Album Review: Jay-z & Kanye West-Watch the Throne

| August 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Lyrics B+ Betas A+ Flow B+ Originality A+ Grade A-

watch-the-throne-coverKanye West & Jay Z: Watch the Throne

Last August Kanye West tweeted “Me and Jay are about to do a 5 song compilation album”.  Over the past 365 days fans have waited patiently while Kanye and Jay-Z teased, delayed and protected the album known as Watch The Throne. The album was finally digitally released for Itunes on August 8, then finally released everywhere on August 11. While Jay-Z has solidified himself as hip hop’s largest living entity, Kanye is still known as his protégé. To Kanye’s defense, he is considered one of hip hop’s top acts, sometimes replacing Jay’s common spot as the favorite. The impeccable backgrounds of the two artists cement the idea that the name for their super group should be “The Throne”.

Listening to this album requires the standard set of high quality headphones or speakers to thoroughly enjoy or critique.  There are hidden vocals, lead in and fall out production, and connected concepts between tracks that take at least 5 listens to pick up.  For example,  glance at the credits to the album. Kid Cudi is not featured on the track list but he has vocal credits on half of the tracks.  Kanye shows his musical genius utilizing one of the key tool’s to black music, the backup singer. This is just an example of how Kanye has grown from a producer into a complete artist.  The rapping part comes pretty easy to Kanye, he learned from Jay-Z, refrained from lying about his past, he’s socially and culturally diverse and he’s a pretty talented bragger.  On the production side he exposes his ear for different lanes of music.  La Roux’s vocals, Frank Oceans dark delivery, Lex Lugar and Southside’s drum patterns Kanye  used the newest artist and producers to their respective strengthens to perfect the little things that make this album what it is

On this project, Jay stuck strictly to his talents of flowing and rapping. Kanye, being the executive producer while also rapping took a role that was a bit more tedious.  Expectations of this album were at a level so high Kanye reached out for a little bit of help production-wise from other sound masters such as The Neptunes, The RZA, Swizz Beats, No I.D. and Hit Boy. All of whom produced at least one track individually without the assistance of Kanye.  The production on this album is simply revolutionary while the lyrical content is at best enjoyable. The content of the lyrics ride the lanes of social-consciences, black progression, self-loathing and the obsession with materialistic objects driven by Jay as expected.  The level of bragging on this album is at a rate equal to that of none other than Birdman and Lil Wayne on 2006’s Like Father Like Son album. Once you think about it, when you’re on the throne it’s hard to talk up when no one is above you so I can understand why they chose to talk down.  Jay and Kanye both display their lyrical talents using punch lines and metaphors.  Original Hip Hop technique is also displayed as they split verses finishing each other’s sentences which is always a pleasure to see on an album. Watch The Throne’s production complexity is the highlight of the album.  Kanye and Jay have raised the bar for upcoming albums from other hip hop heavy weights.


Here is a Track by Track breakdown of Watch The Throne

1. No Church In The Wild feat. Frank Ocean (Prod. 88-Keys & Kanye West, Add. produciton by Mike Dean)
West and 88-Keys’ track brings out the best in both emcees over James Brown’s “Don’t Tell A Lie About Me and I Won’t Tell the Truth About You” while Jay and Kanye introduce the album. The topic of this track takes a look into the fast and dark life from two guys who are at the top of the entertainment industry. Frank Ocean and backup vocals from The Dream let you know you’re in for a ride on this album.

2. Lift Off feat. Beyoncé (Prod. By Kanye West, Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Q-Tip & Don Jazzy) (Add Vocals. By Seal, Mr Hudson, Don Jazzy, Bankulli and Ricardo Louis)
This song is very visual. Beyonce’ is featured using her vocals to fuel the rocket that the listener is taking off on. It’s not an immediate standout on the album, though like everything on this album it will grow on you and those horns will be stuck in your head.

