Album cover for Watch The Throne by Jay-Z & Kanye West
The hype for the collaboration record between Jay-Z and Kanye West had been built-upon since late last year and again with H*A*M, a teaser single put out back in January. Kanye and Jay are two of the most influential rappers in music from the last decade. Jay is no stranger to collaboration albums having done a few with R. Kelly and one with Linkin Park while Kanye is no stranger to doing production on tracks by Jay-Z, having done tracks on most of his albums including a majority of both The Blueprint in 2001 as well as The Blueprint 3 a few years back.
Watch The Throne is beefier than Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy though not as conventional as Jay’s The Blueprint 3, which was laced with pop hooks that are mostly void from this record. Kanye takes the lead with this collaboration based on the production and style of the songs themselves. Despite there being clear elements of both rappers being involved, Jay occasionally sounds more like a featured guest rather than having equal billing.
Some of Kanye’s signature moves on here include some of the old-school sampling choices and middle eastern influences, such as the hit Otis sampling Otis Redding‘s Try A Little Tenderness and Gotta Have It sampling a trio of James Brown songs. The Nina Simone sample in New Day is particularly haunting over a thumping mid-tempo beat about fatherhood and Jay’s promise to not leave his son, which also contains one of the album’s best lines “And I’ll never let my son have an ego/He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go/I mean I might even make ’em be Republican/So everybody know he love white people.”
Jay-Z, usually reliable as far as having smashing rap verses on his own songs, isn’t up to par with some of his better performances from previous records. His shining moment is his fantastic verse on Illest Motherfucker Alive, though it still makes one miss his harder hitting verses ranging from Hard Knock Life to Death To Autotune.
Made In America is the little brother of Forever Young and one of the highlights of the record. Inspirational about growing up and living the American dream, with Frank Ocean featured on the chorus that offers praise to those they were most influenced and are most thankful for from Brother Malcolm and King Martin to Mother Mary, Father Joseph and Baby Jesus.
Watch The Throne doesn’t match up to Kanye’s adventurous last album. There isn’t anything that quite matches up to the perfection that was Monster with Kanye and Jay-Z that also had the incredible rap verse from Nicki Minaj. While it could be suggested that not having Nicki on the record may have been risky, it would have been out of place to have her style or a song like Monster. It’ll still end up being one of the year’s best hip-hop records though what was supposed to be a major music event ends up being merely a moment that could very well be topped by either of the rappers’ next record.
1. No Church In The Wild [featuring Frank Ocean]
2. Lift Off [featuring Beyoncé]
3. N—as In Paris
4. Otis [featuring Otis Redding]
5. Gotta Have It
6. New Day
7. That’s My Bitch
8. Welcome To The Jungle
9. Who’s Gon Stop Me
10. Murder To Excellence
11. Made In America [featuring Frank Ocean]
12. Why I Love You [featuring Mr. Hudson]
13. Illest Motherfucker Alive
16. The Joy [featuring Curtis Mayfield]