Surprisingly enough, the good folks over at HBO decided to take their Game of Thrones marketing campaign one notch higher this year by having a group of rappers compose songs while sampling beats from the Game of Thrones score to create some pretty slick raps. Did you have the same initial reaction that I did? As in, “Huh? Rap and Game of Thrones? Isn’t that a little bit like oil and vinegar?”
Yes, I admit: at first I was skeptical. I love all the music that Ramin Djawadi has produced. Now, take his music and couple it with some of rap’s best known performers and writers and what do you get? A Game of Thrones inspired rap album, with bumpin’ beats and fierce lyrics. Don’t believe me? Check it out on SoundCloud for yourself and you’ll see what I am talking about.
If you still need some convincing, go ahead and read my review. Take into consideration that I am a fan of classic rock, blues, alternative rock and some old school rap (RUN-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J and Jay-Z). Further research was needed on my part and I have listened to the entire album on SoundCloud, and each song in great detail.
“Mother of Dragons” by Big Boi (of OUTKAST) has got some of the juiciest beats. This is a song that tells of our heroine, Dany (or Khaleesi) and the tumultuous struggle for the Iron Throne. Big Boi knows how to deliver his rhymes with confidence. The song opens with quotes from Eddard Stark and Petyr Baelish. I believe this was carefully done to show how one character was honorable and the other a deplorable jerk who we all love to hate. He certainly knows how to make his feelings known about the Lannisters – he has NO love for them!
“Iron Throne” by Magazeen – while not familiar with this rapper, he has a certain Jamaican dance hall sound and his accent is pretty Caribbean. His track opens up with Tyrion Lannister quoting about gold and golden women – stick with him and you’ll end up with both. The track is about the might and the evil of the Iron Throne and is it worth all of the pain, once power is yours. Magazeen raps about the perils of having the crown – how everything is about life and death and things can change at the drop of a pin. There are some good beats and I like the sampling of the Game of Thrones score.
“Win or Die” by Bodega Bamz is the third track on the album. He opens the track with Tyrion’s rant about no justice in the Vale. This track is about the side you choose when you are fighting for the Iron Throne. I like the sampling of Ramin Djawadi’s score, combined with some serious bass and violin interpolations. And the dude can seriously rhyme! “Exile, across the sea…I spit fire like Khaleesi!” Nice. The track is thumping with beats and pointed barbs about life in Westeros. Choose the right side: remember, in the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.
“Magical Reality” by Kilo Kish is one of the weaker tracks, as it just doesn’t sound like a traditional rap song. The artist does not sound like she belongs to this genre. It’s too soft a song in my opinion. The theme around this track is about Dany and her dragons.
“Born to Rule” by Daddy Yankee starts off with the famous quote by Varys – “Power is a curious thing.” This track has a decidedly Middle Eastern flair and samples music from the Game of Thrones score, particularly the music from the Dothraki scenes. The theme of this song (which is a bilingual song, half English and half Spanish) gives way to how bloody and tough the life is of a person who is destined to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Like that bilingual vibe, you cater to a whole different audience.
We come to track six, which is my absolute favorite for a few reasons: “Arya’s Prayer” by Dominik Omega. It is about Arya’s trials and tribulations while on the run in Westeros. The song samples music from when Jaqen H’ghar interacts with Arya. The lyrics are tight, the beats are fierce and after listening to it a few times, you get the solid impression that Dominik Omega is a huge fan and is rooting for our little Stark heroine to take down all who dare cross her path. Kudos for the opening quote: it’s Dagmar Cleftjaw, and he says, “You have to pay the Iron Price; they’ll never respect you while he lives.” Omega manages to incorporate all of Arya’s sadness and fierce determination into wicked rhymes and you are left with the feeling that Team Arya is going to rise from the ashes this coming season. Omega marks all of her events and incorporates it into poetic lyrics – especially the mention of fleeing Winterfell, from her encounters with Tywin and her tough-ass attitude. Valar Morghulis and Valar Dohaeris, indeed.
“The Parallel” by Dee Goodz is a great track, slow to build and about characters who are neutral good and try hard to do what is right, in my opinion. It opens with Stannis’ quote from Season III about doing our duty. The track, like Stannis, is solid and shows promise by its slow build. The theme is about duty, strength and fighting for what is right. Stannis is that type of man. He is tough and tries to do what is right – the track has thoughtful lyrics about the various characters and their challenges. The music that is sampled is from Djawadi’s score whenever Stannis is on the scene. Gradual beats, bass at a solid level and a catchy beat that has a gradual climb.
“Fire” by Snow Tha Product is a cutting track by a female rapper who is rapping for the women in Westeros, particularly Dany. I like it in the sense that it raps to the fans that when you are a woman in the world of Westeros, you have to fight twice as hard, outwit, outsmart and outdo everyone else three times in order to acquire power and instill fear in your enemies. You get a feeling of angst in Snow Tha Product’s lyrics and it is fitting; after all she is letting fans know that a woman has it very hard. Therefore, no mercy, no backing down and never showing vulnerability is what needs to be down. That is both Snow Tha Product’s and Dany’s story.
“The Ladder” by Common opens with “The Ladder” quote from Littlefinger and Varys. Common is pretty well known in the rap genre. He raps about the realm of rap and of Westeros. “I think about it when I’m in my zone, this life is like a Game of Thrones.” Yes, I would definitely agree with Common: rap is a genre that is not for the weak at heart; neither is living in Westeros. The track is short and ends with the rest of Littlefinger’s “The Ladder” speech. I like this track but it doesn’t stand out as one that I would have on repeat.
The final track is “King Slayer” by Wale – and he is another rapper who is well known. The track opens up with the main theme from Game of Thrones. Immediately, you hear Eddard’s memorable words of House Stark: “Winter is Coming.” Wale raps about the fact that rap is not for weaklings, wussies and scaredy cats. He speeds it up and then slows it down throughout the song and I have to say, it’s impressive. He identifies with the Kingslayer as being one of rap’s most wanted. It has some serious beats and loud bass. I never thought that someone would make a rap song with the main theme of the score. Points for originality.
Overall, my personal favorites are “Mother of Dragons,” “Win or Die,” and “The Parallel.” But THE BOMB track on this is about my favorite Stark: “Arya’s Prayer.” A badass song for a badass little girl. Here it is:
Game of Thrones returns on April 6th at 9pm. In the meantime, you can listen to “Catch the Throne” FOR FREE here on SoundCloud.