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Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne (Review)

Hip Hop royalty comes together as Kanye West and Jay-Z unite to bring you their highly anticipated album, Watch The Throne. While this record was teed up to be a classic before it was even released, I can’t help but feel that this album came out about 5 or 6 years too late. After declaring his retirement, Jay-Z career reminds me of Michael Jordan coming back and playing for the Washington Wizards. He dominated during his prime, he’s got a ton of money in the bank, and he has nothing left to prove. Yet he still feels the need to compete, even if his efforts don’t amount to much. Did we really need Kingdom Come or Blueprint III? However, his former protégé on the other hand, seems to get better and better with each release, both musically and lyrically (with exception to 808s & Heartbreak). So will Watch The Throne live up to its classic billing? Let’s begin.

Like most hip hop albums today, Watch The Throne suffers from many of the same downfalls. It’s a poorly pieced together with too many radio friendly singles and too much filler (Sound familiar Big Sean?). For example, Jay-Z throws an obvious bone to wife Beyonce on “Lift Off.” Not sure if they were trying to capture the same top-40 magic as the Alicia Keys-assisted “Empire State of Mind,” but it really has no place on this album. An even bigger misstep occurs on the RZA produced “New Day.” First off, why the hell is auto-tune being utilized on a RZA track? Secondly, I thought Jay-Z already declared the death of auto-tune. Now he’s embracing it?! What the f*#k?! Ultimately, it sounds like all three of these guys are trying too hard to stay relevant in their aging careers. It’s a damn shame, because “New Day” could have been one of the stronger cuts. Even the much hyped “Otis” feels like Kanye is reinventing the wheel. Wasn’t this trick already used on “Gold Digger”? And as much as I’m feeling Frank Ocean these days, the two tracks he’s featured on (“No Church In The Wild,” “Made In America”) are throwaways. How many times can you repeatedly say “sweet baby Jesus” in a hook without sounding like an ode to Ricky Bobby?

Despite a disappointing start, the album picks up over the second half. On “That’s My Bitch,” Kanye flips the classic “Apache” break into a b-boy, rap-attack monster. Another stroke of genius occurs on “Murder To Excellence,” a powerful song in which Ye and Hova take a moment to reflect on the black-on-black crime currently plaguing inner-city America. And “Why I Love You” shows why Jay-Z is one of the greatest as he absolutely dominates the mic on this track. Jay probably could have capped off his career (again) after this performance. But the real jewel is the album’s closer, “The Joy,” produced by the legendary Pete Rock. Backed by Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You” sample, this track should definitely appeal to fans of J Dilla. What’s more intriguing about this song, is that it shows a more humble side of Kanye which we rarely get to hear. And Jay-Z’s verse about his come up from rags to riches invokes minor memories of Biggie’s classic, “Juicy.”

Considering Jay-Z is in his 40s and Kanye is in his mid-30s, you would expect some more maturity in their lyrics. However a majority of Watch The Throne consists of brag raps that few people can actually relate to. Rather than using this album as a forum to shed more light on social commentary or self-reflection, most of it focuses on Jay-Z and Kanye’s egos and bank accounts. We get it Hova, you got a sh*%load of expensive watches, drink only the most exquisite champagnes and your married to the smoking hot Beyonce. And yes Kanye, we know, you bang a lot of top-notch bitches, buy only the finest threads and you’re rich. You guys are grown ass men, it’s okay to act like it. Otherwise, you guys come off sounding like Rich Hil (Tommy Hilfiger’s son, turned rapper. See Youtube.)

In the end, Watch The Throne is by no means a terrible album. Jigga’s raps are as sharp as ever, but they cover extremely well-worn territory. And Kanye’s heart-on-his-sleeve flow continues to improve, but the juvenile absurdity is still heavily prevalent. The beats are good, but considering RZA, Q-Tip, Swizz Beats and No I.D. were involved on the project, they could have been more impressive. All in all, it’s a hell of lot better than Blueprint III, but nowhere near as gloriously epic as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Regardless of what I say though, it will still push a million copies and probably win a Grammy. [Sigh…] Mission accomplished.

(3/5)

  • Doug

    Well put.