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Matos Writing and Rhetoric Daniel Ferrao
“The Path to the Throne”
Being two of wealthiest rappers in recent history, with a combined net worth of $565 million, Jay Z and Kanye are both extremely successful. In their most recent album “Watch the Throne” they inspire others to strive for success, and to overcome any challenges they are faced with. With a great command of ethos, pathos, and logos; the duo convinces us that success, the American dream, should be sought out no matter what stands in your way. Three songs off “Watch the Throne” portray this intended message the best. Otis, Made in America, and Gotta Have It all entertain the idea of striving for success and overcoming anything in your way. On the heels of Jay Z's and Kanye West's record-breaking album “Watch The Throne”, their extravagant music video to the hit song Otis is causing a stir. The video, which involves the two stars “chopping” up a $375,250 Maybach sedan and rapping in front of a large American flag, was a major success. With nearly 50 million views on YouTube, it’s safe to say that it is one of the most successful music videos of their careers. The Otis video conveys a strong message to those who have watched it so far. A lesser known song on the album, Made in America explains how different Jay's and Kanye's paths to greatness are However, no matter how different their paths, both succeeded because of a diet of sacrifice and hard work. In the song Gotta Have It, the duo reminds us that hard work never stops. Even after reaching the top, they still face prejudice and obstacles to overcome. Otis includes many visuals of success, from watches with five digit price tags to cars with seven digit price tags. Meanwhile, Jay and show us how hard work has rewarded them. When the line “new watch alert, Hublot, or a big-faced rollie; I got two of those” is rhymed, images of Jay and Kanye flashing
their watches are shown. Those particular watch brands are chosen because they evoke a great deal of emotion in the viewer. Hublot and Rolex are both extremely exclusive brands and base model watches start in the thousands. Using lesser brands such as Timex or Casio wouldn't have the same effect because their watches are not exclusive. You don't have to put in the same level of work to buy one; so, in turn, they hold less emotional value than a Rolex. Utilizing brands that equate themselves with luxury implies that Jay and Kanye live a luxurious life; and by saying that he has “two of those” he is just cementing the fact that he has been successful for a long time, and that he is a master of luxury. Jay-Z's line “Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth” is drenched in ethos. He is being blatant and literally saying he is the embodiment of wealth and success. His follow up line, “'bout to call the paparazzi on myself” tells us that he wants everyone to know so badly, that he will suffer the annoyance of paparazzi just to spread the word. In the video, the Maybach represents the “correct” or “socially acceptable” path to success. The opening scene shows Jay and Kanye walking towards the car with a saw and a plasma torch cutter. They proceed to dismantle the car rather violently. When the car surfaces again, body panels are missing and the hood is where the trunk is supposed to be. This is a metaphor that relates to Jay-Z's own rise to success, which relied heavily on selling illegal drugs. He is saying your path to success might not fit with the preconceived notion; it may not be pretty, but keep fighting for success no matter what your path looks like. Jay is an example of someone who fought through the “no you can't” and made his own version of success, that looks very different from societies. Looking past the glamour of flashy watches and rhinestone encrusted hats, the video reveals its main point with two symbols that are cherished. A giant mural of the American flag is the background for most of the video, and Jay and Kanye are displaying their friendship. Both of these symbols show us how to reach the level of success that they share. Jay and are showing what you need to make it big, you need to utilize America, and you need to have a good group of people to support you. By acting like they are just “hanging out” Jay and Kanye also evoke a sense of pathos from the audience. By showing them
participate in a “normal” activity, it makes it easier to relate to the two millionaires. The presentation of success, in the form of wealth, paired with the symbol of America and fellowship, is intensely powerful. It shows Jay's and Kanye's affinity towards their version of the American dream, and their ability to succeed in this country. In Otis they establish themselves as authorities on luxury and success with a few very clever bars and images. With this authority, they convince the viewer that success should be sought. The Maybach scene lets people know that the road to success won't be easy, and shows that once you get there, it might not look like societies stereotype of success. Critics have said that the video evokes jealousy, and that it is just Jay-Z and Kanye being boastful. While the video does evoke jealousy in some, jealousy is a great motivator. If you see something you want, and someone else has it, you are motivated to work harder for it. Whether it is jealousy, or desire, it is hard to argue that Otis doesn’t evoke the desire to succeed from its viewers. Lines like “When we die, the money we can't keep” and “is pious, pious because god loves pious?” contradict the statement that Jay and are just showing off their money. By bringing up the fact that money is just a temporary object, the pair shows they aren't only focused on money and watches. They clearly have deeper thoughts, which adds to the logos and ethos they cultivated earlier.
