Jay-Z and Kanye West, ‘Watch the Throne’ – Album Review
The wait is over! Jay-Z and Kanye West have finally release their collaborative album ‘Watch the Throne,’ which is a powerful document of hip-hop from two of the most versatile rappers in music. It is an opulent album filled with inspiring songs dealing with society ills, the price of fame and religion.
The set’s first single ‘Otis’ (featuring Otis Redding) only hints at Hov and Yeezy’s genuine camaraderie on the songs. Both men carve out a space for each other to lyrically shine on the collection as they display their own unique swagger.
The rap kings enlisted a slew of legendary studio veterans for this project including Swizz Beatz, the RZA, No I.D., Q-Tip, Lex Luger, the Neptunes, 88-Keys and more. Guests were kept to a minimal with only Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Mr. Hudson on hook duties only. Some of the stand out tracks on the album include ‘New Day,’ ‘Murder to Excellence,’ ‘Made in America’ and ‘Primetime.’
Over the course of 12 songs (plus four bonus tracks in the deluxe edition), Jay-Z and Kanye West display an honesty that is seldom heard in today’s commercialize rap genre. All in all, ‘Watch the Throne’ is a near-masterpiece. It’s not a hip-hop classic, but it’s certainly one of the strongest rap efforts of 2011.
1. ‘No Church in the Wild’ Feat. Frank Ocean
Jay-Z and Kanye West kick off the album with a very edgy song about religion. On the track, the rap kings question their own spirituality amid their fame and success. Kanye ponders his own beliefs after a decadent night of sex and boozing. “It’s somethin’ that the pastor don’t preach / It’s somethin’ that a teacher can’t teach / When we die the money we can’t keep, but we probably spend it all ’cause the pain ain’t cheap,” he raps. Ocean’s chorus is even more telling as he sings, “What’s a god to a non-believer / Who don’t believe in anything? / Will he make it out alive? / Alright alright / No church in the wild.”
2. ‘Lift Off’ Feat. Beyoncé
Rumored to be the second single from ‘Watch the Throne,’ the song is being promoted as the Throne’s anthemic song. It’s a big sounding track featuring charging trumpets and synthesizers with Beyoncé soaring vocals. “We gonna take it to the moon / Take it to the stars / How many people you know can take it this far?” she sings. Jay-Z, adds: “Lift off / Rappers hear ‘Watch the Throne’ / They gonna be pissed off.” We think they will be, too.
3. ‘N—-s in Paris’
The album starts to pick up after this braggadocios track as we get to hear Jay-Z and Kanye West do what they do best — talks s–t on the mic. Hov spits, “I got that hot b—h in my home,” while Yeezy follows, “You know how many hot b—–s I own / Don’t let me in my zone.” These two are definitely in the zone — watch the throne.
4. ‘Otis’ Feat. Otis Redding
It’s still sounds so soulful, don’t you agree? Jay-Z and West spitting luxury raps and memorable one-liners. They got their swagger back — truth. (Listen here)
5. ‘Gotta Have It’
Produced by the Neptunes, this one is a prominent track on the album, with Hov and Yeezy bouncing rhymes back and forth to each other on this club song. “Hello, hello, hello, white America, assassinate my character / Money matrimony, yeah they tryna break the marriage up / Who gonna act phony, or who gone try to embarrass ya / I’mma need a day off, I think I call Ferris up,” West spits.
6. ‘New Day’
Jay-Z and Kanye West connect with Wu-Tang Clan leader the RZA for one of the most powerful songs on the album that will make you stop and think. The rap titans get introspective as they speak to their unborn children and warn them of what to expect on this earth. West reflects on his past controversies as he rhymes, “See, I just want him to have an easy life / Not like Yeezy life / Just want ’em to be someone people like / Don’t want ’em to be hated all the time judged / Don’t be like your daddy that would never budge.” Wow! Meanwhile, Jay-Z tells his unborn son, “Sorry junior, I already ruined ya / ‘Cause you ain’t even alive and paparazzi pursuin’ ya / Sins of a father make your life ten times harder.”
7. ‘That’s My B—h’
This song was released last year on the Internet as part of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Friday music series. Critics called this song misogynistic, but Yeezy and Hov are actually giving props to women. Jay-Z comes through with the strongest lyrics as he questions why black women are not celebrated in pop culture. “I mean Marilyn Monroe, she’s quite nice / But why all the pretty icons always all-white?,” he asks. “Put some colored girls in the MOMA / Half these broads ain’t got nothing on Wyldna / Don’t make me bring Thelma in it / Bring Halle, Bring Penelope and Selma in it / Back to my Beyoncés, you deserve three stacks word to André.”
