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Watch the Throne

Jay Z and Kanye West: Watch the Throne

  • Jay Z and Kanye West
  • R&B & Hip-Hop
  • Out now
  • Roc-A-Fella, Roc Nation, Def Jam
  • Everywhere
reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Jay Z and Kanye West: Watch the Throne

Of all the dream-team collaborations we
could hope to see, a Jay Z and Kanye West partnership was never too far; the
last decade has been a tease. Now, probably the two most influential rappers
alive have linked arms to form the aptly named duo ‘The Throne’ and taken a plunge
that is as much an artistic risk as it is a massive money-spinner.

Watch the Throne is a mish-mash of
sounds that never strays too far from either one’s repertoire. While this is
Jay Z’s fourth album collaboration, never has Kanye West had to share so much of the
attention.

Frank Ocean’s smooth vocals open the album
on ‘No Church in the Wild’. It’s not the gala start that you’d expect, but more
of a simmering twitch; the base guitar loop excites and promises something
special.

For better and for worse (but more for
worse) Beyonce takes the edge off of ‘Lift Off’; a track that would be more
suited on one of her own albums. ‘N*ggas in Paris’ can’t come fast enough, and
Jay Z comes into his own on this track. The song is actually the perfect
illustration of the two different styles in unison; Jay Z’s sharp incisive raps
and West’s nonchalant punch lines.

‘Otis’, named so because of the use of an
Otis Redding sample, is as grand as a first single should be, but sounds
generic in equal measure. The Neptunes-produced ‘Gotta Have It’ is regrettably only two-and-a-half minutes long; the two artists’ seamless back-and-forth
raps are a highlight. Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA imparts his production and wisdom on
‘New Day,’ as both rappers grant advice to their unborn seeds on a sombre
piano-driven track.

‘That’s
My B*itch’ has Q-Tip’s fingerprints all over it and is quintessential, nonsensical
Kanye genius; one that will make you move. It’s an obvious choice
for a second single, and Swizz Beats completes the hat-trick of guest producers
on ‘Welcome to the Jungle’.

Fast forward to ‘Murder in Excellence’,
where the duo’s writing peaks, as they address an increasing nonchalance of gun
culture, drive-bys, et al: ‘I feel the pain in my city wherever I go/ 340
soldiers died in Iraq/ 509 died in Chicago.’

Frank Ocean pops up again in ‘Made in
America’, and British r&b virtuoso Mr. Hudson lends his skills to ‘Why I
Love You’.

There’s plenty to keep any music fan
entertained on Watch the Throne, but
there isn’t enough of a range to make it a classic, and in turn, although both
men share the limelight equally, neither is able to execute at his best. It’s
as if both are too conscious of the other.

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