Category Archives: Jay-Z and Kanye West

Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch The Throne

Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch The Throne

3.5/5

2011

Where to begin? Well, starting with the obvious, Jay-Z and Kanye West are two titans of the modern rap game, artists who don’t so much release albums as host events, the kinds of things you hear about months before they happen and talk about months after they do. So, unsurprisingly, when the two of them decided to call themselves the Throne and walk into the lab together to see what would happen, it was enough to make fans (as well as the music industry) giddy with anticipation. But putting big artists together in the same room doesn’t make for an automatically good record—just ask 90% of supergroups—especially when those artists have heads as big as these. Luckily, the resulting record, Watch The Throne, has all the makings of a big-budget summer blockbuster. There are big, crowd-pleasing stars; huge production values; it’s flashy and in-your-face, and though it may not be particularly deep, it goes out of its way to make sure you have a damn good time.

To the album’s credit, ‘Ye and Jay just sound like what they are: two old friends getting together to have a little fun. At the same time though, they aren’t exactly Q-Tip and Phife, and while it’s never distracting, Kanye and Jay’s flows don’t particularly mesh, making Watch The Throne often feel more like a friendly competition than a collaboration. That being said, and though Jay holds his own, Kanye’s personality unquestionably dominates the album, if for no other reason than that his hand in the production veers the album towards his sensibility. Plus, the largely party atmosphere of the record suits Kanye better, since he is the bigger jester of the two. Indeed, Watch The Throne is filled to the brim with images of opulence and excess. But since Kanye and Hov are smart enough to know that this is well-worn territory, they have fun with it, both in the rhymes and music, bringing in superstar producers to help them achieve their vision. “Otis” features a series of escalating boasts riding a rollicking Otis Redding sample; both guys brag about their respective women on “That’s My Bitch,” and “Niggas In Paris”‘ shuffling flow is punctuated by a hilariously timed and self-aware sample of Will Farrell from Blades Of Glory. Many of these moments are amusing and interesting in their own right, even if they aren’t in the same league of either rapper’s best moments.

Amidst the luxury, though, the duo throw in a few socially conscious and introspective tracks yet they’re strangely buried toward the end of the record. It’s a nice change of pace from the recklessness and decadence, but while “Made In America” and especially the fine “Murder To Excellence” valiantly advocate for the advancement of black America, the impact is blunted. Save for “New Day” and “Welcome To The Jungle”‘s soul-searching, which hint at larger issues, the album is so overwhelmingly focused on good times and ego-boosting that the short time allotted for the social commentary makes it just seem tossed off in the end, no matter how well-written those tracks are. And that’s just the thing with Watch The Throne: Clearly Jay and Kanye wanted to make a larger point (and they obviously have the resources to do it), so it ends up feeling like a missed opportunity. It’s certainly an infectious, entertaining lark, but in the end that’s all it is—a lark.

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