Great lyricists: Jason Isbell


I’ve written a post on the impressive music of Jason Isbell, but I didn’t quote my favourite two songs on that album. Firstly, “Yvette” which is so powerful it brings you to tears. Talk about stark imagery in a song…

The second song “Relatively easy” reminds us (most of us) that we have it relatively easy.


I can barely make out a little light from the house on the cul-de-sac
bedroom upstairs, it’s a family affair.

I’ve watched you in class, your eyes are cut glass and you stay covered up,
head to your toe, so nobody will notice you

I might not be a man yet,
but that bastard will never be,
so I’m cleaning my Weatherby
I sight in my scope
and I hope against hope.
I hope against hope.

Your mother seems nice, I don’t understand why she won’t say anything.
As if she can’t see who he turned out to be.

I might not be a man yet,
but your father will never be.
so I load up my Weatherby,
and I let out my breath,
and I couple with death.
I couple with death.

Saw your father last night, and in the window the light made a silhouette.
Saw him hold you that way, he won’t hold you that way anymore, Yvette.

Relatively Easy

Are you having a long day
Everyone you meet rubs you the wrong way
Dirty city streets smell like an ashtray
Morning bells are ringing in your ear

Is your brother on a church kick
Seems like just a different kind of dope sick
Better off to teach a dog a card trick
And try to have a point and make it clear

You should know compared
To people on a global scale
Our kind has had it relatively easy
And here with you there’s always
Something to look forward to
Our angry heart beats relatively easy

I lost a good friend
Christmas time when folks go off the deep end
His woman took the kids and he took klonopin
Enough to kill a man of twice his size

Not for me to understand
Remember him when he was still a proud man
A vandals smile a baseball in his right hand
Nothing but the blue sky in his eye

Still compared to those
A stones throw away from you
Our lives have both been relatively easy
Take the(a) year and make a break
There ain’t that much at stake
The answers could be relatively easy

Watch that lucky man walk to work again
He may not have a friend left in the world
See him walking home again to sleep alone
Or step into a shop to buy a postcard for a girl

I broke the law boys
Shooting out the windows of my loft boys
When they picked me up I made a big noise
Everything to blame except my mind

I should say I keep your picture with me everyday
The evenings now are relatively easy
Here with you there’s always
Something to look forward to
My lonely heart beats relatively easy
My lonely heart beats relatively easy

Brand-dropping and Product Placement in Rap Music

Listening to Kanye West and Jay-Z’s latest albums, Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy GrailĀ is making me think of lyrics in rap music. Arguably, Jay-Z and Kanye West are two of the biggest names in not only the genre, but in music today, so although their output might not be reflective of every rap artist out there (I know there ARE better lyricists), they bear a huge influence.

And when you listen to the lyrics to their latest albums you really understand how much influence top brands have in their lives/music and how much the brands must say thanks for being dropped in popular songs without having to pay for it.

If we begin with Magna Carta Holy Grail and the song Holy Grail, Jay-Z starts out rapping about how money can fuck up your life:

Caught up in all these lights and cameras
But look what that shit did to Hammer
Goddammit it I like it
Bright lights is enticing
But look what it did to Tyson
All that money in one night
Thirty mill for one fight
But soon as all the money blows
All the pigeons take flight

Money, luxuries and fame are really what most famous rappers seem to have on their minds. Maybe it’s their way of dealing with it. In the next song, Picasso Baby, Jay-Z is talking about the same theme, but you notice he has a thing for the arts (everything art-related in bold):

magna carta holy grail

I just want a Picasso
In my casa, no, my castle
I’m a hassa, no, I’m a asshole
I’m never satisfied, can’t knock my hustle
I wanna Rothko, no, I wanna brothel
No, I want a wife that fuck me like a prostitute
Let’s make love on a million
In a dirty hotel with the fan on the ceiling
All for the love of drug dealing
Marble Floors, gold Ceilings
Oh, what a feeling, fuck it, I want a billion
Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up
Condos in my condos, I wanna row of
Christie‘s with my missy, live at the MoMA
Bacons and turkey bacons, smell the aroma

Okay, have to quote the next verse too:

It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean Michel
Surrounded by Warhols, my whole team ball
Twin Bugattis outside the Art Basel
I just wanna live life colossal
Leonardo Da Vinci flows
Riccardo Tisci Givenchy clothes
See me throning at the Met
Vogueing on these niggas, champagne on my breath, yes
House like the Louvre or the Tate Modern
Because I be going ape at the auction
Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a trillion
Sleeping every night next to Mona Lisa
The modern day version with better features
Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner
Go ahead lean on that shit Blue, you own it

The next song on Magna Carta Holy Grail is called Tom Ford after the famous fashion designer brand. The chorus is Jay-Z repeating the name Tom Ford over and over and that will surely create a deep interest in that brand. Jay-Z is alluding to that he’s all grown-up and dressing better, but I’m sure Tom Ford can’t be happier about his brand’s inclusion in the song.

