To say that Watch the Throne was one of the most anticipated albums of the year would be an understatement. This album was easily one of the most anticipated albums in the history of Hip-Hop. I haven’t seen so much excitement about two people sharing the same real estate since Lebron took his talents to South Beach. Sure Jay-Z and Kanye have collaborated before, but for 13 (15 if you got the deluxe version) straight tracks? Like most hip-hop fans, I could barely contain my excitement! But would this album happen? There have been countless “Best of Both Worlds” style albums that have been forecasted but have yet to happen (See Dr. Dre’s “Detox” or Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain’s “He Raps, He Sings”). After a rumored July 4th release came and went, Watch the Throne finally dropped on August 8th without a leak in sight. Would the dynamic duo win the hip-hop championship, or would they drop the ball in game six?
Myself and the other two members of the LWG(Laser Wolf Gang), Havean and Eddie, decided to run a literary train on this album and blog it together. I present, for your reading pleasure, Blog The Throne.
*cues “H.A.M”-style thematic music*
No Church In The Wild ft. Frank Ocean
When I first heard that Frank Ocean would be featured not once, but twice on Watch the Thrown, I was really excited and interested to see how they would use his voice. I was a big fan of Nostalgia Ultra and I couldn’t wait to see how his melodies would mesh with two of my favorite rappers. I must say I was definitely disappointed with how flat the chorus was on “No Church”. No knock on Mr. Ocean, but I feel like the hook could have been written better. I wasn’t a big fan of the auto-tune-falsetto verse by The Dream either. If you can get over those these two things, you’ll find that the meat of this song is actually pretty solid. Jay-Z continues to show that he’s one of the greatest when it comes to wordplay with verses like, “Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats/Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up outcha’ seats. Preach. “. While Kanye continues to make your inner 13 year old snicker with lines like, “Thinkin’ bout the girl in all leopard, who was rubbin’ the wood like Kiki Shepard.” By no means is this a terrible song. In terms of setting the pace for the rest of the CD, I feel it’s a bit of a stumble out of the blocks, but nothing that can’t be recovered.
Lift Off ft. Beyonce
“Lift Off” is almost the exact opposite of “No Church in the Wild”. The hook has the triumphant exuberance that you look for in a song at the beginning of an album. Though I feel like Beyonce was a bit predictable for an album by Jay-Z and Kanye West, there’s no denying that she definitely has the lungs to carry such a bold chorus. Well done Mrs. Carter, well done. While I give Kanye a pass on most things (singing being one of those things) this is one of the rare occasions where I just can’t. I don’t know if Beyonce inspired him to channel his inner R&B singer or if he listened to Lil’ Wayne’s “How to Love” before recording, but his Drake-infused sing-songy rap was really bad. So bad in fact, it falls in that category “So Bad it’s Fun to Sing Along To.” Even the lyrics are lacking on this song. Half of Kanye’s lyrics aren’t words that can be found in the American language and Jay does his best, but this melody just doesn’t fit him. Though I do give him credit for trying with the line, “When you earn hard (Earnhardt) as me, eventually you hit a big wall.” If it weren’t for Beyonce piloting this song, there’s no doubt that Lift Off would’ve been a mayday.
Niggas in Paris
“Niggas in Paris” is by far the best title for any song in the history of music. Bar none. After the first two test runs, Jay-Z and Kanye finally find their legs thanks to the production of Hit Boy. If the music in the game “Tetris” was produced by Dr. Dre, this would be it. Jay-Z reminds you exactly how comfy his money mattress is with lines like, “Y’all don’t know that don’t shit phase me/ The Nets could go 0 for 82 and I’ll look at you like this shit gravy.” Kanye adds hot sauce to the chilli with his infectious hook, “That shit cray!” and also shows you that he’s capable of outshining Jay at times with lines like, “What’s Gucci my nigga? What’s Loui my killa? What’s drugs my dealer? What’s that jacket, Margiela?” Like many of my early sexual encounters, the song ends right before the fun really begins, which is a perfect teaser for the rest of the album. Let the real stuntin’ begin.
Otis is a track that most people either love or hate. I find myself on the love side of the fence. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, playing second fiddle only to “Primetime”. With a beat that’s fairly simple and repetitive as this one, you’d better have bars that can carry a song that has relatively no music. Jay-Z and Kanye make this look a lot easier than it really is. Just listen to the countless “freestyles” that have been done to Otis and you’ll hear how difficult this truly is. If there was ever a song that shows how much of an equal Kanye has come to be with Jay-Z in the food chain of Hip-Hop, it’s this one. Lines like, “Run up on Yeezy the wrong way I might murk ya’” are rarely ever recited by Hov about anyone other than the missus. This is is a verbal bro hug. Kanye brings his Sunday’s best with lines like the ever-Facebook statused (I’m aware this is not a real word) , “.. sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive”. It’s rare to be able mix boastful lyrics and skillful wordplay and keep it fun and light-hearted at the same time. However, this is what makes Jay-Z and Kanye hip-hop elite. Otis was the perfect appetizer for this album.
