If the thought alone sounded like a dream, the realisation of the finished product has created a euphoric, fantasy like feeling. The music world – for the first time in some years – stood waiting for with baited breath for the release of an empirical album which has avoided the now accustomed ‘week early leak.’ In a dream collaboration for our time, Kanye West, who captivated the world with his incredible music as well as his eccentric behaviour, comes together with a man who has gone beyond any other rapper’s heights in music and business. Jay-Z, the last of a few living legends, shares more than a recording booth with Mr West as they unite to re-invigorate the somewhat lost joys within music. In an age where it’s become the norm to constantly drone about what’s missing in music as well as spend hours on YouTube denouncing the newest fad, Hip Hop’s two insurance policies aim to lay at ease the notion of music’s current offering being devoid of soul and heart.
As far as one-off projects go, it always takes something special to encourage the masses to get behind the campaign. For Jay-Z and Kanye, that first dalliance with something special comes in the first officially released track. Masterfully flipping a sample from Otis Redding classic ‘Try A Little Tenderness,’ ‘Otis’ is the first sighting of Yeezy and Jigga’s album pairing as they slay the vintage recording with an old school double team lyrical demolition.
With Mr Carter keeping ‘Ye on his A-game, Chi Towns finest pens a short but spectacular verse to match the elders ever polished delivery. Whereas previous collaborative efforts have had an air of who outrhyme the other, Watch The Throne sees the duo work together, interjecting at every given moment to add some zip to each others verses. The huge gulf which once existed between the Jay and Kanye’s lyrical skills has now decreased, with the latter’s deliverance of Gucci, God and glamorous females all executed with finesse.
As expected tracks are of a grandiose affair; ‘No Church In The Wild’ gallops valiantly in to open the album and both Kanye and Jay-Z’s philosophical explorations are boosted by the first of two stellar vocal performances from Odd Future‘s Frank Ocean. Apart from one or two songs, material on the album tends to avoid going past the five minute mark, but still manage to contain enough magic to be deemed future classics. “Mrs Jay Z” Beyonce Knowles belts out the stratospheric chorus for ‘Lift Off’ to match Kanye’s Hollywood-esque verse and Jay’s ever confident performance.
The process involved in producing Watch The Throne has already been explored in some detail, but what must be mentioned is that production on hand isn’t as grand and glitzy as expected. With credits going to the likes of 88-Keys, Q-Tip, the RZA and Yeezy himself, the soundtrack to the most anticipated album of the year/summer ranges from the various dirty sounds explored on ‘Who Gon Stop Me’ to ocean deep soul which serves its purpose, especially when exploring sombre topics.
Stripping away the bravado and machismo on ‘New Life’ Jay and Mr West contemplate the potential realities they’d face if and when they have they have children of of their own, which adds much sentiment to an album many believed would be ego fuelled from beginning to end. If that wasn’t enough, ‘Made In America’ once again welcomes Frank Ocean to add some spirit to their emotive letter to the great country and honour some of the great black influences in history.
‘Murder To Excellence’ chronicles both the darker, dystopian environments each were borne out of aswell as toasting their achievements, cleverly breaking the song into two parts. As grandiose as Watch The Throne feels, it still produces much lighter moments; ‘That’s My Bitch’ which features the UK’s La Roux is a fun ode to their preferential females with Jigga clearly proclaiming Ms Knowles as his prize asset.
Songs such as ‘Why I Love You So’ and even the Swizz Beatz handled ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ feel like tracks which could appear on another project rather one with the billing like Watch The Throne. However, a commendable passion is displayed by each protagonist on each piece of work. Jay-Z and Kanye, even when boasting to the nth degree, do so in an unmatched manner which clearly pits them as the top two in the game. ‘Niggas In Paris’ sees the protagonists’ charismatic rhymes explore the fashion capital whilst the epic ‘Illest Motherfucker Alive’ finds the proclaimed God MC toast his ascension to the level of Greatest Ever in superior fashion.
After months of travelling the globe, recording in hotels and allegedly having fiery clashes, Watch The Throne, the project which so could have never happened (had Dame Dash not pushed Kanye’s rapping to the forefront some years ago) is complete. With its gold album cover, vintage samples and two of the game’s finest spitting at their best, its status as a classic should have been all but confirmed.
The levels of work put into the album can clearly be heard. Crisp production, the few guests on hand being stunning and the lyricists penning line after line of brilliance are most certainly on hand. However, what stops Watch The Throne from being crowned as a superior (or equal) project to Jay Z’s Blueprint, Kanye’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and others is that its intention to reach that level is obvious – sometimes feels like a spirit of ‘this is the best’ is being forced upon tracks.
The free spirited nature of what makes a classic gets lost on Watch The Throne at times and sometimes a songs merits aren’t discovered until a second or third hearing. However, expect no other release this year to top this monumental project from the Greatest and contender for the next greatest artist of this genre. Still light years ahead of their competition, Jay-Z and Kanye West can sit comfortably in their thrones knowing the importance they play in Hip Hop’s musical relevance.