Then there is all this talk both from Kanye West and Jay-Z about Paris. They seem absolutely obsessed with the French capital and it’s culture. It’s always been kind of hip for Americans to go to Paris, but they take it to another level and for their duo album they even have a song called “Niggas in Paris.”

I guess Paris represents luxury, snobbery, fine dining, super brands and outrageously expensive wines.

Here is a line from Tom Ford:

Paris where we been, pard’ my Parisian
It’s Hov time in no time, it’s fuck all y’all season
Piss Bordeaux and Burgundies, flush out a Riesling

I think what they want to shout on the rooftops is that “you have this perception of black people and rap music, but we rich and classy!”

Okay, this post is getting long. To make it shorter, I will just list all the mentions of brands and products in Magna Carta Holy Grail from here onwards (I have probably missed some):

Lamborghini Countach
Basquiat (several times)
Black Maybach (EXPENSIVE car brand)
Yellow Lambo (Lamborghini)
Sonos (Wifi music system)
White Lexus
Jordan Packs (Nike Air Jordan’s)
new Bugatti
Diablo (Lamborghini)
Maybach partition
D’USSE (fine cognac)
Ray Bans
Bally shoes
Gucci sneakers
Hermes towel
Suzuki Jeeps
Cherry M3 (BMW)
Silver Toyotas
Teflon Q45 Infinite
MCM Seats
Versace plates


Ouch. That’s a lot of BRANDS! Let’s see what Kanye West is talking about on Yeezus (he’s very angry on that album by the way, but it’s very good).

Benz (Mercedes) (5 times at least)
Black Timbs (Timbaland shoes)
Alexander Wang
Ranger Rover
Corolla (Toyota)
Louboutin (shoes)

So Kanye West’s Yeezus is not near the brand-dropping magnitude of Magna Carta Holy Grail. Still, it seems like I need to get myself a Maybach, some Basquiat paintings, shop more at Alexander Wang, drink more D’USSE, buy a Hublot watch, and make more millions. I like both Magna Carta Holy Grail and Yeezus, but the best songs are when both Jay-Z and Kanye West rap about relationships, fear, hatred, love and feeling lost. Things everyone can relate to.


My favourite songs on the albums are:
MAGNA CARTA HOLY GRAIL: Holy Grail, Oceans, Somewhere in America and Blue (when Jay-Z raps about his relationship with his daughter and his fear that his marriage with Beyonce will break.
YEEZUS: Hold my liquor, Blood on the Leaves where I assume Kanye West is talking about old relationships. There’s so much dark and vulnerable emotion in this album. Just look at this verse from Hold My Liquor:

Bitch I’m back out my coma
Waking up on your sofa
When I park my Range Rover
Slightly scratch your Corolla
Okay, I smashed your Corolla
I’m hanging on a hangover
Five years we been over
Ask me why I came over
One more hit and I can own ya
One more fuck and I can own ya
One cold night in October
Pussy had me floating
Feel like Deepak Chopra
Pussy had me dead
Might call 2Pac over
Yeezy’s all on your sofa
These them Red Octobers
Still ain’t learn me no manners
You love me when I ain’t sober
You love me when I’m hungover
Even when I blow doja
Then her auntie came over
Skinny bitch with no shoulders
Tellin’ you that I’m bogus
Bitch you don’t even know us
“Baby girl, he’s a loner
Baby girl, he’s a loner
Late night organ donor
After that he disown ya
After that he’s just hopeless
Soul mates become soulless
When it’s over it’s over”
And bitch, I’m back out my coma

I think for someone to be really, really “trill” (true and real) you need to go where it hurts, not cover everything up in brands, brands, brands. Both Jay-Z and Kanye West does it in a few songs, but not to the extent I’d personally like them to.