January 11 was a good day for music — Britney Spears dropped her new single “Hold it Against Me,” and Kanye West and Jay–Z released “H.A.M.” A few days after, ‘Ye tweeted, “Yo Britney, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you be #1, but me and Jay–Z single is one of the best songs of all time.” Sorry, Kanye: while we might have agreed with you on the whole Beyonce/Taylor Swift thing, we’re not as persuaded by your latest effort.
“H.A.M.” is the first official single off the rap heavyweights’ joint EP, Watch the Throne, and stands for “hard as a mothafucka.” The track has all the bounce of Jay–Z’s best work, but Kanye’s verse is among his worst: his lazy flow sounds like a failed freestyle and features themes he’s covered better elsewhere. Jay, however, manages to spit about the deaths of his father and nephew while also letting us know about his net worth (half a billion!?). We can’t hate on Hov’s effort, but it’s producer Lex Luger who really went H.A.M. on this one. With its epic orchestral swells and spooky opera flourishes, the beat is impressively ominous. The rappers wisely let the beat ride out for a full minute and a half after they finish rapping, and it’s this section that gets us excited for Watch the Throne; if Jay–Z and Kanye can manage to go as hard as their beats do, we’ll crown it a success.