On this album’s second track, ‘Lift Off’, Beyonce asks “How many people you know could take it this far?”. Well Beyonce, you pose an interesting question that leads me to the realisation that frankly, the answer is nobody. With an all star cast of producers and some of the most expensive sampling of recent years, there is no way any other pair of artists in the rap game could produce an album this rich.
But it’s not enough that the small print details the glamour of this album, that the cover itself is gold-laden or that without all of that it would still be the biggest two names in rap working in unison, but on Watch The Throne Kanye West and Jay-Z decide they need to brag about their wealth and power, dropping names of about a dozen brands I’ve never heard of in the process. What else could we expect?
The aforementioned track ‘Lift Off‘ proves the most commercially minded on the album and would be a strong tip for another single, and has the kind of grandeur you’d expect, while there’s minimal rap content from our two kings. Frank Ocean’s contribution on two tracks goes a long way to prove his worthiness in the business, ‘No Church In The Wild’ being the moody opener and ‘Made In America’ where Jay and Yeezy reminisce about their early days.
The standout for me has to be the Nina Simone sampling ‘New Day’ which is delicately produced and sees both artists rapping to their imagined sons, Kanye saying “I’ll never let my son have an ego, he’ll be nice to everyone wherever we go”, while Jay-z apologises for his wrongdoings – “sins of your father make your life ten times harder”.
Watch the Throne follows massive albums from both rappers; West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy being a huge critical success, and Jay’s The Blueprint 3 being a huge commercial one. This record comes almost as a side project for them, which makes it a resounding success, as it all seems very effortless. Compared to MBDTF it seems less coherent as an album, with production styles varying from classic soul sampling (‘Otis’) to tracks that are essentially dubstep/electronic floor fillers (‘Who Gon Stop Me’ and ‘Why I Love You’). In that respect it’s sonically much closer to a Jay-Z album, but considering West’s input on the outside of the booth, his contribution is probably the greater of the pair.
There isn’t a weak track on this album, and I think to an extent Jay-Z has West to thank for this. Whilst Jay’s lyricism and flow is as good as ever, West brings a quality of production and often a measure of patience to the album, which is particularly seen on the breakdowns of ‘Lift Off’ and ‘Niggas in Paris’. The pairing though is a brilliant one, and I fully hope they decide to follow this up with another collaboration.