Gotta Have It
The Neptunes have come a long way from their trademark synth keyboard “boopity-boop” production sound. I was surprised to read that Pharrell and Chad produced “Gotta Have It”. Taking a page out of the Timbaland book of middle eastern influenced beats, The Neptunes present a beautiful canvas for Yeezy and Hov to verbally decorate. This is easily the best back-and-forth on the album. With Kanye and Jay finishing each other’s sentences in the line “Niggas hate ballers these days. (Kanye) Ain’t that like LeBron James? (Jay) Ain’t that just like D-Wade?” Speaking of LeBron and D-Wade, both Kanye and Jay-Z are reminiscent of the South Beach superstars in their ability to both, compliment each other, as well as being able to takeover at any given time. The latter is demonstrated with lines from Jay-Z like, “Wussup muhfucka where my money at?/You gon’ make me come down to your house where your mummy at/ Mummy wrap the kids, have ‘em cryin’ for they mummy back” and Kanye matches Hov with the line, “Racks on racks on racks/Maybachs on 'bachs on 'bachs on 'bachs on 'bachs/ (Who in that?) Oh shit! It’s just blacks on blacks on blacks.” If Jay-Z is Jordan, Kanye’s bold entrance and colorful lines on this song make him Dennis Rodman.
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New Day is a pleasant, cathartic foresight on fatherhood and is merely flawless. The song warps you into the aspirational dreams of both Jay and ‘Ye. New Day’s placement couldn’t be any better as the heartfelt track is conveniently placed in the middle of an album filled with braggadocio. However, with an album designed by a man that works for Givenchy, we’ll have to get back to the bragging…
That’s My Bitch
I’ve been waiting on “That’s My Bitch,” a track originally intended for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy but didn’t make the cut. The track first got hyped after it was mysteriously played, enjoyed and forgotten at a night club in the summer of 2010. Makes you wonder if Kanye has invested in those “make you forget” machines from Men In Black, huh? Kanye is on his promiscuous misogynistic flow which juxtoposes nicely with Hov's verse. Jay Z’s verse, one of the best on the disc, has him questioning the absence of black icons and speaking of Beyonce as if she is the Greek Goddess of sex appeal. You know Jay turned Beyonce into a naughty Girl when she heard this.
Welcome To The Jungle
“God dammit!” “Welcome To The Jungle” is an okay little back and forth spliced with random Mr. Alicia Keys adlibs. Tales and procedures of the “Jungle” (the hood basically) are parlayed over this weak ass looped beat. It’s a decent song but when I’m not listening to the album as a whole, I hardly finish it. It’s a little lazy and the beat is too boring and bombastic after thirty seconds.
Who Gon Stop Me
Perhaps the most hype song on the album (it’s really a toss up between this and the lovably ignorant as fuck, “Niggas In Paris”) serves it’s purpose. The rhymes lack substance, but seeps with that boastful swagger that the two are known for (Can I copyright the idea to have these guys make a cologne called “Watch The Fragrance: Boastful Swagger”?). Kanye & Jay-Z (seasoned tastemakers and early adapters), look to see a plethora of rappers trying to spit vicious over dubstep beats, watching as they slobber retardedly as a result, considering as to how others can’t rap circles around beats like these two. This song is wonderful, but the inevitable outcome has me worried for rap bloggers around the net.
Murder To Excellence
Murder To Excellence is hands down the best song on the entire album. No, put your hand down, there's no debating it. This joint right here is unparalleled on Watch The Throne. Kanye takes motherfuckers back to school and touches up on an old flow and subject matter from his earlier mascot bear laden, school themed years. Jay had me drooling with that Fred line (google his assasination if you aren't privy). The theme is perfectly interwoven as the rappers speak on the “Murder” that is very much alive in black poverty stricken neighborhoods across the US, and then this thing morphs into the "Excellence," the black decadence and oppulance. Murder To Excellence is... dare I say... one of the greatest hip hop song ever. Fuck that, one of the greatest songs ever. This is the "Oddessy" of music about that long hard journey. These men came up from nothing with "Murder" all around them, living day to day in the ignored ghettos where stepping outside is a gamble in itself. Now they plank on a million and have a combined EIGHT classic albums, that's "Excellence." May you be black, white, or even a Mormon, this is insirational. Anything is possible, even excellence.
