Album review: 'Watch the Throne' a royal waste :jaydamn:

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 08-08-2011, 11:49 PM         #1
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Album review: 'Watch the Throne' a royal waste :jaydamn:
 

 

When two of the biggest names in hip-hop – Jay-Z and Kanye West -- collaborate on an album, is there any way it can live up to the hype? Likely not, and that’s the burden “Watch the Throne” (Roc-A-Fella Records/Roc Nation/Def Jam Recordings) faces.

The two have done great work in the past. As a fledgling producer, West delivered soul-fired beats that underscored Jay-Z’s 2001 release, “The Blueprint,” a hip-hop classic. Now the two operate more or less as equals, with West having a hand in most of the production and Jay-Z taking a slightly larger share of the vocals on “Watch the Throne.” In many ways it’s an album about mutual admiration.

Both artists have developed distinct, not necessarily complementary personas. Jay-Z is about imperious flow, bridging his gritty past life on the streets with his current status as a cultural tastemaker and business mogul. He operates at arm’s length from the listener, a self-styled godfather who never seems to break a sweat as he rhymes rings around his inferior would-be competition. He no longer needs to surprise us, he simply needs to file annual updates reminding us that, after all, he’s Jay-Z and you’re not.

West is more desperate, transparent, awkward, vulnerable; he’s not nearly the MC that Jay-Z is, but still he aims for the stars, often shooting well beyond traditional hip-hop subject matter and production in his desire to make an impression. He is the one more likely to surprise and enrage these days, which makes him one of the most compelling figures in contemporary pop.

But on “Watch the Throne,” West must also defer, and this makes for a sometimes difficult partnership. The production is often stellar, favoring West’s soul-dusties sensibility, with snippets of James Brown, Otis Redding and Nina Simone. But it rarely takes the kind of chances West routinely takes on his solo albums. Instead, the idea is to create an album that lives up to its royal billing, a gilded collection of potential hits with lots of hooks and plenty of branding opportunities.

The tracks rely on an array of vocalists to supply hooks. Tellingly, the first vocal heard on the album is not from one of the two stars, but Odd Future’s Frank Ocean, who provides the foreboding intro to “No Church in the Wild.” Jay-Z and then West take turns describing a night of decadence that leaves “blood on the coliseum walls.” It’s an oddly unambitious start.

“Lift Off” follows, with Jay-Z’s other half, Beyonce, delivering a vocal that again feels disengaged. “Take it to the moon, take it to the stars, how many people you know get this far,” she sings. Please.

Coupled with the album’s recent single “Otis,” in which a sharp Redding sample is wasted on a vapid litany of product-placement shout-outs from West and Jay-Z extolling how rich they are, the album already is grossly out of touch with the summer of 2011. Both West and Jay-Z were vocal backers of Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, but now that America is struggling to regain its economic bearings, they rhyme about their private jets, expensive watches and supermodel escapades.

The album’s second half finds the duo expanding the scope of their concerns, at least touching on the difficulties of the African-American community. But inevitably the focus returns to the two icons. “I look in the mirror, my only opponent,” Jay-Z raps in “Welcome to the Jungle.” For “murder to Excellence,” the two-part tale of destitution and dominance ends with you-know-who on top.

They were proudly “Made in America,” a track with another Frank Ocean vocal hook that celebrates their ability to get “a million hits” on a blog.

Their guard lowers momentarily on “New Day.” Over a handful of piano chords and a haunting soundscape from the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, Jay-Z and West hypothetically address their unborn sons. There is a poignant undertow, as they own up to missteps and disappointments. West gets off the album’s most darkly humorous lines, when he addresses his nationally televised remarks chastising President George W. Bush after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005: “I might even make him be Republican, so that everyone know that he love white people,” he says of his unborn child.

The 2005 remarks turned West into a villain, a cast that he may never be able to shake off with a certain segment of America. But his knee-jerk response to the heart-breaking images from the New Orleans flooding spoke loudly for what many disenfranchised Americans were feeling at that moment, and inspired great art in return (the Legendary K.O.’s classic protest song, “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People").

In the last few days, West (and Jay-Z) inspired another powerful piece of protest music, when Public Enemy’s Chuck D uploaded the song “Notice: Know This” on his Web site in response to the bling-saturated lyrics of “Otis,” which play out over an explosive sample of Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”

“Otis Redding was a humble country man from Macon, Ga., who bought a jet to work in, not flash,” Chuck D wrote. “He perished in that plane. Here’s to hoping that the J & K supergroup can elevate the masses and try a little bit more to reflect Otis heart rather than swag, because they’re too good to be less.”

