Watch the Throne (Deluxe Edition): Review
Kanye West & Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne
Released: August 8, 2011
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Roc Nation, Def Jam Records
Executive Producer: Kanye West & Jay-Z
Coming off a highly successful and critically acclaimed album in 2010, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, expectations for Kanye West were high for his next studio release while Jay-Z, on the other hand, was over two years removed from his last effort, The Blueprint III, and had somewhat fallen off the map. Originally slated as an EP release, Watch the Throne was written and recorded all over the world, mostly in hotel rooms in Australia, Paris, Abu Dhabi, New York City, and Los Angeles. The overall direction of the album was cloudy in the beginning of the sessions, causing many tracks recorded during the early period to be cut from the record. At times, the recording process induced creative feuds between Kanye and Jay-Z, which was the reason for the release date setbacks, but the end product was well worth the wait. The production of the album came from 88-Keys, No I.D., Lex Luger, Mike Dean, The Neptunes, Q-Tip, RZA, Swizz Beatz, Pete Rock, Southside, Jeff Bhasker, Don Jazzy, Hit-Boy, Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph, Anthony Kilhoffer, Ken Lewis, S1 and the album features a slim, but talanted guestlist of Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, Otis Redding, Mr Hudson and Curtis Mayfield as well as some uncredited vocal appearences from Kid Cudi and James Brown, among others. The Throne supergroup concept, consisting of Kanye West & Jay-Z, was concieved in July, 2011 during the making of the album. The pair had done a lot of successful collaborations in the past and an alias for the two artists was fitting. Watch the Throne had plenty of hype around it and despite all of the attention, the album never leaked before release, a feat not easy these days. Singles “H•A•M” and “Otis” debuted on the Billboard charts at #23 and #12 respectively and the third single “Lift Off” is slated for release on August 23, 2011.
1. No Church in the Wild [feat. Frank Ocean]: Arguably one of the best tracks on the album and a great opening to the record, this song features an eerie-sounding flowing and moving bassline which drives the song. Frank Ocean sounds good on the hook and the verses from Kanye and Jay-Z are also arguably the best on the record.
2. Lift Off [feat. Beyoncé]: The song has a lot of Beyoncé where she sounds good on the hook, but for the most part, the production here is average at best, although the closing beat at the end of the track is good. This song has a very 808s & Heartbreak feel but with a more refined sound.
3. Niggas in Paris: Here, an odd xylophone-sounding beat drives the song with some occasional sampling from the Will Farrell movie “Blades of Glory”. This track is one of the tracks on the record with a dubstep drop and the static-sounding drop works nicely.
4. Otis [feat. Otis Redding]: The lead single off the album, the soul-influenced track features a great Otis Redding sample and amazing, standout verses from both artists. However, the sampling of Otis making sounds during the verses takes away from the song.
5. Gotta Have It: A slower track with a a great deep-strung instrumental beat and nice wordplay from Jay and Kanye who trade words from eachother’s verses.
6. New Day: Simply the best production on the album, the track has a very eerie and euphoric sounding beat with voice samples and a twinkling instrumental. The exquisite verses from both artists talk about their unborn sons with standout wordplay from Kanye.
7. That’s My Bitch: With a fast paced afro-beat with bongos and some nice vocal sampling on the hooks, most noteably James Brown, the track has a great vibe. Jay-Z has the better verse on this one but not by much.
8. Welcome to the Jungle: A simple high pitched keyboard line and a simple kick and snare beat sets the stage for the nice verses. This track grows on you after a couple listens, and yes Axl Rose is referenced here by Jay-Z.
9. Who Gon’ Stop Me: With the famous Flux Pavillion dubstep sample, Kanye West and Jay-Z try experimenting with something new for Hip-Hop by blending dubstep and rap. It works somewhat nicely here, although Kanye raps with a synthesizer in the beginning which doesn’t sound good at all, but he raps with a normal voice a little later in the track.
10. Murder to Excellence: The chanting on top of a great instrumental and beat gives a nice triumphant feel for the standout verses from both rappers. The track is a yin-yang type track with the first “Murder” section stating the negative and the last “Excellence” section stating the positive.
11. Made in America [feat. Frank Ocean]: This slower track has a flowing instrumental with very synthetic-sounding beats and another nice hook from Frank Ocean which is the highlight. Kanye’s gets best verse award here, where both rappers talk about their lives and their journey to the top.
12. Why I Love You [feat. Mr Hudson]: Aside from Frank Oceans hook in “No Church in the Wild” this feature with Mr Hudson is one of the better features on the record. With great triumphant instrumentals, a nice beat and verses, this track is very underrated.
13. Illest Motherfucker Alive: The beginning instrumentals sound like the cantana bar in Star Wars: A New Hope. But another great triumphant beat kicks in for another very underrated track. The verses are slow but articulated well plus Kid Cudi has an uncredited appearence in the outro with the “Slow Motion” hook.
14. H•A•M: This track was the first single off the album, but was eventually changed to a bonus track because of the change in album direction. I still dont think it should have been left of the cut of the album, the very theatrical and triumphant beat and the verses are original and the most “radio-friendly”, but not in a bad way.
15. Primetime: A nice piano instrumental and a simple beat set the stage for more great and standout verses from Jay and Ye.
16. The Joy [feat. Curtis Mayfield]: Originally a part of the G.O.O.D. Fridays series, the track features additional uncredited artists Pete Rock, Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi. The track is rather slow moving and dull and could have been left off the album.
No Church in the Wild
Murder to Excellence
Niggas in Paris
Who Gon’ Stop Me
Final LP Rating: 8.0/10
Final Deluxe LP Rating: 8.5/10
There is no doubt that this is a classic, well excecuted and breakthrough rap album and the experimental dubstep-influenced tracks are revolutionary and will influence other rap artists in the future. However, for the incredible hype the album had prior to release, the record didn’t live up to the “Greatest Rap Album of All Time” expectations, for which the album was labeled even before release. Granted, Kanye West and Jay-Z (aka: The Throne) are two of the top rap artists today but it was naive of fans to expect the greatest rap album of all time from the two great MCs. This album will take a little time to grow on you as it’s very original and unorthodox, but Kanye West & Jay-Z sound great together as they have many times previously, featuring eachother in tracks on both artist’s various albums. The most recent and also one of the most noteable collaborations between the two rap superstars prior to the Watch the Throne sessions, was Kanye West’s “Monster” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which just gave listeners only a little taste of what was to come from Ye and Jay.