So when the Watch the Throne came out I had no idea. It was not on my radar, I was listening to other things. I was, until our own Will Johnsen asked me, with his boyish enthusiasm, not even have I heard it, but what I thought of it. Oops, I wasn’t even thinking about it.
I acquired the album and gave it a listen. It didn’t do anything for me. Sounded overly produced, sounded like it was targeting high school kids and that music lost appeal to me 15 years ago.
In order for me to do this right, I thought, I really have to immerse myself in this album and try to hear what actually is going on. Since I never listened to either of these respectful artists I jumped on Spotify and listened to the whole Jay-Z catalog in a week. It wasn’t very thoroughly done, but I had to have some idea before I wrote. And oh my, has that helped.
First and foremost, what I noticed was how weak Jay-Z was. In comparison to his Volume series of albums, Jay-Z used to be a poet- on this album he sounds like Lady Gaga. Lyrics were over simplified for him; I was not challenged on any level by Jay-Z.
Kanye is just annoying to me. I know, I know, no judgment based on his personal life should be passed on his music, but his music is cocky. He always sounds like he is better then the rest of us. He is always in the best clubs, parties, cars, has the best women…. blah blah, blah, blah and he sounded like that again. He is not really telling me much and I’m so over him. But let me break it down for you, song by song.
“No Church in the Wild” features Frank Ocean. That’s it. Plethora of auto tune on this is killing my music taste buds. Kind of like biting into something sour when it was supposed to be sweet. Gross. Also Kanye’s rhymes didn’t do much for me: “Coke on a black skin, make it stripped like zebra, I call that a jungle fever.” What is he talking about?
“Lift Off” is a track that regularly gets skipped on my iPod. Beyoncé sounds horrible!!! Wtf, if you don’t mind? Nothing matches, everything is out of sync and I think Bruno Mars would have done better job. She sounds like she is really having hard time. Oh my Beyoncé, you totally ruined yourself for me. Kanye is trying to sing on this track. Holly molly, please don’t. Worst track on the album.
“Niggas in Paris” is in the top three songs for me. Beat is still a bit clubby for me, but once they start rapping, it is not bad at all. Kanye is still cocky but I don’t mind when he says: “What’s Gucci my nigga? / What’s Louie my killa? / What’s drugs my deala? / What’s that jacket, Margiela? / Doctors say I’m the illest / Cause I’m suffering from realness / Got my niggas in Paris / And they going gorillas, huh!
“Otis” is a great track. Only problem I have is they say Otis Redding is featured on this album? Mr. Redding died on December 10, 1967 so I am not sure how he is featured, but the song is fun. Guys go back and forth and actually put some spine into their rapping.
“Gotta Have It” is my number two favorite track on this album. I love constant “oohooo” in the background, I love James Brown’s “Whatchu need” question and I love them mentioning my “hometown” Chi-town, but also “Brooklyn ‘til I die.” The song is catchy and fun, but also smart and for me is the closest to the original Jay-Z I grew to love this week.
“New Day” is apparently a RZA produced song. “Me n the RZA connect”? I am confused. I expected some RZA or at least a Wu sounding track, but this is like a poem with a lot of auto-tune that kills the rap. This song is dedicated to unborn sons (of course), but it’s really Kanye whining about how nobody likes him. If you ever wonder why people don’t like you Kanye, remember you wrote this: “And I’ll never let ‘em ever hit the telethon / I mean even if people dyin’ and the world ends.” Who says that?
“That’s my Bitch” is ok. I don’t mind the beat so much as I don’t like the song. That’s it.
“Welcome to the Jungle” produced by Swizz Beatz, has this annoying one key note in the background and it was just driving me crazy. I can’t get past it at all. As the title says, track is about the hard life, ghetto, murders and the typical. Nothing impressive.
“Who Gon Stop Me” starts with “This is something like the Holocaust / Millions of our people lost” and gave me goose bumps. Mentioning Holocaust without elaborating is never good, but it’s Kanye, he can say whatever. Beat is awesome, there is a pinch of glitch and dub and I dig it. In the middle of the song the beat changes for worse, becomes incoherent and scattered, but overall this is not a bad joint.
“Murder To Excellence” is a socially conscious song, with a choir in the background, sounding like the talented girls from the local community center no one will ever hear. Its solid, Kanye and Jay are trying to put the attention on “Black on black murder.” They represent their respective cities and talk about the pointless acts of murder especially in the black community.
“Made in America”, what to say? Frank Ocean is on the track again offering his sultry voice, but the “Sweet baby Jesus” hook is not doing it for me. I usually skip this song.
“Why I Love You” is my favorite song on this album. The beat is slower but fun, made for dancing. Mr. Hudson is amazing and really puts sass in this song. Another reason I love this song the most is that it features the least amount of Kanye West. Jay-Z is smart again: “You ripped out my heart and you stepped on it / I picked up the pieces / Before you swept on it / God damn this shit leaves a mess don’t it / Shit feelin’ like death don’t it” The best part is a violin at the end. Great joint.
“Illest Motherfucker Alive” comes as the first of four bonus songs. Kanye is singing again for a short time. I wasn’t really into it… It sounds very amateur and not like him. The soprano choir of gospel goddesses accompanies the hook and that part sounds very heaven like, being just the right soundtrack for Kanye to announce to the world that he is the “illest motherfucker alive.”
“HAM” employs the same style of choir of angels ascending from paradise, just much louder this time – it really gave me chills. Beat goes bananas as Jay and Kanye go “ham.” Towards the end the choir’s singing morphs into more screaming, piano’s are involved and overall sounded little bit out there. Think Enya maybe. It ends with a dramatic beat, but I really didn’t mind this song.
“Primetime” is owned by No I.D. (from Chicago) endowing this album with an amazing beat. Gentle piano in the back was doing just the right thing and with some good rhymes, this is one of the better songs on this project.
“Joy” is like dessert at the end of a meal. Sampling Curtis Mayfield can’t ever go wrong, but production by Pete Rock puts a cherry on the top. A great deal of “oh” and “ah” really works with this beat because – “This beat deserves Hennessy, a bad bitch / And a bag of weed, the holy trinity” and I concur. Why this song is a bonus is a mystery but I am happy it is here because it’s dope.
Overproduced and anticipated like a new line of Nikes, this album made an entrance. In general I am on the fence. There are a few good songs, but there are as many bad ones. Small number of good points are made, and sounding like they are targeting teenagers, I hope they are going to be heard. I found out that they are going to help people struggling through the drought disaster currently taking place in Africa, by auctioning the car used in the “Otis” video and for that I applaud. Too much money is wasted on this album to be just for their profit. On the other hand it seems that they were blasting all of their riches into our faces, but what was really the point of this whole album, what is the meaning of it?
“Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative.”