Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Def Jam: 2011

Each year, there’s that one beat that every Lil, Big, and MC has to rap over, a distinguished list that includes “A Milli”, “Exhibit C”, “Devil in a New Dress”, and most recently, “Otis” from Watch the Throne.  Results were predictably mixed, with  Jadakiss and Styles P doing the song the most justice.  Jay-Z, as he likes to remind us, is not every Lil, Big, and MC. He’s Hova. He doesn’t just drop his own version of a song. After hearing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he called Kanye into his office, asked Memphis Bleek to grab him some coffee, and told Kanye  he wanted his own version of that whole album.  Hours later,  Consequence was informed that the Cons TV sessions were put on hold until further notice.

Watch the Throne is more celebratory and triumphant in tone than its predecessor, but sonically  Kanye continues his foray into the experimental, eschewing the boom-bap that for  some odd reason people want him to go back to.  The term that Kanye coins in “Otis”, “sophisticated ignorance,” is the prevalent theme, the refined-meets-the -streets chemistry behind “Niggas in Paris”.  They still know how to party, they just have a larger budget to do it with.  “Gotta Have It” (where James Brown somehow didn’t score a “featuring” credit like Otis Redding did) has Jay-Z flaunting his Scrooge McDuck-like wealth by “planking on million” over a Neptunes beat that sounds nothing like the spaceship fare we’ve become accustomed to. The celebration of decadence and excess  that was “Hell of a Life” is reincarnated in “That’s My Bitch”, a guilty dancefloor pleasure with a guest appearance by La Roux that is sure to delight the Pabst Blue Ribbon crowd.

“No Church in the Wild” is the firestarter, with the thumping kick drum and twanging guitar conjuring images of two outlaws speeding down  a desert highway, presumably away from the authorities  and towards Vegas.  The buttery-smooth Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean delivers the uber-quotable “Human being to a mob/What’s a mob to  a king?/What’s a king to a god?/What’s a god to a nonbeliever/who don’t believe in anything?” hook and upstages the rest of the album’s guests, especially Beyoncé on the throwaway “Lift Off”, which inexplicably beat out “The Joy” for an album spot.  They could have looped the Dexter-esque interlude for the 4:26 that “Lift Off” got and the album would have been better off.

There’s time for seriousness on Watch The Throne and it’s pulled off remarkably well on “New Day”, a RZA production that has Jay and Kanye writing verbal letters to their unborn sons.  Kanye displays a self-awareness about his image and his past actions, addressing his ego, failed relationships, and controversial statements with the desire that his son not follow his example.   Kanye lasts four songs after that before making another provocative statement on “Murder to Excellence”m citing the 509 reported homicides in Chicago in 2008 compared to the 314 killed in Iraq that year.  Watch the Throne concludes with the Cassius-sampled “Why I Love You”, which may as well have been titled “BEANIE SIEGEL, I HEAR YOU’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT JIGGA, THIS SONG IS DEDICATED TO YOU.”

As gaudy as many of the songs are, Jay-Z and Kanye view their self-indulgences differently, as Kanye absolutely revels in them, although he knows he shouldn’t.  Jay-Z celebrates because he’s glad he’s not selling crack anymore and he’s married to Beyoncé, which may factor into Kanye  West sounding more motivated than Jay on Watch The Throne. Kanye outshines Jay-Z on most of the album in a bid to shake the “Kanye West can’t rap” criticisms that somehow still cling to him.  Nobody is confusing Kanye with Rakim, but he’s clever and he’s progressed exponentially since “Through the Wire”.  Replay value has been a strength of both Jay-Z’s and West’s catalogs, and Watch the Throne has it in spades.  It’s by no means a classic, but they didn’t set out to create a game-changing masterpiece, either.

★★★★☆
4 out of 5

17 thoughts on “Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

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  1. that is a very uneducated evaluation educated bro and a weak ass name to

  2. it doesn’t say “what is god to an atheist”… that’s a different question

  3. @ Educated Bro.

