We've been "Watching The Throne" for almost a full year since its been announced last October. Well now it's finally time to listen to The Throne, and after much anticipation it is finally here. With the statures as high as Jay-Z and Kanye West, it's impossible to not have high expectations for the both of these two especially for the bar they raised on themselves with past critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums from each of them. Between the both of them (Jay-Z currently has 12 number one albums all went at least platinum, and Mr. West has 5 critically acclaimed albums (all went multi-platinum worldwide). There is nothing I can say that hasn't already been said about these two, these two are the most successful and influential figures not only in Hip Hop but music in general that far surpasses any other individual artists and having these two on one album is truly a monumental moment in Hip Hop.
If I had to rate this Collaborative Hip Hop album I would have to compare it to the other Hip Hop Duo's such as the incredible OutKast (Possibly the greatest hip hop duo of all time), to the old school duos of Run D.M.C. to even the more recent collaborative efforts of Eminem and Royce Da 5'9". Now while I admit that Kanye and Jay (Collectively as The Throne) aren't at their craftiest in the lyrics department, their artistic effort musically is beyond anybody in Hip Hop today. This is where The Throne truly outshines the rest and proves their veteran status in Hip Hop, still coming up with new ideas and sounds to create an album filled with depth and variety. In my personal opinion, they really don't have to prove to anyone of how to make "Thriller" level music because the both of them have been doing it for years time and time again. All they have to do is just make music that is innovative and different that people will love, and I believe they accomplish just that.
Track By Track Review
1) No Church in the Wild feat. Frank Ocean - A good opener to the album. Frank Ocean is the new comer in the game and he should be proud because having a fresh face on veteran album is a pretty big accomplishment for Odd Future's R&B singer. Frank Ocean provides a nice chorus while Jay and Ye rap in retrospect. Nice production from Kanye and 88-Keys filled with Gritty drums and animal sounds in the back ground create a nice atmosphere. 10/10
2 Lift Off feat. Beyonce - This is probably the Album's next single featuring Jay-Z's wife Beyonce. This was the most anticipated song for me from the album, and I have to say I'm a little disappointed. Beyonce takes the show singing the long (but good) hook while Kanye comes in first dropping his very awkward verse. He does a little auto tune and mumbles at the end of his verse but sounds surprisingly good. Jay-Z's presence is close to non-existent sadly only doing a quick 8 bar verse that doesn't excite nor serve a real purpose. With that said this is the most impressive song production wise, with the help of "Fantasy's" production team Mike Dean and Jeff Bhasker they create a truly captivating song. I have to knock off a few points because this song sounds incomplete due to very very short appearances from the 2 main guys. 8/10
3) Ni**as In Paris - Now while I don't particularly like simple modern day beats such as these, it is pretty damn entertaining. It is not a high caliber lyrically indulged type of song, it's more of a f***ing around kind of song. It's a great party banger with a catchy hook provided by Jay and arrogant fun lyrics from Kanye, plus the Will Ferrell dialogue incorporrated within the song is very funny. 10/10
4) Otis - At first listen, this song was a little disappointing, but it grew on me the more I heard it. The choice of sample was a little of bad taste, Otis Reddings "Try a Little Tenderness" is a good song but the style of sampling was a bit weird I must admit. The lyrics are full blown braggadocios raps from the both of them but the cleverness is clearly shown. This is known as an anti-single, no chorus, no catchy hooks just straight rapping like in the old days. Not my cup of tea but hey, this is "luxury rap". 8/10
5) Gotta Have It - Sick production by The Neptunes sampling the Godfather of soul James Brown. This is just a fun track not to be taken too seriously. This is Tag-Team rapping at its finest, with Mr. West and Mr. Carter going back and forth finishing each other's verses. This song showcases the nice chemistry they have together. I just wish it was a bit longer. 9/10
6) New Day - This is the hidden gem as well as the Heart of the entire album and probably the most touching song made this year in Hip Hop. Kanye and Jay rap by venting to their unborn songs. With great in-depth lyrics from Kanye "I might even make him republican, to let everyone know he loves white people" and from Jay "Promise to never leave even if his mama tweakin, cuz my Dad left me and I promise to never repeat him." Accompanied by the great RZA, the production is very haunting with a very soulful sample from Nina Simone used as the songs Hook. 10/10
7) That's My Bitch - This song was the VERY first song released from WTT ever since the album was conceived. This version differs mostly in the length because the leaked version was 1 minute longer. I love the production on this song, and the added vocals of La Roux's Elly Jackson and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon are a nice touch. 9/10
8) Welcome to The Jungle - I have always HATED Swizz Beatz productions and this song is no different. Swizz's productions are amateur at best, way too simple and nothing but percussions. The lyrics are decent from The Throne, but this is my least favorite track on WTT. The song is good but it's not something Jay-Z and Kanye haven't done before. I'm sorry but Swizz Beatz adlibs always kill a song for me. 7/10
9) Who Gon Stop Me - When I first heard Jay and Kanye were gonna do a Dub-Step song my first thoughts were "Why?" and "It's going to be a disaster." I was only half right thankfully. This song's sole purpose is to show the versatility of Mr. West and HOV. At first listen, I was concerned if they were able to flow on a dub-step track, and the result was not too bad. Kanye's voice compliments the bass slapping production, but as for Jay the beat just became hectic for him to keep up and in the end it just made Jay sound sloppy and choppy. But I commend them for trying something different and for Jay providing a classic 32 bar verse. 8/10
