Music / Race / TV

HBO Solves Their Diversity Problem By Going With the Very First Idea They Had

This past Friday, HBO released a hip hop mixtape. Ooh! Ooh! For a new David Simon show about 90’s gangsta rap? Nope. For…the upcoming Entourage movie? Out of guesses, motherfucker, it’s Game of Thrones!

Yeah…so HBO wants to diversify their viewership. Nothing wrong with that! They probably felt the need to reach out because the makeup of the series is as white as a yacht club. So they…dropped a mixtape? How very “Cool Uncle” of you, HBO.

Fantasy in general is overwhelmingly white. Most fantasy media is set in medieval bizarro-Europe, where people of color dare not tread, and it tends to reserve “exotic” roles for non-white actors, because to include them in society would be “historically inaccurate.” Which is pretty much exactly what happens in Game of Thrones! I think there’s a Black sailor dude in Daavos’ Sea Friends Crew. Everyone else is across the Narrow Sea, and lives in mysterious merchant city Qarth, or is a castrated slave, or is part of a warlike horseback society. Whites are undeniably the “normal” people in this series, and they are essentially the only members of that group.

20 of Game of Throne's 1,000 main characters

20 of Game of Thrones’  record-breaking 81 main characters

HBO could risk crucifixion at the hands of irate losers, and race-shift some of the new characters being introduced this season, or they could release a mixtape.  So here’s this mixtape, enjoy!

When you think about it, the themes of the show translate pretty well to rap. Vying for power, being the best in the game, warring sets, women, gold, conflict. As clueless as this move was, it actually had a chance to produce something fun. So is it any good? I was getting all ready to drop a couple bucks on this to review, but it’s free to stream. Give it a listen! I was pleasantly surprised.

Mild spoilers ahead.

1. Big Boi – Mother of Dragons

Big Boi is a Khaleesi fan. This track is pretty cool, I love the horror core-ish backing sample. It’s kind of a teaser for Season 4, or perhaps just Big Boi being excited about Season 4. It’s vague and doesn’t manage to convey much besides generalities (i.e., “Fuck the Lannisters and everybody ride with em/Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch finna slice some iron in em”). But I’m glad you’re excited, Big Boi. I am, too.

2. Magazeen – Iron Throne

It’s cool that most of the tracks open with a dialogue sample. It makes me think of Wu Tang. Tyrion’s quote here is awesome. “What do you want? Gold? Women? Golden women? Stick with me and you’ll have them all.”
In a pretty sick patois, Magazeen explores the fight over the Iron Throne, noting the disregard for human life, the “cold-blooded murder,” and the stakes for those who follow claimants in their armies. I also love how the hook follows the opening theme’s melody.

3. Bodega Bamz – Win Or Die

This feels awfully close to the last one, I hate the “A-wooph!” and it falls into the same sort of trap as Big Boi, where he ends up namedropping elements of the series and making it “Bodega Bamz in Westeros.” It’s got a couple good lines, though, and does a good job with Game of Thrones‘ world of violent problem solving, as overdone as that theme is already, three tracks in.

4. Kilo Kish – Magical Reality

I really like this. It’s a lot more focused and concept-based than some of the other tracks, and even without the Daenerys samples, you can tell what part of the story it’s about. It starts out with her wandering the illusion she’s trapped in by Qarth warlock Pyat Pree, then realizing the spell will produce whatever would hold her there most strongly. She finds her lost husband Khal Drogo, and the song fades out with her pleas for him to become real and keep her there. Kinda sweet! Just don’t think about the circumstances of their marriage.

5. Daddy Yankee – Born to Rule

A good portion of the lyrics are in Spanish! I don’t speak Spanish, but it’s cool to see Hispanics included in this hype push. I love the beat. It also seems like this is from Joffrey’s point of view, which is a cool twist!

6. Dominik Omega – Arya’s Prayer

A rap ballad to the badass that is Arya. Her mantra of bastards she’s sworn to kill and the “all men must die” saying echo through the song as Dominik Omega describes Arya’s journey from her home in Winterfell to Harrenhal and her escape. I love this. Arya is worthy as fuck of this excellent track.

It’s also home to a great so-bad-you-love-it rhyme: “Death in every black tower/ pain in every rotted steeple/ ain’t no room for hope/ and it smells of dead pe-ople”

7. Dee Goodz – The Parallel

Nice beat, but too many of these tracks say something about life being like a game of thrones. I prefer the ones that keep the voice somewhat in the fiction.

8. Snow tha Product – Fire

Another Khaleesi track. This one fucking rules. As the title suggests, Snow tha Product spits fire, and she’s backed by dragons spitting fire. While it’s a perfect illustration of Danerys’ drive and power, it does double duty as a song about rapping as a woman, and what it takes in general to excel in a sexist society.

9. Common – The Ladder

I will never forgive Common for rhyming “Dave Cha-pipple” with “under the mistle” in a Gap commercial.

Get out of my face, Common.

10. Wale – King Slayer

This beat is the messiest shit. Long, clumsy periods of untampered theme music make an icky sandwich with the pretty cool looped sections. Also, boring song.

Conclusion and Scoring:

Turns out this mixtape is actually pretty good! I enjoy most of it, and a couple of the tracks have value outside of this very silly context. But…it’s about Game of Thrones. I don’t know if I can handle this much novelty rap on my iPod, and the fact that the album is better than expected doesn’t make the original idea any less ridiculous and pandering.

Again, way too much “This life is like a game of thrones” for my liking.  I would have liked to hear a Red Wedding/”Rains of Castamere” track. There’s some somber shit in this series; that was a missed opportunity. A Littlefinger pimp song would have been pretty tight, too.

Score: 2 out of 4 pork sausages


What did you think of Catch the Throne?  Does it deserve more pork sausages? Comment below!


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