Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne review

Posted on 10 August 2011
By Matt Barden
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It takes a lot for music fans to get hyped for an album nowadays. But with bated breath the world waited for two hip-hop titans to unleash their collaborative joint on an expecting planet.

Watch The Throne is packed with soul, as you would expect from two emcees that have made a living off of heart and intelligence. Proving that music, and rap especially, can still be exciting and meaningful.

Mixing Kanye’s grandiose Hollywood flavour and Jigga’s sheer presence as a living hip-hop legend, the 16 cuts bounce around from a soul sampling vintage feel to how rap should sound after decades of growing and evolving.

There has always between a healthy competitive vibe between Chi town’s finest and Hova, including a few rumoured fiery bust ups during the making of the record.

But instead of a constant battle of one up-manship on verses, the duo gel, bouncing ideas and stories off each other in a true team effort. Their personalities may occasionally clash but on wax it’s a match made in (thug) heaven.

On first listen you could be forgiven for thinking that Watch the Throne was just an outlet for two millionaires to brag about their swag. With a gold engraved cover, raps royalty have been known to flash the bling occasionally.

On the Otis Redding sampling Otis Kanye drops the line, ‘They ain’t see me cos I was in my other Benz/last week I was in my other other Benz,’ while on Niggas in Paris Jay spits, ‘Ball so hard got a broken clock/rolies that don’t tick tock.’

But dig a little deeper and the album is really about two successful men contemplating on what it is like to be rich, famous and black in America.

Murder to excellence charts the violence inflicted on young black men and the murder rate across the country. With the chorus ‘The paper read murder/black on black murder,’ the track grapples with social and political issues in post Iraq America.

With few features (but who needs them when these two are in the booth) only Mrs Carter, Frank Ocean and Mr Hudson come along for the ride. Production however is handled by some heavyweights; RZA, Swizz Beats and Q-Tip all lay down tracks for the record.

Made in America features Odd Future’s Frank Ocean slow paced crooning and is one of the standout tracks. Tackling the American dream with very different styles, Jay and Kanye create a classic memoir track, with an ode to black leaders.

What is apparent is that Kanye brought his lyrical A game. The gap has narrowed and Mr West more than holds his own with Big Brother, getting deep when needed and firing his razor sharpened punch lines with an assassin’s precision.

West and Jay-Z have done what most rappers find very difficult to achieve in the mainstream; make an album that is both about swagger and boasting, but also about introspection and regrets.

This easily could have turned out as a mismatch of egos; instead WTT serves as a platform for two grown men with a lot to say about their culture and country, and at the very least will make you glad Jay didn’t hang up the mic after the Black album.