Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Watch The Throne" by Jay-Z & Kanye West

Watch The Throne by Jay-Z & Kanye West
was released on August 8th, 2011
After Kanye West stormed back into the limelight once again back in 2010 by introducing G.O.O.D Fridays to the world and making his Twitter presence do all of his hyping for him, Kanye was bound and determined to reach a level of cultural excellence that many couldn't dream of achieving.  Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was deemed one of the best albums of 2010, receiving a coveted perfect 10 from Pitchfork and being hailed as an instant classic by many, indie mindset and mainstream alike.  All of the Jay-Z/Kanye collaborations in the past have been stellar whether it be production or rapping with one another, but with all of the hype behind Watch The Throne, the two's new collaborative effort, and seeing these two hip-hop titans finally meet for an album, it all just feels incredibly underwhelming.  While the production shines through, to no surprise, the lyrics tend to mostly fall flat with the exception of a few standout tracks.  It feels like Kanye and Jay have fallen into the habit of rapping more about their money and lavish lifestyles than bringing up the emotional grit and intellect that got them to their level in the first place.

The production on this album is stellar, make no mistake.  Kanye is and always has been one of the best in the industry when it comes to producing an album and I see no change in that in the near future.  I'll admit that after hearing the Lex Luger produced "H.A.M" I was hesitant of the "Watch The Throne" project, mainly because it all felt so contrived to hear a Lex Luger beat on a Kanye/Jay album.  It seems like it also led to a downgrading of lyricism for the songs that fell into these categories, actually for most of the album.  Tracks like "Illest Motherfucker Alive" are almost cringe-worthy at times, the opening lines of "I need a slow-motion video right now/'Cause I'm moving in slow-motion" sloppily drawled out by West are off putting.  He then raps off a list of famous Russel's and talks about "zero, zero, zero, zero, a whole lot of 0's".  The whole album isn't this bleak though, so don't count it out from off the gate.  Opening track "No Church In The Wild" features Odd Future sensation Frank Ocean singing the chorus and Jay-Z opening the album by rapping in prime form, standing out with lines like "Jesus was a carpenter/Yeezy made beats" showing the grandiose mindset of this whole project within a line.  Kanye immediately follows Jay-Z by rapping about cocaine, threesomes, and weed.  It's a little offputting to hear the man who once asked if "Anybody makes real shit anymore" but then you get to hear glimpses of the past and shimmers of light shining through with tracks like "New Day", "Murder To Excellence", and "Made In America".

"New Day" is a RZA produced track that features Kanye back in top form spitting out lines about how he doesn't want his fictional child to end up becoming hated like his father with Jay-Z following in suit with a rap for his own unborn child.  It's an honest and sincere side of the two hip-hop giants that feels good to hear on an album so filled with songs bragging about cash flow and pulling up in Benz's.  "Made in America" is another track featuring Frank Ocean in which he sings out to Martin Luther King, Corretta Scott, Malcom X, baby Jesus, and other iconic figures to be followed by Kanye and Jay-Z touching on their past and bringing a bit more substance to an already flashy and attention-grabbing record.  That's one of the bright parts of "Watch The Throne" though, for all of it's downfalls it still has some of Jay-Z and Kanye's most intense and personal moments, take all of Jay's verses on "Why I Love You".  I'm not going to say that these two don't pull off their superficial rhymes without style though either because tracks like "Otis" and "Niggas In Paris" are still some of the standouts on the album as well, mainly with "Niggas In Paris" and the "Blades of Glory" soundclip of Will Ferrell following up a Kanye line of "Got my niggas in Paris/And they goin' gorillas" with "I don't even know what that means! - "No one knows what it means, but it's provocative!  It gets the people going."  Fitting.  "Otis" boasts a nice blend of the two, while Jay raps about getting his swagger back, the two still trade verses back and forth with great wordplay and similes that keep the listener entertained over a College Dropout worthy beat based off of an Otis Redding track.

All in all the album will appeal to the masses and will surely keep Kanye and Jay-Z right in the throne that they've been seated in for the past few years.  I doubt it will elevate either of the two names into a higher status than already obtained because the album is certainly nothing groundbreaking.  The beats on this album are great but none standout like the greater tracks on any of the two artist's other albums.  It's great to see that they've not completely thrown their depth and provocativeness out the window, but I certainly wish that they'd put more focus on that side of the spectrum rather than the superficial rhymes that the two used to chastise others for.  I guess Kanye said it best though "even my superficial rhymes are super official."  However, how long will the superficial Kanye and Jay keep their old die-hard fans who cling to their rawness?  I guess time will tell and until then we'll just keep watching the throne.

Rating: 7.8/10
Standout Tracks: "New Day", "Murder To Excellence", "Made In America", "Otis"

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