Based on stature and expectation this has to be one of the most important rap albums of 2011. Kanye West and Jay-Z are the Rap Kings, together they are ‘The Throne’, and it’s a match made in PR heaven.
While there is little doubt their record ‘Watch The Throne’ will sell by the shed load, the cynics will say it’s just an attempt to consolidate their fan bases. But whatever the reasons ‘Watch The Throne’ is a serious album performed with vigour by masters of their game.
There is a fine (and probably white) line between confidence and arrogance with Kanye and Jay-Z, and it’s one the pair fall off regularly. Sound wise this feels more like a Kanye’s baby, but at times their lyrical philosophies betray their musical innovation.
Take opener ‘No Church in the Wild’ featuring Odd Future’s Frank Ocean who sings ‘What’s a King to a God, What’s a God to a non-believer?’ deep stuff indeed, but then Yeezy also talks about doing coke off a stripper.. ‘Coke on black skin got her looking like a Zebra/ I call that jungle fever.’ hmmm…
You may be familiar with single ‘Otis’, but in terms of production it is sort of an anomaly here as it favours heavy Kanye-esque sampling whereas the other tracks are somewhat more layered. Egotistism and Narcistic tendencies reach new levels on ‘New Day’, genuinely the most heart-felt song on the album as the pair talk about if they were to have sons. Kanye promises he will never let his son ‘go to the Strip club, I found out the hard-way. That ain’t the place to get love.’
On the flip Jay-z’s vocal flow is technically flawless adding ‘Sorry Junior I already ruined ya, cause you ain’t even alive an Paparazzi already pursuing ya.’ and the track gently samples ‘Feeling Good’ to great effect.
What a shame… the poor ‘imaginary’ kid must be distraught.
They can also be very good, and at their best they are stunning. After a brief interlude leads into ‘That’s My Bitch’ which starts with West thriving off a rolling beat, then introduces synth, eventually La Roux’s Ellie Jackson wails a fantastically catchy chorus that will stick in your head long after it’s finished the hype can be justified,
Being upstaged on your own record is not advised. On ‘Lift Off’, the obvious single, guest vocalist Beyoncé belts out a powerful hook ‘We gonn take it to the moon, take it to the stars’. When the song finishes you are unlikely to remember what either of the others have said as she steals the song entirely.
British production is probably at an all-time high right now and the two throw an obvious salute to this on track ‘Who Gon Stop Me’ heavily sampling Flux Pavilion’s track ‘I can’t stop’ almost verbatim. Again it is another track where Kanye boasts his very forward lyrical styling that is almost disgusting at times as he explains..
‘Heard she f***ed the doorman, well that’s cool I f***ed the waitress.’ The colourful MC also frequently asks up front ‘Who gon stop me huh?’ After almost 6 years of constant media coverage the answer is clearly ‘no-one.’ But maybe the bigger question is ‘who does he think is trying to stop him?’ I can’t see anyone, can he?
Sadly the quality is mixed, album closer ‘Made in America’ features Frank Ocean again and it’s probably the weakest track of the album as the singer rabbits on about ‘Sweet King Martin, Sweet Queen Coretta’ over the top a simplistic and repetitive beat that neither rappers flourish over either. As a collection of songs it’s a sporadic offering sometimes brilliant, sometimes missing the target, but it’s never boring.
Incidentally if you are planning to buy this, the ‘Deluxe Edition’ is worth shelling out the extra couple of quid over as it features the brilliant first single ‘H.A.M’ which has the awesomely epic production rife through Kanye’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ album.
‘Watch The Throne’ is cut from a different cloth entirely, after nine months solid work on this album the pair deserve some credit for even finishing it. They seems to like it, and looked very proud of their work at the recent NYC listening party.
Don’t sing their praises too loudly though, they might sample you for the next one.