Watch the Throne… Burn

You are probably thinking, do we really need another Watch the Throne review? And the answer is a resounding no. But at the same time this album did inspire a national conversation about a rap album – the first time in ages you could ask anyone and consistently find out they were listening to the same thing as the last ten people you asked. I really enjoyed this feeling.

The record has been gushed about and praised to no end. It’s also been hated. Some critics I respect highly have said it’s the worst of the year, and some have said it’s better than anything else coming out. I hope they are listening to Watch the Couch too.

For me I was sick of it before it even dropped. The marketing campaign around it was enough to make anyone want to puke. I suppose it was naive to think that two figures with the rap sheet of these individuals couldn’t make an album together free of the modern day music industry trappings. I had hopped their accolades might just afford them that freedom but no, success is a motherfucker.

Since it’s inception this album has apparently gone through three “finished” stages, every time not meeting the standards for it’s creators. I don’t know what they were thinking with what they released, but it makes me wonder if Jay forgot his infamous Fade to Black quote “when you start thinking, you start forcing music.”

If the mass media marketing campaign wasn’t enough to turn you off the music, the music might do it on it’s own. To be fair, I was talking shit weeks ago, praising what Weiss had to say about “Otis” and pretty much writing it off. But hey, I’m both a Jay and ‘Ye fan. Eight months ago I put My Beautiufl Dark Twisted Fantasy in my favorite albums of the year, I couldn’t not pay attention. I was even ready to call bullshit on myself, expecting a typical high level of quality from these two.

You could say that quality is there. It’s not a bad record, but it sure is one that I don’t really have any interest in listening too. Give me some SuperBuddah or Main Attrakionz any day.

I’ve kept Watch the Throne in rotation heavily for over a week now, getting myself progressively more and more sick of it.

If you haven’t heard, they spend an awful lot of time extolling their wealth and the things it has allowed them to acquire. Indeed, this album wouldn’t have been made were they not some of the richest men in rap. It’s full of epicness like a Russell Crowe flick. I don’t need forced attempts to be viewed as important. These two were important solely because of their talent and where they’ve taken it, too bad they decided to ignore all of that upon joining forces.

Musically it’s all over the place, experimenting with ideas in the beats and including everything you could possibly think of that might make a sound. The opener “No Church in the Wild” features one of the most laid back auditory backdrops with some tribal drums, reoccurring synths and not much else. Neither of their verses make much sense although they certainly want us to think they are getting deep. Really guys? I don’t buy it.

Songs come and go, little sticks with me. I often wish that I could take their lyrics seriously but they are coupled with too much hubris for me. Any moment of grand insight is shackled to ten moments of contrived babel.

“New Day” has been one tune of note that everyone is quick to use as an “aha” moment. The RZA beat is very pretty, feeding Nina Simone’s vocals through auto tune could be construed as incredibly insulting but it works with the drums and the tenor of the song’s sentiment. I don’t feel Kanye at all in his verse, while some have found it to be heartfelt and enduring, it just seems like more of the same from him, looking for a way to make people like him – grow up and accept what you are.

Watch the Throne will certainly have people trying new techniques and working with new sounds. Kanye has been a master at influencing the direction of pop music and this album will be no different. If the beats ever turn up rappers will all want to try their hand on them (see the countless “Otis” remakes that have already swamped the internet).

One such trend I’ve wanted to see pick up but really not grip the hiphop nation is the use of dubstep and it’s style of production. Perhaps “Who Gon Stop Me” will inspire some interest. I only hope that those who really dig, dig deep and learn about the original purveyor of that cut as well as the countless foreign producers who cook up the closest thing to urban decay via instrumentals since the Bomb Squad was producing albums for Ice Cube. “Stop Me” is lazy on so many levels, but I already ranted about this.

Pop music has always maintained a certain level of mindlessness. The music is commercial and easily accessible. Simplistic musical sounds abound and make it easy to subdue the masses. I will give props to these two for be willing to provide something of substance to the throngs of fans who will eat this up because the marketing machine has told them too. Few pop albums feature an as diverse array of production, even if often too much is going on, the beats that do work really display an impressive desire to be “new.” Few pop releases include a discussion on black on black crime, nor attempt to inspire a new generation to consider the black power movement.

There is a constant debate in hiphop and it’s only going to continue as the genre grows older and older, is it a country for old men? I know I’m more excited about the raps of young kids these days then I am of what these two superstars are espousing – even if it is momentarily intelligent and thoughtful. All of that is fleeting to the grand scheme of opulence.

London was burning, the stock market was crashing and Watch the Throne was all most could think about – or was I the only one guilty of this? What’s redeeming here is only displayed long enough to carry you into the next hollow boast. You plank on a million Jay, you made it to the top, time to let some new kids be the rappers and you be the business man you so ardently strove to be.

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