Throwback Thursday Review: Jay Z & Kanye West | Watch The Throne

Luxury Rap. This is what happens when two of pop-culture’s most identifiable and revered artists come together to make an EP that vibes so well it soon becomes a full length album debuting at hotels, museums and planetariums alike. Jay Z and Kanye West have long been in the public’s eye, whether for their music or more personal affairs. The success stands them on an elevated podium from which they are able to peer down and establish or destroy trends so the rest of us can go on living our lives thinking we are cool. Not a bad place to be. For us mortals, we remain grounded and are coerced by images of grandeur into doing the one thing they want us to, Watch The Throne.

This album is a success no matter how you look at it. Commercially, it has sold nearly two million copies and it contains enough of each artist’s handiwork to sonically ascertain their legacies. The production is where this project shines through most aptly. Each track is lush and expansive with an army of top producers attached to the credit list. This may very likely be the album with the most expensive and creatively used samples ever. From the entrancing Indiggo Twins sample on ‘Murder To Excellence’ to the ridiculously awesome and soulful chops of Otis Redding’s voice used on ‘Otis’, nothing is in its proper place, and thank the lord because it sounds fantastic.

The scope of the project is gigantic. Take the opening track for example, ‘No Church In The Wild’ verifies Jay and Kanye’s refusal to relinquish the control of their lives to any God. It’s harshly funky synths isolate their raps and twist Frank Ocean’s vocals into a dark chant. They take time to do a little of everything on this project. Reflecting on their rocket-like ascension to success on ‘Lift Off’ couple the undeniably fun braggadocio that Kanye and Jay make sound so good with a very catchy Beyonce hook. It starts with enough brass wind instruments to take you back to ‘Touch The Sky’ era Kanye.

Lyrically, the album and duo sounds best when they are boasting about their success or poking fun at white corporate America on ‘Gotta Have It’. They aren’t afraid to layer in some socially conscious talk about being a good father, the struggles of black women and women’s image in society in general. But right when you start thinking about how much fun ‘Otis’ and ‘Niggas In Paris’ were a few tracks ago, one of the album’s best instrumentals and some of the most memorable bars are dropped on ‘Who Gon Stop Me’. The synths sweep across the electronic/house backdrop and the verbal pacing is veteran if anything.

To put it simply, this album has everything that we have come to expect from these two master class musicians; expansive lyrical artillery, uncontainable energy, production that manages to root itself in history yet be ‘in the moment’ and forward thinking all at once. It gives us all this and so much more in the form of playful camaraderie between the two. While they have worked together countless time before this album was even a thought to them, something about the process they underwent while creating this project churned out very gratifying results. It is the Kanye and Jay Z album we all needed and definitely the one everyone deserved.

8.8

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