Chuck D once called hip-hop “the black CNN,” and from Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “The Message” through N.W.A.’s “(Expletive) the Police,” its self-regard always swaggered hand-in-hand with no-holds-barred street reporting. “This is our life,” these classic hip-hop tracks declared, “deal with it.”

In many ways, West and Jay-Z are saying something similar on their new album. But their approach is not to shine a spotlight on their community. Instead, they urge listeners to “watch the throne,” and gaze in awe on their good fortune.

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284 comments for "Album review: 'Watch the Throne' a royal waste :jaydamn:"

 6 years ago '09        #2
BrooklynStiles 82 heat pts82
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dat sh*t cray
 08-08-2011, 11:54 PM         #3
Trill Clinton  OP
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.....Well damn.

Somebody up that slickems thread,but the reviewer was spitting some real sh*t,this sh*t is basically Finally Famous with better beats and enormous hype .


Last edited by Trill Clinton; 08-08-2011 at 11:56 PM..
 6 years ago '06        #4
SHootar 48 heat pts48
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yeah read this earlier...he got a point. it does get tiring to hear jay and ye go back and forth for the entire album about how much richer they are then everyone else.

for me this album bumps b/c of the production. if a verse is hot, it's a bonus unfortunately.
 6 years ago '07        #5
1LynguisticMind 177 heat pts177
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 08-09-2011, 12:03 AM         #6
Haze_Reloaded  OP
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well damn but
 6 years ago '08        #7
Arson 84 heat pts84
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 6 years ago '10        #8
Dextromethorphan 217 heat pts217
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 T R I L L said:

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Says this guy?
he has to be black and young?
 6 years ago '08        #9
Arson 84 heat pts84
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 T R I L L said:

[pic - click to view]



Says this guy?
too bad he's white, those irrefutable facts would have been etherous to jigga warriors
 6 years ago '07        #10
KnicksLost 17 heat pts17
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Instead, they urge listeners to “watch the throne,” and gaze in awe on their good fortune.
 6 years ago '10        #11
trex 16 heat pts16
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I'm not so sure the reviewer actually bothered to listen to the album. The commentary on the music is very lacking.

For example references Jay-Z's line about "blood on the coliseum walls" but didn't bother quoting the words sung by Frank Ocean after mentioning that he was the first voice on the album.

I think this line is more telling than anything,
"Both West and Jay-Z were vocal backers of Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, but now that America is struggling to regain its economic bearings, they rhyme about their private jets, expensive watches and supermodel escapades."
What on earth does that have to do with anything? I get that the stock market is in shambles but why is he tying such remarks into an album review? Was he expecting Jay-Z and Kanye to rhyme about the recession and hard times?

And then he goes on to state,
"For 'murder to Excellence,' the two-part tale of destitution and dominance ends with you-know-who on top." No commentary on the subject matter of the track, no commentary about whether the beat sounds good or bad, etc.
And to top it off, the last three paragraphs aren't even about the album.

Overall it seems like the review is very shallow and was done in a haste. It's alright for reviews to be critical but I honestly couldn't find much depth in this one.

But maybe this is expected because they probably didn't have press copies of the CD? I dunno.
 6 years ago '04        #12
psylence2k 58 heat pts58
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Reviewer has a point, I felt like this was gonna happen, when you do collab albums you have to somehow meet a common ground creatively in order for the album to sound cohesive and coherent, only thing Jay and Ye do similar lyrically is talk about their egos and money. Shyt makes them look extra pretentious, smug, and complacent. We have one of the worst economic recessions in history , ppl is outta work left and right, and these two wanna stunt on ppl with more superficial ice, hoes, and money talk.
 6 years ago '10        #13
trex 16 heat pts16
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 psylence2k said:
Reviewer has a point, I felt like this was gonna happen, when you do collab albums you have to somehow meet a common ground creatively in order for the album to sound cohesive and coherent, only thing Jay and Ye do similar lyrically is talk about their egos and money. Shyt makes them look extra pretentious, smug, and complacent. We have one of the worst economic recessions in history , ppl is outta work left and right, and these two wanna stunt on ppl with more superficial ice, hoes, and money talk.
Still kind of confused to be honest. Jay-Z and Kanye have been working together for over a decade. What parts of the album didn't sound cohesive and coherent? The review honestly didn't delve that deeply into it...unless I misread.