3. “N**gas in Paris”(Prod. Hit Boy)
This is what you would expect from the two artist. Jay and Kanye are at their best over a beat that will put anyone in a good mood. Especially if you are black and just happen to be in Paris. The lyrics highlight their bragging talents and defended by the Will Ferrell/Jon Heder ice-skating comedy Blades of Glory. “What does that even mean? No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative, It get’s the people going! “says Ferrell following a Kanye punch line that was in need of much positive conviction.

4. “Otis” Otis Redding (Produced by Kanye West)
After the release of the video this song climbs up the chart. This song is simple, Kanye and Jay boast over an excellently sampled beat of Otis Reddings “Try A Little Tenderness”. Jay outshines Kanye lyrically yet the organs add more positive to Kanye’s presence.

5. “Gotta Have It” (Produced by The Neptunes) 

This is another song that highlights the talents of the two. It’s another perfect example of hip hop at its finest. Kanye and Jay split verses in 8-bar intervals basically running an unprotected train on the beat provided by Jay’s arguably favorite producers.

6. “New Day” (Produced by The RZA)
Jay and Kanye offer words of wisdom to their unborn sons over a perfect production from the RZA. This song changes the mood on the album and stretches the mind of the listener. This song will become a favorite after a few listens. The beat is complex and intoxicating though the length of the track is disappointing.

7. “That’s My Bitch”(Produced by Q-Tip & Kanye West)
La Roux’s Elly Jackson brings her special vocals to assist The Throne,  this song will be a favorite for intoxicated dance-offs. The drums take you back to early hip hop production plus this song just flat out feels good.

8. “Welcome to the Jungle” (Produced by Swizz Beatz)
Swizz Beats lays down fine tuned chords along with perfect mixing so Jay and Kanye’s delivery can stand out on this head nodder.

9. “Who Gon Stop Me”(Produced by Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph & Kanye West)
Arguably the best produced song on the album featuring the dubstep baseline and gloomy snare along with punch lines and flow switched that put Jay and Kanye in a league of their own.

10. “Murder to Excellence” (Produced by Swizz Beatz & S1)
The album would not be complete without a song like this. Similar to “Power” this song makes one think about where they are now versus where their older relatives once were. Regardless of race, this song is powerful as it moves from black on black murder to black excellence.

11. “Made in America”feat. Frank Ocean (Produced by Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph) [previously Sweet Baby Jesus] Frank Ocean slides back on in to sing a hook that pays tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz and of course, Sweet Baby Jesus on the album’s most serene track. Kanye and Jay are on point but Frank Ocean lands his tone on this American anthem.

12. “Why I Love You” (Produced by Mike Dean & Kanye West)
Mr. Hudson helps Jay lend one of the most obvious messages on the album. Aimed directly at his old Roca-Fella partner Beanie Sigel.

13. “Illest Motherf**ker Alive”(Produced by Southside & Kanye West)
The reason for  three minutes of silence are unknown but are taken. Kanye plays to Southside’s specialty with his drum patterns that are running around the south right now. Kanye fits this song more than Jay because he just sounds so happy to be on it. Hype Williams has no choice but to shoot this video.

14. “H.A.M.” (Produced by Lex Luger and Kanye West)
This song was released in January, if it was released on the date of the album this would probably be one of the records of the year. Lex Luger does Kanye and Jay justice as he has for the rest of hip hop. Jay’s flow and delivery are perfect yet  Kanye steals the show with the piano solo followed by the return of Lugars drums at the song’s conclusion.

15. “Primetime” (Produced by No I.D.)
Piano is key. No I.D. sets himself apart with an instrumental that deserves more verses. Jay’s delivery is perfect and Kanye does his best to keep up yet Jay highsteps to the end zone on this one.

16. “The Joy” (Produced by Pete Rock and Kanye West)
The deluxe version ends with a Pete Rock-produced track that fuses samples from Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You” and Syl Johnson’s “Different Strokes” to build one of the more memorable songs on the album. Jay and Kanye give stand out verses over snippets of singing, sirens, and oddshouts which cover all aspects of hip hop perfecting the album at its conclusion.

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Category: Album Review

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Hip Hop Historian and accomplished photo journalist

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