks” knockoff beat didn’t need, it’s “shredding” from Lil Wayne’s guitar teacher.

Alfred Soto: Heaving and bitching as if “Live Your Life” was “Swagga Like Us,” pitting his flow against the beat of rolling drums and a grungy guitar lick old school-like, as if he’d really killed and buried Auto-tune, Hova injects presence into an inaugural address lacking wit and surprise (geez, another Good Will Hunting reference?).

John Seroff: Jay has a few good verses but he quickly seems bored riffing on Devin’s “see saw” verse in “Alright”; Rihanna is lethargic and jaded on the chorus and Kanye sounds like, well, Kanye (congrats on finally getting that ‘Joe Blow/no homo’ rhyme out there). This is plodding, joyless and generally unfinished.

Edward Okulicz: We’ve all learned a valuable lesson here: sanctimonious, hypocritical clap-trap like “DoA” – bad. Bored Rihanna autotuned until she sounds unnatural over your track – passable.

Additional Scores

Anthony Miccio: [4]
Michaelangelo Matos: [3]
Martin Skidmore: [8]

4 Responses to “Jay-Z ft. Rihanna and Kanye West – Run This Town”

  1. Okay, this was bugging me: is Jay’s “We Are” rhyme meter lifted from something earlier or more famous than Devin’s ‘Alright’ that Devin _also_ lifted it from? Cuz the possibility that I’m just ignorant of a better known track sounds more likely than Jay biting Devin for a whole song without even giving him a little dap on the track.

  2. Nearly died laughing at Matt’s blurb. TSJ knocked this one out of the park, I think. 5 is exactly the score I would have given it.

  3. Is it me or does Kanye sound like he’s caught a cold on this? It’s clearly him, but his voice sounds like he’s just recovered from some sinus trouble.

  4. OMG Matt C ♥