10) Murder to Excellence - While New Day served as the "Heart" of the album. THIS song is the "Soul". Kanye and Jay rap basically about rags to riches or Life and Death. The first half of the song is about death in the black community (although Kanye does do an unnecessary comparison of violence between Chicago and the war in Iraq?) and the second half is about status and how black people should aspire for more than the usual. The song is dissected into two main parts "Murder" and "Excellence" (hence the title) and each part is accompanied by two completely different beats, Murder by Swizz Beatz (which actually isn't bad) and Excellence by S1. Great production and great lyrics. 10/10
11) Made In America feat. Frank Ocean - While many may find this song one of the highlights on the album, it is not one of my favorites. The songs concept is about Yeezy's and Jay's rise to success, it's the kind of song you expect to be on Watch The Throne, no surprises here. The problem I have with this song is the lyrics. I find Frank Ocean's hook to be very corny, just singing important black figures names and then religious figures at the end feels unbalanced and uninspiring. And the inconsistent lyrics of Kanye and Jay-Z in this song really bother me. The song does not progress which is a bad thing because I cannot tell if the song is going to end. I may get some flack but this song was boring to me. 7/10
12) Why I Love You So feat. Mr Hudson - A fitting end to Watch the Throne. This song is in retrospect Jay-Z's thoughts of where he is now and reflecting why things are the way they are whether it be his past friendships or his loneliness at the top. But of course Kanye is with him so it's not soooo bad. The presence of G.O.O.D. music artist Mr Hudson seemed a bit too short; in my opinion Kanye should have used him a bit more in this song due to the fact that he only has one line which he screams out tirelessly throughout the entire song. It makes me wonder why he is credited as a full feature in the first place. If the song were a bit longer and Mr Hudson was used a bit more, this song would've been perfect. 9/10
13) Illest Motherf***** Alive - If you so happened to get the deluxe edition (which is the one everyone should've gotten in the first place) then you are treated 4 extra songs after the main set of songs. In my opinion these 4 bonus tracks fit the overall theme of the album and should've been included in the original tracklisting. This song has one of the more epic beats on the album but first has the (intentional) 3 minutes of silence so if someone is listening to the album in it's entirety, they can easily seperate the bonus songs from the intended tracklist. This song includes Kanye and Jay-Z basically spitting out expensive brands, famous people and so on. It actually sounds like they're freestyling. Not their most lyrical song but the operatic production makes this song epic. 8/10
14) H*A*M - The first official single off WTT, which ended up being a bonus track. The reception to this songs release was lukewarm. It was eiter people were satisfied but not blown away, or either dissapointed. This song continues the opera-esque style from Illest Motherf****** Alive which fits chronologically. The beat is great for anyone that loves to blast their music out loud, and Kanye does a great job of adding depth to Lex Luger's insane drum set up. A very catchy song, it might give some people a headache but I personally enjoy this song. 8.5/10
15) Primetime - Of all 4 bonus tracks this song is my personal favorite. The production was provided by Kanye's mentor No I.D. and it is a great classic hip hop beat which is neither overly produced nor too simple. Jay-Z comes in with his first verse describing his life using only prime numbers (in concept)and Kanye comes in with a vulgar yet very humorous verse. This is a great song only Hip Hop lovers would appreciate. 10/10
16) The Joy feat. Curtis Mayfield - Originally intended to be on Kanye West's previous album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" this song was instead added on Watch The Throne as a bonus track, go figure. As a fan, people would already notice that this song is at least 1 year old originally released as a G.O.O.D. Friday song last year, however Kanye tweaked the song ever so slightly to make it sound more mastered. This song was produced by the legendary PETE ROCK which just screams out SOUL HIP HOP. The song primarily features Kanye with the first 2 verse and his flow sounds very reminicent of his College Dropout days, and Jay-Z finishes up with a quick 14 bar verse. With added backround vocals from Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi as well as Pete Rock himself. This track is such a soulful track that any Hip Hop lover could appreciate. The only flaw to this song is the repetitive and tiresome vocals of Pete Rock at the end of the song which come off a little annoying and honestly almost put me to sleep a couple of times. I mean he could have said something else besides "It's Pete Rock, Kanye, 1 2, Ok" I don't know how many times haha. 9/10
Kanye and Jay-Z are the known as the "Master's" or even "Kings" of Hip Hop and nobody can argue with that. Of course there are other MC's with more lyrical talent; of course the productions on this album could have been more epic, but if you delve too much on how much better it could have been, then you're going to be miss what you have in front of you. For the people that complain about the lyrics being too focused on "wealth", obviously you're overlooking the many songs that don't have anything to do with money. Besides that, these two have the most right in Hip Hop to talk about their wealth and success because these two are Hip Hop royalty so what do people expect? As of right now this album is not a classic by any means (that takes time). But what they do have at the moment is an album that is a game changer and I doubt any other hip hop artist (individual or group) can even come close to the level of this album. Trust me, with every listen the album just becomes better and better. In due time it will be relevant of how well executed this album really is.