Sibling Rivalry – Kanye West’s “Big Brother”

09.10.07 10 years ago 73 Comments

Kanye West Jay-z Big Brother mp3 Graduation

Words by Patrick M.

Finally got around to listening to Graduation. Yes, I am late to the game, but TSS is so far ahead of everyone else that I’m still the cool kid on the block who got the album early. Thought it was another strong effort from Ye; right now I’m thinking 4.5 mics, with only the T-Pain joint holding it back from being non-stop fire.

While not my favorite track on the album (that’d still be “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.”) the one that got my gears moving was “Big Brother.” Kanye’s greatest strengths as an MC are that he speaks his mind and he’s very good at personalizing his raps. He doesn’t go for the cloak and dagger shit. So to hear him speak on his troubled relationship with his big brother/idol/sensei was fascinating to me as fan of both men and the work they’ve done together.

Some of Ye’s complaints come across as petty; I never thought I’d hear a rapper beef about who got to work with Coldplay first. But the song gets deep into the history of their relationship, from Kanye being scared to talk to Jay, to making history together with The Blueprint and Ye’s eventual rise out of Jay’s shadow. Kanye, whose boasting has always come off to me as the façade of a sensitive dude, gets points for bravery in airing some dirty laundry. But this isn’t a traditional rap beef; it’s a heartfelt essay on a complicated relationship. Kanye has legit issues with the way Jay has treated him (he had to buy tickets to MSG? That’s cold.), and makes him look bad by insinuating Jay’s cold shoulders came from jealousy of Kanye’s own success. Yet even as Ye lashes out, you can tell he is struggling to cope with criticizing someone who he would do anything for, and who he idolizes professionally and personally. The combination of reverence and antagonism makes for fascinating listening.

Kanye and Jay both got where they are through busting their ass, talent, and heavy doses of self-confidence; we aren’t dealing with the smallest egos here. Mentor-protégé relationships often get sticky and sometimes it ends like Obi Wan and Vader. Here’s hoping that after “Big Brother,” they can talk it out over a blunt and get back to making hot music together.

Kanye West – “Big Brother”

Just as an extra, the original track sampled for “Drunk & Hot Girls.”

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