I agree that the timing of their bragging and stunting is insensitive in today's economy. But I didn't know it was a requirement for rappers to take that into consideration when they're creating music. Maybe I'm wrong, I dunno.

The only album I heard that actually cared about our times was How I Got Over. And it's ironic cause everyone slept on that album.
 08-09-2011, 01:08 AM         #14
Dangerously  OP
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@questlove damn. Kot's review makes me feel small and hallow that i like this record. #WTT


I think that says it all.
 6 years ago '04        #15
psylence2k 58 heat pts58
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 trex said:
Still kind of confused to be honest. Jay-Z and Kanye have been working together for over a decade. What parts of the album didn't sound cohesive and coherent? The review honestly didn't delve that deeply into it...unless I misread.

I agree that the timing of their bragging and stunting is insensitive in today's economy. But I didn't know it was a requirement for rappers to take that into consideration when they're creating music. Maybe I'm wrong, I dunno.

The only album I heard that actually cared about our times was How I Got Over. And it's ironic cause everyone slept on that album.

You read my post wrong, I didn't say it didn't sound cohesive and coherent, I actually was inferring that it did but the reason it did was because that they found a common ground creatively , subject matter that lyrically they both had in common, but sad thing is that they only thing that they BOTH rap about well enough to make a theme for a whole album about is superficial materialistic rap and pretentious egotistical braggadocio. I dont think rappers or anyone else should be "required" to write about anything, do what you want, but at the same time be prepared for the criticism.
 08-09-2011, 01:14 AM         #16
Cheeze  OP
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 psylence2k said:
Reviewer has a point, I felt like this was gonna happen, when you do collab albums you have to somehow meet a common ground creatively in order for the album to sound cohesive and coherent, only thing Jay and Ye do similar lyrically is talk about their egos and money. Shyt makes them look extra pretentious, smug, and complacent. We have one of the worst economic recessions in history , ppl is outta work left and right, and these two wanna stunt on ppl with more superficial ice, hoes, and money talk.
I feel the same way. The industry is saturated with this kind of talk so much already, what makes jay and Kanye saying it better? I'm a huge Kanye fan, musically and sonically, used to be a huge Jay fan, a few tracks on Kingdom Come was where I stopped listening, but the whole braggadocio flow and subject matter is played out. I'm convinced Jay has nothing left to rhyme about after this.

Album was garbage to me even tho Ye spazzed out on making some beats and went, I felt, to a different level. But even then he messed up some tracks by doing "too much" with the beat.
 08-09-2011, 01:16 AM         #17
GOD999  OP
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Damn...Even my city's newspaper goin hard on the album? Cause the last couple Ye albums the tribune favored like a mothafu*ka....guess not this time around
 08-09-2011, 01:16 AM         #18
Cheeze  OP
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 Dangerously said:
@questlove damn. Kot's review makes me feel small and hallow that i like this record. #WTT


I think that says it all.
that's where I first read this

i gave it a look cause if quest love questioned himself then I had to read it cause he couldn't stop tweeting about it last night
 08-09-2011, 01:21 AM         #19
Illstreet  OP
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In many ways, West and Jay-Z are saying something similar on their new album. But their approach is not to shine a spotlight on their community. Instead, they urge listeners to ?watch the throne,? and gaze in awe on their good fortune.
A.k.a. "I want extremely succesful guys with tons of money and influence to act like they're struggling and talk about the hood"



They don't want rappers on that next level... Talking that sophistication sh*t...Rather they stay in their place and constantly struggle with drugs and violence...

"Them crackas gonna act like I ain't on they a.ss"

 08-09-2011, 01:26 AM         #20
Cheeze  OP
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 Illstreet said:
A.k.a. "I want extremely succesful guys with tons of money and influence to act like they're struggling and talk about the hood"



They don't want rappers on that next level... Talking that sophistication sh*t...Rather they stay in their place and constantly struggle with drugs and violence...

"Them crackas gonna act like I ain't on they a.ss"

you're a known jay-z d!ck rider

no one takes you seriously

you gave this album a 10/10 and 5 stars the second you heard it was being made

sophistication? if everyone else rhymes about it its not sophisticated, its boring and monotonous

Now you'll respond with some irrelevant post about one of my sports teams cause that has something to do with this thread or the fact the album is bad
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