Have you ever anticipated an album so adamantly that when it dropped it could never live up to the pedestal you sat it on? I assumed that would be the case with Kanye and Hov’s Watch The Throne and I was undoubtedly wrong. The collaborative duo has not only produced an album worthy of buying, but has created a sound that can only move hip-hop further. Based off of pre-determined, biased mind-states, reviews of what the album would be have ranged from absolute bust to instant classic. But now after listening thru the album twice it is without a doubt the latter. With features from Beyonce to Oddfuture’s Frank Ocean, and production from RZA to the Neptunes, Watch The Throne brings hip-hop fans a truly comprehensive album that combines raw beats, thought-provoking songs and real rap.
With Frank Ocean on the vocoder, “No Church in the Wild”, produced by Kanye and 88-Keys, kicks off the album with a timeless hook that poses the question, “What’s a king to a God? / What’s a god to a non-believer?” Though “No Church in the Wild” doesn’t possess the best production or rap on the album, it brings realness and an authentic feel that is built upon throughout the rest of the album. With heavy bass and samples of James Brown, Phil Manzanera and Spooky Tooth, Hova and Kanye deliver powerful verses that touch on religion and philosophy. Jay-Z raps, “Jesus was a carpenter/ Yeezy laid beats/ Hova flow the Holy Ghost/ get the hell up out your seats/ preach.” Following “No Church in the Wild”, “Lift Off”, with heavy synths, a dream team of producers that includes Q-Tip and Mike Dean and most importantly a perfect hook sung by Beyonce, continues the albums strive for excellence and originality.
Yet, as good as both of these first two tracks are they can’t even hold a flame to the standout track, “Niggas in Paris”, which delivers outstanding verses from both Ye and Hova. Incorporating hilarious “Blades of Glory” references, the Hit-Boy and Kanye produced track brings a head-nodding beat and lyrics that complement it perfectly. Kanye raps, “Prince Williams ain’t do it right if you ask me / If I was him I would have married Kate and Ashley.” In an era where YC, rapper of the infamous “Racks on Racks” track, can get national acclaim and unparalleled radio play for bogus lyrics, Kanye and Jay-Z undeniably took their time (9 months to be exact) to make hip-hop music that actually means something, and that’s clearly evident after your first listen to “Niggas in Paris”.
Another standout track for me was “New Day”, in which the duo rap about how they would raise their hypothetical unborn sons. Kanye raps, “And I’ll never let my son have an ego/ He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go/ I mean, I might even make’ em be Republican/ So everybody know he love white people.” This song brings a vulnerability and sense of honesty to the project as a whole. Jay-Z goes in, “And if the day comes I only see him on the weekend/ I just pray we was in love on the night that we conceived him/ Promise to never leave him even if his mama tweakin’/ Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him.”
Though as a whole the album was a complete success and certainly lived up to its hype as the most anticipated album released this year, I had one major gripe. Throughout the entire album it seems as if Kanye took a backseat to Jay-Z and kind of let go of his normally oversized ego. To some this would be refreshing, but to a true Kanye West fan that ego is what makes him untouchable at what he does, and I was let down by his lack intensity in his verses, which undoubtedly left Jay-Z as the leader of The Throne. Regardless of this, Watch The Throne has taken the entire genre of hip-hop to another level and leaves the listener patiently waiting for another release from The Throne.
Favorites: Who Gon Stop Me, New Day, Niggas in Paris
Weakest: That’s My Bitch