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When both Jay Z and Kanye West allude to the fact that they are the best in their genre (and they do this quite often), it’s really hard to argue with them. Sure there are other really talented Hip Hop guys out there, but both HOV and Yeezy offer something so unique to the game that it’s clear they lead the pack. Both artists last solo releases proved this, and their collaboration album “Watch The Throne” (just released digitally yesterday, on sale in stores this Friday) gives more examples of why it’s the truth.
There are complex tracks here that not too many rappers could effectively flow over, while Jay and Kanye make it seem effortless. There are concepts and deep issues tackled here that other rappers might just gloss over or not even understand. The references used, the samples, the dub step breakdowns, the uniquely utilized soul samples. The sheer versatility that this album displays and the fact that each guy attacks each song so flawlessly makes it truly an epic Hip Hop album, the kind that only these two could deliver.
A great meeting of the minds doesn’t always work so well, but Dr. West and Dr. Carter sound so natural together, trading off verses so smoothly and at times going back and forth within verses, finishing each others sentences. When you have dozens of rap songs with features that were recorded in different studios and states you feel the edited nature of those tracks, which is why this collab stands out because it does feel like they’ve been a working duo for years.
When it comes to the actual content, well that’s why I’m just writing a “First Impression” review. The album has so much going on, that all sounds great put together, but once you dissect each bit — the lyrics, the double entendres, the influences, the insane and ever changing production — the album will reveal itself as the true genius that it is. The first impression is that the album just feels so big, the production on the album is so harsh at times with hard hitting bass and drums and a heavy electronic influence (first single “H.A.M.”, “Who Gon Stop Me”, “Lift Off”, “Niggas in Paris”), and than at times it gets really smooth and lush (the stunning “New Day”), or dense and moody (“No Church in the Wild”), and even funky and danceable (“That’s My Bitch”, “Otis”). Kanye, along with track co-producers Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes, S1, 88 Keys, and Jeff Bhasker to name a few offer a wide variety of sounds for the album, and even inside the tracks themselves tones and tempos change constantly.
Lyrically, the Kings walk through similar terrain but conceptually they make a great statement here. As the Kings on the throne, they boast about their place in the industry but also examine the pain and negativity that comes with it. On “New Day” they both talk about not wanting their unborn sons to make the same mistakes they’ve made. “Welcome to the Jungle” (another stand out track for me so far) they talk about drowning their sorrows in drugs and alcohol (“where the fuck is the sun? It’s been a while. Momma, look at ya son, what happened to my smile?”). And at the same time, they are able to look beyond themselves and acknowledge what their public is going through (“Where the fuck is the press? Where the fuck is the Pres? Either they know or don’t care, I’m fucking depressed”). They also talk about the racial injustices and racial genocide in society, which shows how fearless they are. Of course it’s not all that heavy, they have enough funny lines, word play, and charisma to balance out the seriousness with a little fun.
All in all, great album. Even after just two listens, I feel like I could write and write and write about it. So i’ll just leave it at this.
4.5 of 5
Best: New Day, Welcome to the Jungle, No Church for the Wild (sorry for no links, apparently Jay and Ye are not playing with this release when it comes to copyrighting)