"No Church in the Wild" is a song by American rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring American singers Frank Ocean and The-Dream, from the former two's first collaborative album Watch the Throne (2011). Opening the album, the song explores themes of religion and decadence. The track received highly positive reviews from music critics, who praised Ocean's vocal hooks, the depth of the verses, the cinematic production and the song's power as an opening track.

"No Church in the Wild"
Single by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream
from the album Watch the Throne
ReleasedMarch 20, 2012
GenreHip hop
  • 88-Keys
  • Kanye West
Jay-Z singles chronology
"Talk That Talk"
"No Church in the Wild"
Kanye West singles chronology
"Gotta Have It"
"No Church in the Wild"
Frank Ocean singles chronology
"Swim Good"
"No Church in the Wild"
"Thinkin Bout You"
Music video
"No Church In The Wild" on YouTube

The track was released as the seventh and final single from Watch the Throne. The song peaked at number 72 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and entered the top 40 on both the US Billboard Hot Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. The song received a music video directed by Romain Gavras released on May 29, 2012. The video features anarchic riot footage and large street fights. The video received positive reviews from critics who praised the visuals of the video and the unique aesthetic presented in the video. The video was shot in Prague, Czech Republic.

Jay-Z and West performed the song as part of the setlist of their Watch the Throne Tour and Ocean performed his portion of the song on several occasions during his November 2011 tour through North America and Europe. The song received a nomination for Best Original or Adapted Song at the 2013 Black Reel Awards, along with two nominations at the 55th Grammy Awards for Best Short Form Music Video and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, winning the latter.

Background edit

Jay-Z and Kanye West are close friends and American rappers who have collaborated on several tracks together, such as singles like "Swagga Like Us", "Run This Town", and "Monster".[1][2] In 2010, they began production and recording on a collaborative record Watch the Throne.[2] Frank Ocean is an R&B singer who released his debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra in early 2011 to critical acclaim.[3][4] The release of the mixtape interested West, who was reported to be a big fan.[5] West invited Ocean to write and sing on two songs on the record.[6] Frank wrote and provided vocals on tracks "No Church in the Wild" and "Made in America" and the songs were recorded in New York.[5][7] The production of the track was handled by 88-Keys and Kanye West.[8]

88 Keys randomly visited West to say hello, and stumbled upon a Watch the Throne" session, in a room with Jay-Z, Q-Tip, No I.D. and engineer Noah Goldstein, 88-Keys played 20 of his beats that were catalogued on SoundCloud. "Everybody in the room just started going crazy," 88-Keys said. An hour later, they had singled out the beat that would become "No Church in the Wild." West told 88-Keys what additions he wanted made, "add an extra kick drum on there... a heavier bass line and strings". The next day, 88-Keys met Frank Ocean for the first time and heard the chorus as well as an unreleased spoken word intro. Over the next few days, Jay-Z recorded his 16 bars and Kanye recorded an eight-bar verse. For a while, the song remained unfinished but was completed close to the album release.[8]

88-Keys did not hear the final version until Jay-Z showcased it at the invite-only listening session at the Museum of Natural History's planetarium in August 2011.[8] Record producer and singer The-Dream sings a verse on the track using Auto-Tune.[9] The track impacted urban radio as the seventh and final single from Watch the Throne on March 20, 2012.[10]

Composition edit

No Church In the Wild is famously known for its chorus, performed by singer Frank Ocean.

"No Church in the Wild" features a cinematic production style and serves as an "ominous opener."[11][12] According to Billboard, Odd Future singer Frank Ocean and The-Dream lend their voices to the album's "grim opener," which sets the mood with a "gnarled guitar sample".[7] It features a bass-heavy beat with guitar riffs, synthesizers, and drums. The song begins with Frank Ocean's chorus followed by a Jay-Z verse about various topics including philosophy, braggadocio and religion.[13] On Ocean's chorus, Los Angeles Times writer Randall Roberts stated "with it the listener enters a bejeweled realm, one filled with musings on the spoils of riches and the chaos that accompanies it."[14] The chorus "underpins Jay Z's contemplation of the relevance of the clergy and ancient philosophers to someone who makes his living on the streets, while R&B star Frank Ocean questions, "What is a God to a non-believer?""[15] The chorus then repeats and The-Dream performs a bridge, preceding West's verse where he boasts "You will not control the threesome."[16] West's verse included references to Socrates, the perils of monogamy, "implied regicide" and both rappers "take turns describing a night of decadence that leaves blood on the coliseum walls."[12] The song contains samples from "K-Scope" as performed by Phil Manzanera, "Sunshine Help Me" as performed by Spooky Tooth and "Don't Tell a Lie About Me and I Won't Tell the Truth About You" as performed by James Brown.[9] According to Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, the track utilizes "unlikely samples" with "Ocean's haunting vocal against Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera playing a tricksy prog riff."[17]