Made It In America (ft. Frank Ocean)
The track opens up as laid back and anthem-esque, progressing on with themes of fortune, thanks and storytelling, evoking the emotions of one who’s on the “come up.” Each artist is capable of blending humble sincerity with the boastings of a show off, and if hip-hop has taught me anything, this alone is hard to accomplish. The addition of Frank Ocean over the chorus gives the listener a true understanding of the topic at hand, allowing for us to realize that the work of our ancestors has finally paid off.
Notable quote: “This ain’t no fashion show mother fucker we live it.”
Why I Love you (ft. Mr. Hudson)
As a reviewer, I understand that I’m supposed to remain fairly neutral and impartial, but unfortunately, I cannot. In this particular case, the Cassius “I Love You So” sample has caused this track to be placed in the instant-like category due to my excitement of Yeezy and Hova’s choice in referencing. I seem to enjoy the passionate back and forth question of former friends and associates, condemning their intermittent relationships due to the inability to put forth their trust in them (story of our lives). The anger is obvious, and the paranoia is blatantly stated, so I guess it goes without saying the even the richest and most famous are forced to sleep with one eye open.
Notable quote: “What do you do when the love turns to hate? Gotta separate from these fucking fakes.”
Illest Motherfucker Alive
The track opens revealing a bit of an unusually wonky intro, eventually leading into something that every club owner and new money champagne connoisseur could be proud of. Regardless of how some may feel about Kanye’s mumbling off key half sing, I personally think it goes well with their lyrical provocativeness in this particular case. Adding to a slight change of pace, the record reverts back to the unbashful bragging seen elsewhere along the album, once again providing us with insight into their wealthier than normal lifestyles (very Rick Rossy of them if I may say).
Notable quote: “Too close, you comatose so dope you overdose.”
If Lex Luger, Waka Flocka and Beethoven could collaborate, this would be it. The combination of high hats, gun sounds and opera singers to some might be deemed as a recipe leading to hip-hop fail, but in actuality, it kind of works. I’ll have to admit though, this track did take some getting used to. When it released all of a half year back I was essentially a bit skeptical…scratch that I was a lot skeptical. I hated it, I was insulted, I barely even remember listening to the entire song, and this was probably my downfall. A few months later I decided to give the piece another listen, and that’s when feelings seemed to change. It was at this point that I was beginning to accept the fact that Jay Z and Kanye were releasing a collaborative album, and although I wasn’t all too excited, I had a feeling that I eventually would be--and here we are now.
The ending however was a tad too rock opera for my taste, but considering the fact that Kanye can do almost anything and get away with it, I’ll just smile sternly and let him off with a fair warning.
Notable quote: “Commes des Garcons, fuck your fresh, head shot nigga, fuck your vest.”
“The night is young what the fuck you wanna do?” could honestly be the tagline to this entire track. From start to finish I wanted to do nothing more than to drive a car I can’t afford around a city I’ve never been to with a girl I’ve never met before (it’s that serious). For some this might just be a pass over piece, not missing much considering as to how it was chosen as a bonus rather than to be included in the standard release, but I’ll go ahead and say that this happened to be one of my favorites off of the entire album. I loved the midnight, 2 AM feeling that it left me with. I could almost see the story being told as it was being told, and that’s rare for me. Usually I listen on with a certain sense of detachment to the artist, but with this one I could really feel, so without a doubt I have no choice but to give this two thumbs all the way up.
Notable quote: See above
Revealing a sense of storytelling with much emphasis on remembrances of the past, this record is undoubtedly a nod to the hip hop and R&B of our yesteryear. Once again I find myself trapped within the realms of the song, capable of envisioning every detail given to me at the hands of each artist. I could almost smell the cocaine that Jay Z continuously weighs upon his historical scale, I could see Kanye scrambling around to grab himself a record deal--it was all there, and it was all real. Charlie Wilson’s whaling adlibs accompanied by Kid Cudi’s repetitive outro did nothing less than make the track that much better, so I guess this one’s a keeper as well.
Notable quote: “I still hear the ghost of the kids I never had.”
Overall, there wasn’t too much for me to dislike about these six songs (or the entire album for that matter). This might come off as a bit biased, for like many, I too have a problem with disliking almost anything and everything that Yeezy has an association with. The production was bananas, Jay Z did work, and Kanye pulled his part as well, so what can I say, I loved it.
Overall I feel like “Watch the Throne” did exactly what is was supposed to do. It made a splash. It shook shit up. It gave hip-hop music lovers something to look forward to. Is it the album of the year? No. It’s not even the hip-hop album of the year. It’s a scrimmage. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, there are a few penalties, but at the same time it shows you that it can score big if it really needs to.
Shoutout to the homies for their work, and thanks for baring with me through all the delays. Make sure you check out their blogs. If you don't you're lame. Ha.