    Im black and although the theme throughout the album is about black excellence i think its a bit ignorant to say white people wont like this album or that white people tremble at this album.
    I agree with sammysoul that this album is nothing more then 2 guys showing us how poor the rest of the world is to them.

    If they were really trying to so called terrify white people ( i cant believe i just wrote that) then they would do what Pharoahe Monch did with his latest album R.A.W or what NWA did in the late 80s with Fuck The Police or have political subject matter like Public Enemy and tell white America or Obama America that there is a huge divide between rich and poor and that people arent going to take it anymore for example The London Riots.

    Jay-Z wants to be like U2 or Coldplay but will never touch controversial subject matters or make a album full of songs like Minority Report. Whose to blame? probably doesn’t want to hurt Beyonce’s image doesn’t want to ruin the prestigious circles he runs in or quite frankly he doesnt care.

    I like the album and im proud that 2 black artists and especially jay-z has gotten so wealthy and powerful but this current hip hop message is everything that hip hop aint. This is anti hip hop. Lets call it what it is. These guys are pop musicians. nothing more nothing less.

    I think hip hop lost us when 50 Cent called us Window Shoppers and then we went out and bought his records.

    In the mid 90s it was cool to see the likes of Jay-Z or the Biggies rocking gold chains and having videos with mansions in the background. But somewhere along the line Hip Hop artists lost touch with what made them Hip Hop artists to begin with.

  4. Not to be a douchy-atheist from the internet… but, is “What’s a god to a nonbeliever/who don’t believe in anything?” implying that non-believers ‘don’t believe in anything” ?

    That annoyed me, but maybe I just misunderstood it…

    In any case, this album blew my mind and I don’t hate Kanye anymore…

  5. Not to be a douchy-atheist from the internet… but, is “What’s a god to a nonbeliever/who don’t believe in anything?” implying that non-believers ‘don’t believe in anything” ?

    That annoyed me, but maybe I just misunderstood it…

    In any case, this album blew my mind and I don’t hate Kanye anymore…

  6. Allow me to play on your little racist diatribe: I’m white and I don’t like this album, but it’s not cause I’m afraid of “black people…taking over”, heck, if there’d be a Black Panther party 2.0 I’d try to join; no, it’s more cause I’m utterly bored with two rich mainstream rappers talking about their conspicuous consumption and how they can burn their money. That topic used to be interesting for a bit when the two of them just made it big, but they’ve been rich now for a long time, any chance for them to talk about something more substiantial? Dare I say, political? No, they won’t. I shut up now, I don’t listen to mainstream “rap” anyways, underground hip-hop will always be my preference.

  7. Educated Bro|

    White People won’t like this album… It’s about Black people gaining wealth and taking over. The white mans worst fear. This album is a reflection of whats going on in the world. The Black Take-over. White people tremble at this album, and it is a classic.

  8. Educated Bro|

    White People won’t like this album… It’s about Black people gaining wealth and taking over. The white mans worst fear. This album is a reflection of whats going on in the world. The Black Take-over. White people tremble at this album, and it is a classic.

  9. ” eschewing the boom-bap that for some odd reason people want him to go back to.”

    Well thats me. I dont know why you promise a year ago that your going to have a boom bap traditional style hip hop album and then release My Twisted Dark Fantasy. and then promise a more traditional raw album with Watch The Throne. Pete Rock Dj Premier Large Professor etc. were all supposed to baptize this album with there production.

    Thats what i thought we were getting when we got The Joy and the best song of 2010 That’s My Bitch. I dont know why you couldnt have a album with Otis, The Joy and Thats my Bitch type songs throughout.

    But in saying all that i actually still liked the album. besides the awful Beyonce song which in my opinion they should have stuck with Rihanna as there Nelly Furtado type go to girl. But the rest of the album was pretty good.