Promotion edit

The track was performed by West and Jay on their Watch the Throne Tour.[18] Ocean performed his hook of the song at some of the performances during his 2011 concert series through the United States and Europe.[19] The song was used in the promotional advertising and the end credits for the film Safe House, the promo advertising for The Great Gatsby, and in an advertising series for the 2013 Dodge Dart automobile.[20][21]

Music video edit

A music video was filmed in late April 2012 in the areas surrounding Prague's Jan Palach Square and National Theatre, as well as near Škoda Palace in Jungmannova Street, by the Greek-French director Romain Gavras. There were two hundred extras, divided into police and rioters. The final video was released on May 29, 2012.[22] The video is "clearly influenced by the protests and civil unrest that took place all across the country."[22] The video's final shot bears similarity to an image from visual artist UnkleLuc's project, The Wild.[23] Rolling Stone reported that the "clip for "No Church in the Wild" depicts a grim clash between a large number of protesters and heavily armed and violent riot police."[24]

Nominations edit

"No Church in the Wild" received three nominations at the 2012 UK Music Video Awards; Best International Urban Video, Best Cinematography in a Video and Best Telecine in a Video[25][26]


  • Director: Romain Gavras
  • Production Company: Somesuch & Co
  • Producer: Mourad Belkeddar
  • Line Producer: Charlotte Marmion
  • Director of Photography: Mattias Montero
  • Production Designer: Jan Houllevigue
  • Editor: Walter Mauriot
  • Stylist: Hannah Edwards
  • Colorist: Simon Bourne
  • Local Production: Unit + Sofa

Reception edit

"No Church in the Wild" received mostly positive reviews from music critics and was often described as a highlight from Watch the Throne. Andy Gill of The Independent stated "the best track is surely the opener 'No Church in the Wild', whose deep, detuned twang groove, over a marching organ motif, is the most striking music on the album, promising rather more than the rest of the record is able to deliver. Both this and the other stand-out track, "Made In America", feature assured vocal refrains from Frank Ocean, while the two rappers muse over familiar themes of loyalty, sexuality and maternal solidarity."[28] Rolling Stone claimed that it is one of the most musically impressive songs on Watch the Throne and described the production as an "ominous, darkly funky bass groove and chilly synths tailor-made for Ocean's off-kilter crooning."[7] Matt Popkin from American Songwriter praised Jay-Z's needs jesus verse and the menacing vibe of the song.[29] NOW claimed that the "uncomfortably visceral opener 'No Church In The Wild' – with its filthy Phil Manzanera guitar sample and mournful Frank Ocean chorus – cuts to the heart of Watch The Throne's power dynamic."[30] However, PopMatters criticized that the verses "feel a little out of focus compared to the hook and beat's opulence."[31] Sputnikmusic's Tyler Fisher commented "88-Keys creates a positively epic opening track with 'No Church in the Wild', full of creeping guitar riffs and pulsating bass, building tension that simply never releases."[32] Rolling Stone named the track the sixth best song of the year, reporting that "with Hov and Yeezy getting deep into arcane theology, this track is just another high."[33]

Dagbladet named it the 12th best song of 2011.[34] In 2019 XXL named the song as one of the 25 best Hip-Hop album intro's since 2000.[35]

Media usage edit

Credits and personnel edit

Charts edit

Certifications edit

Certifications and sales for "No Church in the Wild"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[54] Gold 25,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[56] Platinum 1,000,000
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[57] Platinum 1,800,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
Streaming-only figures based on certification alone.

