[Roc-a-Fella / Def Jam; 2011]

Coming off his masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West’s collaboration with Jay-Z should have been a victory lap, a reaffirmation that there is no doubt they aren’t just on top of the rap game, but on top of popular culture as well. Instead,”H.A.M.” just comes off as show-boating. Which would be fine, if the music were good. Much of Kanye’s adoration comes from the fact that he’s able to brilliantly take from all landscapes of the music spectrum and make incredible music that transcends genres. Did anyone ever expect to see ballerinas in a rap video? Ye has never been afraid to take inspiration from anything really. Whether it’s Otis Redding, classical music, and even Indie bands. “H.A.M.” strips away all the things that make Ye unique, and it just comes across as lowering his standards.

“H.A.M.” (short for “hard as a motherfucker”) is supposed to well, go hard. And to a degree it does. But there is so much wrong with this song musically that it becomes distracting. It was almost as if, they kept shoving as much stuff as they could into the song to make it sound epic. The choir of wailing banshees, the Mortal Kombat-esque rising synth. At times, it almost comes across as laughable. I can’t help but think this would be a great parody song of what a rapper with a big ego “would” make – something Lonely Island would attempt. Thematically, I understand why they wanted this song to be epic. The album is called Watch the Throne, after all. And with two superstars throwing down on the same song, it’s supposed to be majestic, grand, and over the top. All of this I am fine with. In fact, prior to this, I would have said the crazier and more over the top Ye could get, the better. But this proves that even Ye’s theatrics has a limit.

Unfortunately, both Ye and Jay focused way too much on the theme of the song, rather than the content. Verses leave much to be desired. The production sounds cheesy. The actual mixing of the various elements (the choir, the synth etc.) comes off like a train wreck. “H.A.M.” isn’t by any means a complete failure. But it’s certainly not the grand introduction Watch the Throne we had hoped for. And really, we expect more from Kanye West than this. But that aside (not comparing this to his past works) – just as a song, this isn’t that good.