When Kanye West and Jay-Z dished out "H.A.M.," the first official single from their forthcoming joint album Watch the Throne, it was a colossal hip-hop moment. Two of rap's reigning mic-rippers tag-teaming on a track heaping with bravado-laden lyricism over producer Lex Luger's incessant, piercing drums is a major way to start the hip-hop conversation in 2011.
Swizz Beatz, who's crafted multiple records with both MCs, told MTV News on Wednesday (January 12) that Yeezy and Hov's collaborative effort could be taken as a blueprint for how to push the hip-hop game further.
"I think that those being both of my friends, and knowing that people can team up on such a high caliber level — as musicians, as rappers, as friends, as peers — I think it's super positive, and I think that if more of the industry did moves like this it would be a better place for everybody," Swizz said. The Monster Mondays songsmith has been in the lab with the hip-hop titans as they craft Throne, and added that the tracks that are in the works definitely have game-changing potential.
"I'm involved a little bit on the album, and just hearing the different songs it's like 'Wow, they're really taking it to another level.' I'm happy to be a part of it, those are my brothers and [they're] going to continue pushing the envelope," he said. Swizz also insisted Jay and 'Ye are "definitely coming with the monsters," and that "H.A.M." will be followed up by tracks that are "just gonna keep getting better."
However, the prolific producer mused that the two MCs don't have a specific agenda for Throne's chart performance — since they've both got boatloads of accolades, fame and radio hits to their names — but are rather hitting the studio to create the tracks they feel like making.
"I think they're just doing them. I don't think artists nowadays are paying attention to any like, particular formats. Because the industry is not what it used to be — you can't predict a Top 40 record or a #1 Urban record. You just gotta just do what you feel is hot. It's just like you feel like you don't want to rap no more [or] you wanna keep going past the hook, just keep going past the hook. That makes it real hip-hop." he said. "People don't understand that hip-hop got started from being rebellious to any rules. Hip-hop has no rules, and the only reason hip-hop started getting rules [was] because of radio airplay, sales, different spins and trying to reach out to another audience. But Jay and Kanye got the audience already so they can do what they want to do, and I think that's what they doing, which is a great move."
Like his homies, Swizz is also making some high-profile joint moves, collaborating with Reebok and luxury car maker Aston Martin. The producer/rapper has also been tinkering on his next solo effort, titled Haute Living, which he said will be a creative departure from his previous work.
"I think people are not gonna expect what they're gonna hear on my album. I'm very hard on myself with the album because it's like putting on another hat and it's opening up the door for a lot of criticism," he said of heading back to the mic for the follow-up to 2007's One Man Band Man. Ultimately, he shrugged off any possible Haute hate, and maintained that, like Jay and Kanye, he's in it to make music and have a good time. "Doing this album I said, 'Look, I'm not trying to be the best rapper in the world, I'm not trying to do none of that. I'm just trying to have fun and treat it as [an] art project where I'm expressing myself.' "
While he may be prioritizing creativity over commercial viability, Swizz hasn't been slacking on securing a diverse lineup of A-list features that includes a rock star, a Rebirth rapper and R&B royalty.
"I have amazing collaborations on the album from Lenny Kravitz, Wayne, my sister Mary [J. Blige], Maxwell is on the album," he said. "I don't want to give it all away but I'm trying to come with something ... that's just gonna like blow people's minds away. They gonna be like, 'Wow.' "
Do you agree with Swizz's thoughts about Jay and Kanye's "H.A.M." record? Let us know in the comments!