References edit

  1. ^ Birchmeier, Jason (2010). "Kanye West". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Biography. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b Dombal, Ryan (25 October 2010). "Kanye West and Jay-Z Planning Joint Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  3. ^ Youngs, Ian (1 May 2012). "Sound of 2012: Frank Ocean". BBC . BBC Online. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  4. ^ Baker, Ernest (18 March 2011). "In His Own Words: Who is Frank Ocean?". Complex Magazine. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Kanye & Jay-Z Confirm 'Watch The Throne' Release Date". MTV. MTV Networks. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  6. ^ Dombal, Ryan (25 October 2010). "Kanye West and Jay-Z Planning Joint Album". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  7. ^ a b c "Kanye West and Jay-Z's 'Watch the Throne': A Track-by-Track Breakdown". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  8. ^ a b c Thompson, Erica (11 September 2011). "88-Keys Talks the Making of 'Watch the Throne' Track". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  9. ^ a b Watch the Throne (PDF digital booklet). Jay-Z and Kanye West. Universal Music Group. 2011.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  10. ^ "Urban-UAC Future Releases". All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  11. ^ Staff (7 December 2011). "50 Best Albums of 2011: Jay-Z and Kanye West, 'Watch the Throne'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  12. ^ a b Harvilla, Rob (10 September 2011). "Jay-Z and Kanye West, 'Watch the Throne' (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam/Roc Nation)". Spin. Spin Media. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  13. ^ Green, Ross (18 September 2011). "Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  14. ^ Roberts, Randall (8 August 2011). "Album review: Jay-Z and Kanye West's 'Watch the Throne'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  15. ^ Jones, Steve (8 August 2011). "Listen Up: Jay-Z and Kanye West raise the bar with 'Throne'". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  16. ^ Breihan, Tom (11 September 2011). "Album Reviews: Jay-Z / Kanye West: Watch the Throne". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  17. ^ Petridis, Alexis (11 September 2011). "Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch the Throne – review". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  18. ^ Bretbaf (21 May 2012). "Kanye West & Jay-Z Concert Setlist at the O2 Arena, London, UK on May 21, 2012". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  19. ^ Staff (6 November 2011). "Frank Ocean Flies Solo at House of Blues in New Orleans". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  20. ^ "Safe House Trailer: Denzel Washington Is Training Ryan Reynolds Today – Vulture". Vulture. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  21. ^ "NFL's Tom Brady appears in tonight's Dodge Dart TV ad – USA Today". USA Today. 10 July 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  22. ^ a b Bain, Becky (29 March 2012). "Kanye West & Jay-Z's "No Church In The Wild" Video". Idolator. Buzz Media. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  23. ^ "CREATIVE GENIUS?". www.rapdose.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  24. ^ Staff (28 April 2011). "Jay-Z and Kanye West's Riotous 'No Church in the Wild'". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  25. ^ Knight, David (8 October 2012). "UK Music Video Awards 2012: here are the nominations!". Archived from the original on 4 June 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  26. ^ "Marianas Trench, Drake Lead 2013 MuchMusic Video Awards Nominations". Billboard. 22 May 2013. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  27. ^ MacLeod, Duncan (15 December 2012). "No Church In The Wild". The Inspiration Room. Archived from the original on 23 December 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  28. ^ Gill, Andy (12 September 2011). "Album: Watch The Throne, Watch the Throne (Mercury) – Reviews, Music". The Independent. London: Independent Print Limited. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  29. ^ Popkin, Matt (11 September 2011). "Jay-Z and Kanye West: Watch The Throne". American Songwriter. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  30. ^ Ritchie, Kevin (11 September 2011). "DISC REVIEW: Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne". NOW. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  31. ^ Amidon, David (12 September 2011). "Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch the Throne". PopMatters. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  32. ^ Fisher, Tyler (10 August 2011). "Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne (staff review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  33. ^ Staff. "The Top 25 Songs of 2011". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  34. ^ "50 songs you shouldn't miss". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). 9 December 2011. Archived from the original on 3 March 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  35. ^ "25 of the Best Hip-Hop Album Intros Since 2000". XXL Mag. 9 August 2019. Archived from the original on 3 November 2020.
  36. ^ Bonner, Tomica (2 January 2013). "Jay-Z to score 'The Great Gatsby:' Uses 'No Church in the Wild' for trailer". AXS. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  37. ^ Mcgillcuddy, Kevin. "Kanye West and Conor McGregor make for an epic UFC 189 promo". Sports Joe. Archived from the original on 7 May 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  38. ^ Spielberg, Theo (10 February 2012). "'Safe House' Trailer: Jay-Z, Kanye West's 'No Church in the Wild' Plays". The Boom Box. Archived from the original on 20 January 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  39. ^ "Audi – The Power Of Quattro All-Wheel-Drive". TVAdMusic. 10 February 2015. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  40. ^ "Series 18, Out of our own Episode 1 of 2". BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  41. ^ "Dodge Dart II TV Spot, 'How to Change Cars Forever' Featuring Tom Brady". ispot. Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  42. ^ "Jay-Z / Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – No Church in the Wild" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  43. ^ "Jay-Z / Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – No Church in the Wild" (in Dutch). Ultratop Urban. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  44. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  45. ^ "Jay-Z / Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – No Church in the Wild" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  46. ^ "Classifiche (dal 27.10.2014 al 02.11.2014)" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  47. ^ "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week: August 13, 2011 to August 20, 2011)". Gaon Chart. Archived from the original on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  48. ^ "Official Hip Hop and R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  49. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  50. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  51. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  52. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot Rap Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  53. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Adult R&B Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  54. ^ "Italian single certifications – Kanye West – No Church In The Wild" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 22 April 2018. Select "2016" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "No Church In The Wild" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  55. ^ "British single certifications – Jay-Z/Kanye West/F Ocean – No Church In The Wild". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  56. ^ "American single certifications – Kanye West – No Church In The Wild". Recording Industry Association of America.
  57. ^ "Danish single certifications – Kanye West – No Church in the Wild". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved 18 March 2014.

External links edit