Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West
Album Release Date
August 9th — Digitally
August 12th – Physical Release
On Monday, Investors lost over one trillion dollars on the worst day the stock market has seen since December 1, 2008. On Monday, Jay-Z and Kanye West dropped their long-awaited collaborative album, Watch the Throne. Talk about terrible timing for an album-long braggart session about two fellas’ good fortune.
Jay-Z and Kanye West have both experienced a solid resurgence in their rap careers in the last two years. Ye’s brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy shines with artistic merit, and Jay-Z’s previous Blueprint III effort seconded as a study in pop-savviness.
The anticipation may be the biggest obstacle for Watch the Throne to overcome. After album delays, teasers, and selective listening parties, Jay-Z and West were still able to keep their album from leaking prematurely (a rare feat in the wild west world of the internet), in so doing fans sat twiddling thumbs and crossing off calendar days.
Kicking off the disc, a sneering guitar sample and somber, soulful sentiments from rising star Frank Ocean, “No Church in the Wild” grooves cooly with smoldering lyrics — “Tears on the mausoleum floor / Blood stains the coliseum doors.” Jay-Z takes the first verse, with Ye fireballing the second.
The two rappers have drastically different deliveries. Ye’s flow is speedy, often humorous, and utilizes more poetic devices. While Jay-Z pulls the trigger on shotgun blast lines that aim to hit the listener hard, but sometimes the scattershot fails to land.
Like the first track, most of the songs feel laid back. The songs lounge linear, lacking bridges that erupt into a madder musicality.
“Otis”, the lyrical standout on the disc, stays at the same plane, never evolving.
The track maintains swagger with Otis Redding tearing up the backing vocals.
Jay-Z drops lines like “Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth / I’m about to call the paparazzi on myself”, and Ye solidifies the track as a standout with “Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses / Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.”
Otis feat. Otis Redding by Kanye West and Jay-Z
Ye’s humor courses through “New Day”, an address to Jay-Z and Kanye’s unborn son. Ye tells his future son, “I might even make him be a Republican / So everybody know he love white people.”
In the second half of the album, all the sudden the mood shifts from “That’s My B—h” to politically-conscious tracks. The earlier tracks make the social criticisms come across as forced and phony.
The experimental, dubstep onslaught of “Who Gon Stop Me” flexes Ye’s avant garde talents, and Jay-Z takes over “Murder to Excellence.”
“Made in America” brings in Frank Ocean once again for the most gorgeous track of the disc. The song’s chorus pays homage to Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz and, naturally, the sweet baby Jesus. The piano samples guide the slow-burning, meditative ballad.
“Why I Love You” borrows heavily from synth-heavy, experimental group, TV on the Radio. Jay-Z’s flow is merciless, leading to a back-n-forth breakdown where Ye and Jay-Z finish each other’s lines.
Ultimately Watch the Throne is a solid rap record. Although, thematically it struggles with focus, and stylistically Ye and Jay-Z often pull in opposing directions.
The album packs a multitude of memorable lines, but never seems to evolve, as though the disc were a mere loose collection of linear singles.
Definitely worth a listen for fans, but in these difficult economic times listening to songs constantly boasting champagne, Louis Vuitton, and “‘benzes” may not set well with casual listeners.