No Church in the Wild

"No Church in the Wild" is a song by American hip hop artists Jay-Z and Kanye West from their first collaborative album Watch the Throne (2011). It is the first track on the album and features vocals from Frank Ocean and The-Dream. 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 & The-Dream
from the album Watch the Throne
ReleasedMarch 20, 2012
GenreHip hop
  • 88-Keys
  • Mike Dean
  • 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.


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 off of 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]


"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]


West and Jay-Z performed "No Church in the Wild" at their Watch the Throne tour.

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 videoEdit

A music video was filmed in late April 2012 in the areas surrounding Prague's Jan Palach Square and National Theatre 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]

The video features West, but neither Jay-Z or Ocean, and it focuses on two groups: "protestors and the police, both at war with one another. And yes, this is war — it's an unsettling and savage clip, depicting protestors being beaten and pepper-sprayed as they mercilessly combat with the police, though the protestors-turned-rioters also inflict a large part of the violence: they destroy property, loot stores, and set fire to cars — and humans. The video refuses to take sides, as there's no winner when a conflict turns to violence."[22] Young men are beaten, choked, sprayed with mace and dragged across the concrete as Frank Ocean soulfully croons, "Will he make it out alive?" in time with the staged anarchy.[25] By the end of the five-minute video, "the freedom fighters seem to have notched a victory of some sort, standing in triumph in the face of their oppressors. But even if a single battle is won, there is no conclusive ending, meaning that the war still rages on."[25] Popping up at the end of the clip is an actual elephant, chained at the neck and trying to resist getting choked to death.[22] Pitchfork gave the clip a positive review, however noted "Kanye's "you will not control the threesome"/"never fuck nobody without telling me" verse seems pretty out of place when you're watching a cop get set on fire."[26] The video was nominated for Best International Group Video at the 2013 MuchMusic Video Awards.[27] "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[28]


  • 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


"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."[30] 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.[31] 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."[32] However, PopMatters criticized that the verses "feel a little out of focus compared to the hook and beat's opulence."[33] 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."[34] 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."[35]

Dagbladet named it the 12th best song of 2011.[36] In 2019 XXL named the song as one of the 25 best Hip-Hop album into's since 2000.[37]

Media UsageEdit

Credits and personnelEdit

Charts and certificationsEdit


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External linksEdit