    Everyone talking about how Kanye West outshone Jigga confuses me.

    Was i the only one that thought this is Kanye Wests worst lyrical performance out of all his albums.

    Seriously i could not believe some of the simple lyrics Kanye was spitting. Yes i know all hip hop is dumbed down at the moment but this was pretty bad.

    Jay-Z on the other hand still gave us his crappy slow lazy rapping style but at least spits good coded and skillful lyrics.

    Overall i give this album 4/5 aswell.

    Good album but a Twisted Fantasy Clone.

    Maybe when or if Jay Electronica and Common release there albums which sound like they will be traditional boom bap hip hop we will get others following the same method and once again we might get that sound we all love too here.

  10. for me, my beautiful dark twisted fantasy is way better than this album. the songs were much deeper and it is far more artistic album than this. Don’t get me wrong, this album is far from bad, its good. I do not feel like it is the best this year but it is in my top 20 best hip hop albums. my biggest problem with the album is that it is a bit artificial in substance. I feel like this album is like Avatar, it is a high budget film that has a huge amount of success based solely on its production value. I am getting tired of rappers rapping about the struggles of being famous and having haters, and the many rhymes mentioning high end designers, maybachs and patron… Its the same bullshit that turns me off of Diddy and MMG. its overwhelming how well this album is put together but in the end, it is not going to resonate with me in the same emotional and personal way as an album like Section.80 or MBDTF.

    Favorite songs: New Day, murder to excellence, the joy.

  11. for me, my beautiful dark twisted fantasy is way better than this album. the songs were much deeper and it is far more artistic album than this. Don’t get me wrong, this album is far from bad, its good. I do not feel like it is the best this year but it is in my top 20 best hip hop albums. my biggest problem with the album is that it is a bit artificial in substance. I feel like this album is like Avatar, it is a high budget film that has a huge amount of success based solely on its production value. I am getting tired of rappers rapping about the struggles of being famous and having haters, and the many rhymes mentioning high end designers, maybachs and patron… Its the same bullshit that turns me off of Diddy and MMG. its overwhelming how well this album is put together but in the end, it is not going to resonate with me in the same emotional and personal way as an album like Section.80 or MBDTF.

    Favorite songs: New Day, murder to excellence, the joy.

  12. The theme and overall message of the music here sticks out plain as day to me, even through the flossier stuff. Money can buy you belongings, but that’s about it. Not sure why people hate this record the way they do. Not sure why its “fiscally irresponsible” and what not. The life they’re describing here doesn’t seem that cool. They don’t even seem that taken with it half the time. It sounds like its full of pain and grandstanding to overcompensate for an inner emptiness. Shit is depressing as hell.

  13. Can’t believe The Joy was relegated to a bonus track too also. That “Lift Off” track with Beyonce is horrid.

  14. Solid review Fred. Its a fun album that picks up where MBDTF/BP3 left off sonically. Does it indulge in terms of luxury/materialism? Absolutely. But hip-hop has been indulgent for the longest so I don’t see that as a huge issue. I can definitely see certain songs translating well in the live setting. This album has some serious anthems on it namely; “Why I Love You”, “Who Gon Stop Me” & “Otis”.

  15. 4.5 from me…great review tho. Love the beginning

  16. meh. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2.0.

  17. Good review, the conclusion is absolutely spot on. My view is that overall, with its complete lack of theme apart from general decadence, it’s a very average album with little replay value. Kanye really does outshine Jay Z who doesn’t really deliver anything that I want to quote, in addition to Kanye’s (co)production on the boards.

    Can’t believe The Joy was relegated to a bonus track too, that was probably my favourite track.

    I find it hard to believe that MDBTF got 4.5 and WTT gets a 4. I think there’s a gulf of difference between the two albums in terms of quality, from both a production and a lyrical point of view – MDBTF being far superior. Still, just my opinion!

    Aj
    http://goodhairmusic.blogspot.com

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