Also on the album, is a song called Made it in America. The chorus of the song sends the same overwhelming message that America is fundamental in their success. Here we hear both Kanye and Jay-Z telling us how they were able to succeed in the rap industry. Kanye took the risk of dropping out of school, whereas Jay-Z took the risk of cooking and selling crack cocaine as we hear in the line “our apple pie was supplied through arm and hammer.” Here, Jay smartly references two things; wanting part of the economic pie, and the cliché that the idea of striving for success is genuinely American. Kanye, on the other hand, references his mother giving him one summer to make his music career work, in the line “you
going to school, I'll give you a summer.” He goes on to rap about how his mother introduced him to different producers who mentored him. Kanye and Jay-Z purposely juxtapose success stories in order to show the listener that success isn't attained only one way. It takes different kinds of sacrifice from different people. One person's fight for success might not be yours. By spreading this message, and sharing each of their personal stories of hardship, Kanye and Jay Z both establish logos with the listener, and humanize themselves. Now, the listener can really connect with the two famous rappers and utilize their advice given in the previous song and throughout the album. Having struggled and come up from the bottom, reaching the top must feel amazing. Jay-Z and Kanye both know that feeling; however they also know the feeling of being told that you still aren't successful, and that you don't belong at this level. The first line, spit smoothly by Kanye sums up the songs meaning well, “'ello 'ello 'ello hello white America assassinate my character.” With this line he tells us about the hardships faced when trying to overcome racism while striving to succeed at the highest level. The second half of Jay-Z's verse is all about the motif of black success. With lines such as “(Maybachs on bachs on bachs) Who in that? (Oh shit, it’s just blacks on blacks on blacks) (Hundred stack) How you get it? ( Man, layin’ raps on tracks)” it can be seen that Jay and Kanye both get questioned about their success. They imply that their answers surprise some people. “Oh shit, it's just blacks on blacks on blacks” shows that the person who asked “who's in the Maybach?” is surprised when he finds out that the person is black. When, presumably, the same person asks “How you get it?” Jay gets fed up and spits back the answer “, layin' raps on tracks”. You can tell by Jay's voice that he is fed up of people questioning how he earns his money. Jay and expose society’s tendencies to assume that success is equated with being white. The pair wants to change this assumption. The line “I wish I could give you this feeling,” shows that Jay is wishing people, especially the black community, could join him at the top. By telling the audience that he wants them to reach just as high as he did, he adds to the pair’s ethos. Throughout the album, Jay and Kanye focus on success, achieving your version of the American dream, and overcoming adversity that stands in your way. It is important to ask why Jay and Kanye are
spreading these principles. Why not just create a catchy beat and rhyme nonsense over it, like so many other rappers who are producing albums today? Jay- Z and Kanye West are not your typical, modern rappers. They are the last of an old breed that relied on pure talent and hard work to succeed. They have been staples in the rap game for so long that they feel the need to spread the message to be hungry. They want to show you how they fought, through the mud and hardships, and strived for the highest level of success possible; while showing us that the average person can do it too. While it might sound cliché, it is absolutely true. By the end of the album, the duo has cultivated enough ethos, pathos, and logos to convince us that what they say is true. They develop ethos by showing how they individually succeeded by working hard, all while overcoming adversity. The pair shows that they have authority on the subject, because they have already lived through it. Jay and cultivate pathos by telling personal tails of hardship, and showing the riches that success can entail. By flashing designer watches and rhyming tails of hardship, the duo evokes emotions. Whether you find yourself coveting a luxury, or connecting with one of their stories of hardship; Jay and Kanye tap into your emotions with their songs. Finally, logos is also established by personal stories from both Jay and Kanye. If the same formula of hunger for success, hard work, and the ability to overcome adversity; works two out of two times, logically it is assumed that there is a pattern. Success, hard work, and the overcoming adversity are all things that should be sought out. Jay-Z's and Kanye's lyrics helped convince me that I could achieve what I thought I couldn't. I was obese; and on my battle to lose weight, Watch the Throne helped me keep my nose to the grindstone and keep fighting for success. While I didn't have to overcome anything as serious as racial adversity, I did have to overcome the taunts and jeers of peers along my journey. Again, I returned to “Watch the Throne” to help me through difficult times. I have lost eighty pounds of fat; that is my success. Jay and Kanye's motivational lyrics convinced me that anything was possible if I was willing to sacrifice, block out nay-sayers and critics, and just keep fighting.
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