8.3 / 10
What would happen if two of the richest most successful rappers of the modern era were to record an album together? The result is a very opulent and ostentatious record filled with expensive samples, great production, good verses, bad verses, and last but possibly most important a feeling of success and pride. Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne is the next step that the ambitious rappers thought would be logical in their plot to world domination. If listeners came here looking for a life changing experience of an album then they should look elsewhere, and most importantly people seem to be afraid to say that this is album is what it is; decent. Though I don’t want to say that the album feels rushed, it definitely does not feel like it had the same attention to detail and meticulousness that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (West’s masterpiece) was given.
As a listener and fan of both rappers’ body of work I must say I am saddened and hurt by the decline and betrayal of Jay-Z to his fans, the man has just gotten so lazy in his rapping that it has become embarrassing and baffling to hear. The moment I knew where he didn’t care anymore was in “Monster” from the aforementioned album, where he might have as well listed every fictional monster and pokemon for thirty two bars. Most listeners of rap I have spoken to agree when I say Jay-Z should have stayed retired after The Black Album, it would have been a perfect ending to a successful career that lead him to more than just musical success. He could have done right what Michael Jordan did wrong, instead he went and became Michael Jordan; next thing you know he’ll also style a Hitler mustache.
I understand that in the modern world of entertainment, artists have to adapt to survive so it is reasonable for both of them to try something new and modern to satisfy the audience of today; and that is exactly what they have done with Watch the Throne. Right from the start you can tell something’s about to pop off, that first almost muted guitar riff on “No Church in the Wild” followed by guest star Frank Ocean’s vocals are as much of a welcome to the jungle you will get. West and Hova don’t waste any time getting into the heavy stuff challenging monarchy and religion with their usual cockiness and bravado. However that feeling is lost on the next track “Lift Off” because it feels like it does not belong on this album, but on Beyonce’s rather. The majority of the song is dominated by her voice that it makes you forget Ye and Jay spit on this track.
Never in my life did I think that someone would introduce a song with a Will Ferrell line but surely enough “Niggas in Paris” breaks the mold for most unusual song in the album. The feel of the beat is testosteronic, and feels like the kind of song that would be blasted out of car stereos at max volume on a summer day. Though the lyrics are mostly goofy and boastful, these are the kind of words needed for this type of song: “Doctors say I’m the illest/ Cuz I’m suffering from realest/ Got my niggas in Paris/ And the going gorillas huh!”
In an album that is all about having fun and showing off, the one song that stands out the most in obnoxious taunts is “Otis” from its video to its lines to its rich and surely costly Otis Redding sample from “Try a Little Tenderness.” The entire song they mostly trade off lines and Kanye has one of his best lines that just makes you laugh, hate him, and respect him all in one: “They ain’t seen me cuz I pulled up in my other benz/ Last week I was in my other other benz.” The Rza produced “New Day” has a great beat and even a good idea (both rappers talking to their future children) but just doesn’t shine the way I thought it would, however it does provide one of Jay’s only good lines: “Sorry junior/ I already ruined ya.” The thing that impresses me most about the album though is its ability to shift beats so seamlessly like some sort of prog-rap album. Tracks like “That’s My Bitch,” “Who Gon Stop Me,” and “Murder to Excellence” all have so many shifts in beat and depth that it baffles you how much and how quickly hip-hop has evolved in these short forty or so years it has existed.
When it’s all set in stone will Watch the Throne be remembered as the greatest hip-hop album of all time? Probably not, but what it did do for the genre is diversify it, give it a larger, epic sound, and of course build on the legend of “The Roc” which I’m certain will get larger as the years progress, regardless of our approval or disapproval of the music.
- No Church In The Wild
- Niggas In Paris
- That’s My Bitch
- Why I Love You