Who's the king of the Throne?

November 30, 2011|By Ernest Wilkins and Emily Van Zandt, RedEye

We already know Kanye West and Jay-Z, whose Watch the Throne tour hit the United Center this week, can drop serious rhymes. Our question: Who is the best entertainer?

Kanye West

Rap shows used to be pretty dull from a sheer spectacle perspective. You'd have the MC, his hype man, his DJ, various crew members, bodyguards and the occasional groupie (or six). Kanye West didn't re-invent what a rap show could be, but he sure did put his stamp on it.

The second he got the level of fame he desired, he put on a certified rock show (The Glow in the Dark Tour), complete with neon, vivid imagery and shutter shades. Before, concert tees had tour dates on the back and cost $20. Now they're made by Givenchy.

West's absolute determination to rock your face off every night has inspired everyone from his former DJ A-Trak (the fact that he had an almost-legendary DJ rocking with him when he started touring should tell you something) to other rappers ... including Jay-Z.

Yes, I'm willing to say that Donda's boy made the best rapper alive step up his game, both on record and in concert. I'm not even going to include the fact that you might even get a legendary 30-minute rant about whatever is bothering Kanye that day!

Spontaneity, a killer work ethic and passion out the wazoo. I'm on Team Yeezy.

--Ernest Wilkins, erwilkins@tribune.com, @remixchicago

Jay-Z

When it comes to who is the better entertainer, I firmly believe that it's about showmanship, not stunts. Give me a performer who can own a stage with a mic and backing band over ballet dancers, tiny keyboards and gospel choirs any day.

While both Jay-Z and Kanye have had their stripped-down moments, only Jay-Z has had an MTV "Unplugged" special so successful the accompanying album actually charted on Billboard at No. 20. The man barely had room to walk around and the performance is classic.

Bottom line, Kanye has made his performance reputation about flash while Jay-Z has kept it about the music. I'm going to a show for skill, not scarves.

Kanye has serious talent, but he's still kind of a kid next to a veteran like Jay-Z. They were both clearly enjoying themselves at the VMAs when they brought out "Otis," but Kanye somehow still managed to look like a hype man bounding around Jay, who is much more about standing and delivering than looking like he forgot his Ritalin.

It takes years to develop the kind of showmanship that Jay has—energetic, yet controlled and completely engrossing—and for the time being, he's king.

--Emily Van Zandt, evanzandt@tribune.com, @mmxbars

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