8. ‘Welcome to the Jungle’
Despite the title, the song is not about Guns ‘N’ Roses frontman Axel Rose, although he does get a mention from Hov. “Black Axl Rose / Move halfs and wholes / Come down to the jungle / Just ask for Hov / Move blocks and squares / Move apples and pears / Work pots and pans / Just to cop me some Airs,” he raps.
9. ‘Who Gon Stop Me’
Jay-Z and West get in your face and dare you to stop them from ballin’ out of control with money, cars and women. Hov spits: “If these n—-s feel me / I’m ridin’ dirty / Tryin’ to get filthy / Pablo Picasso / Rothkos, Rilkes / Graduated to the MOMA / And I did all of this / Without a diploma / Graduated from the corner / Y’all can play me / For a motherf—in’ fool if you wanna / Streetsmart /And I’m booksmart / Could have been alchemist / ‘Cause I cook smart / Only thing that can stop me is me.” Whoa! Those lyrics are crazy.
10. ‘Murder to Excellence’
Another BIG stand out on the album — and it’s a powerful song. The tune is broken down into two parts. The ‘Murder’ song, produced by Swizz Beatz, deals with the high-rate of African-American deaths by street violence. Hov name checks Black Panther member Fred Hampton, who was killed in a police raid in 1969, and Danroy Henry, a 20-year-old Pace University student who was shot outside a Pleasantville, N.Y. bar by police in October 2010.
The other track ‘Excellence,’ produced by S1, features Hov and Yeezy celebrating black excellence. Jay-Z raps: “Success never smelled so sweet / I stink of success / The new black elite / They say my black card bear the mark of the beast / I repeat / My religion is the beat / My verse is like church.”
11. ‘Made in America’ Feat. Frank Ocean
Another major player on the album. It’s a bittersweet song featuring the great vocals of singer-songwriter Frank Ocean as he sings a mournful tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott-King, Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. Jay-Z and West give their best rap performance as they reflect on their own path of success. “I told my mama I was on the come up / She said you going to school I’ll give you a summer / Then she met No I.D. and gave me his number / Ten years later she driving a Hummer,” raps Yeezy. Jay-Z follows: “No papa, bad Santa / The streets raised me, pardon my bad manners / I got my liberty choppin’ grams up / Street justice, I pray God understand us / I pledge allegiance to all the scramblers / This is the Star Spangled Banner.”
12. ‘Why I Love You’ Feat. Mr. Hudson
This is probably the only misstep on the album. Produced by Mike Dean, the rock-influenced song sounds great, but it doesn’t gel with the album. Push the fast-forward button.
13. ‘Illest M——–er Alive’
An operatic anthem that fits perfectly with the kingly status of Jay-Z and West. Hov has the best lines on the song: “King Hov, I’m exactly what the f–k you think / 11 in a row, Bill Russell rings / Michael Jordan swag, y’all think Michael Jordan bad / N—a I got a 5 more rings than Michael Jordan had / Elvis has left the building now I’m on the Beatles ass / N—s hear ‘Watch The Throne,’ yeah it’s like the Beatles back / Bey Bey my Yoko Ono, Rih Rih complete the family / Imagine how that’s gonna look front row at the Grammys.” It’s gonna look crazy! Hov and West are the illest!
The general consensus by fans when this was released back in January was that it was a terrible song. Seven months later, it’s still a terrible song that should have never been added on the album.
Another powerful track with great one-liners that will garner repeat listens. Producer No I.D. provides the thumping beat, piano riffs and repeated baby coos as Hov and Yeezy reflect on their legendary status.
“Damn Yeezy, they all gotta be dimes? / Well, Adam gave up a rib so mine better be prime,” explains West on why he only dates models. But Jay-Z one-ups him with this line: “Our 15 minutes of fame has stretched beyond / At 42 be better than 24 / I carried the 4-5, mastered 48 laws / Still wearing my 23’s they can’t f–k with the boy.” Wow! We love great rap lines. Throw your diamonds up for this song.
16. ‘The Joy’ Feat. Curtis Mayfield
This song was released last year on the Internet as part of West’s G.O.O.D. Friday music series. Produced by the veteran hip-hop beatmaker Pete Rock, it’s a great song and closes out the album on a soulful note.