We Major – Kanye West ft. Nas, Really Doe & Tony Williams
you mu-fuckers better do your job and roll up, and watch how we roll up
An’ I can’t control it, I can’t hold it, it’s so nuts –
I take a sip of that gnac I wanna fuck
I take a hit of that chronic I wanna fuck – But really what’s amazin’
is how I keep blazing, towel under the door, we smoke until the days end
puff puff and pass don’t fuck up rotation, Hypnotiq for Henny ?
now nigga that’s a chaser, turn nuttin to somethin now pimpin that’s a saviour
Best things are green now pimpin’ get your paper
High off the ground from stair to skyscraper
cool out thinkin’ we local – c’mon homie we major
Kanye West restored my faith in hip hop. Being an old-skool purist for years, disillusioned with gangsta rap and the 90s scene I turned away and only paid cursory attention – to Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, PE and little bits and smatterings that escaped. But Kanye West was something else.
He has now made (May 2015) six LPs on the bounce starting in 2003 which have individually been astoundingly good, and collectively represent the most important artist of the 21st century. Kanye comes with original ideas, smooth flows, comedy, orchestration, samples, pop, raps, and pretty much paved the way for a number of 21st century musical innovations and trends. His last LP Yeezus (2013) was monumental in its sound design and another game-changer – but this track I’ve chosen right here is a personal favourite from the second album Late Registration. Not an obvious pick, not a single, but somehow this is the one that got under our skin chez Brown/Jules. Already you can hear the music straining on the first few bars – the sound of a sound trying to escape from its boundaries, pushing against the barriers, smooth, powerful, strong and melodic. Good chords. The hook chorus is written above, rapped by old Chicago buddy Really Doe. I always thought the last line was “too low thinkin’ we local“… Rap Genius website has it as “cool out, thinkin’ we local…“. I prefer my version because of the word-play on low and local. Oh well. Kanye employed Jon Brion – multi-instrumentalist and orchestrator – to help him on this LP. Brion had produced Brad Mehldau, Fiona Apple and Rufus Wainwright and written the music for the films Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind before co-producing Late Registration in 2005. He did a splendid job.
Summer 2005 I was in Bude, North Cornwall making series 2 of Julia Davis‘ Nighty Night. We had the run of this gorgeous clifftop house which became The Trees Therapy Centre. I was Jacques, the main therapist and counsellor, a kind of abusive self-centred hippy twerp. Really enjoyed this part very much. Jenny and I had watched the first series and howled with laughter – we thoroughly enjoyed the dark humour and the character of Jill in particular. At the audition on Tottenham Court Road Julia Davis had put me through my paces, and when I appeared to be a possible choice, called in Rebecca Front from a nearby room (surely I’m mis-remembering this?) and they proceeded to improvise scenarios with me, both of them in character with Julia as narcissistic sociopath Jill and Rebecca as zero-self-esteem fusspot Cathy, constantly undermined and manipulated by Jill. It was as much as I could do not to burst out loud laughing (lol) as they created mini-scenes for me to exist in with them. I stayed manfully in character as not-recovering sex-addict Jacques – a kind of po-faced ultra-serious egotist who nodded sagely at other’s suggestions while not really listening to them at all. And got the job.
Georgie, Ruth, Ralph, Julia, Miranda, Bude 2005
We were all in a little B&B in Bude – the main cast were all either massively successful, or about to be massively successful. Angus Deayton, always slightly bemused that you’re actually talking to him, Rebecca Front, genuinely lovely and funny lady, Ruth Jones, busy writing her masterpiece in her spare time which turned out to be Gavin & Stacey, Miranda Hart who turned out to be Miranda!, and Mark Gatiss who turned out to be Mark Gatiss. Nighty Night also starred my old friend Felicity Montagu, Georgie Glen and Llewella Gideon. We had an absolute blast.
On the first morning there, Julia took me to lunch in Bude where she established that I was married with no cats. She is a completely unpretentious, funny, sweet and lovely lady and bright as a button. We almost all worked every day. I had extensions put into my hair for Jacques and tended to wear floppy hippyish clothes. The summer was glorious, the views spectacular, I had worked with half the crew before and we had a laugh. Not really my world the TV comedy scene -it’s pretty competitive – but I’m terribly happy that I’ve been invited into it on a few occasions – (Him & Her, PramFace) – being funny is hard work and I love the challenge. I have total respect for Julia – I think she is one of the most original and talented people working in the UK, and I thank her for letting me be a part of Nighty Night.
Regarding Kanye, I could have chosen any number of his songs to feature in my patchwork quilt of a musical auto-biography: Gold Digger, Diamonds From Sierra Leone, Flashing Lights, No Church In The Wild, Black Skinhead, Blood On The Leaves, Jesus Walks, Through The Wire…. He’s attracted a lot of hate recently and over the years mainly because of his antics, but sometimes simply because he is a successful black man. Obama called him a jackass “off-mic” and Kanye enjoys stunts which can backfire. He has been banging his head on the glass ceiling for a few years now, documented on Yeezus, indeed all his music is like a kind of running commentary on his achievements, desires and obstacles. I always swing in and defend him on social media, not because he needs me, but because the mob mentality really bothers me, I like to poke a stick into its spokes. All I know is that when the history of 21st Century music is written Kanye West will be Chapter One. And when the history of 21st century TV comedy is written, Julia Davis will feature. They’ve both been hugely influential. My Pop Life introduces them to each other. Big up!
The final verse on We Major is penned by Nas – who changed the world of hip-hop with his debut album Illmatic in 1994. These are the final few lines on the Kanye track :
I’m Jesse Jackson on the balcony when King got shot
I survived the livest niggas around, last longer than more than half of you clowns
Look, I used to cook before I had the game took,
Either way my change came like Sam Cooke
After five minutes and twenty seconds the song fades and silence hovers for a beat. Then :
can I talk my shit again?
And the song busts back into multi-platform day-glo life again with Tony Williams singing the outro. “he sings quite beautifully don’t you agree?” It’s a glorious sound. ‘Why d’you call it Late Registration Ye? Cos we taking these motherfuckers back to school!!” Feel free to sing along….