“Watch the Throne” – The Review
As an avid audiophile and someone who appreciates the best at their craft going to work in this down market for good music, I will always give an LP a fair listen and offer my personal (I dunno why I write this every time, someone is going to inevitably overlook this and flood the post with negativity without reading this line) perspective on the record, song by song.
Personally, I expected more, because of nearly a year of sustained hype. Production-wise, we know that Kanye has been on an Alternate Universe wave the past couple of years, since the release of 808’s & Heartbreak. Jay-Z is probably bored with rapping now, and certainly talking about things that he did in his 20s in the 1990s is foolish, as he is in his early 40s now in the 2010s.
Alas, “Watch the Throne”:
SN: I have the Deluxe Edition and the Original LP, with some of the tracks that were excluded from the final cut.
1. No Church in the Wild (Feat. Frank Ocean).
Not feeling autotune. I was done with it before Roger Troutman died. Only in a few instances is it okay. Kanye singing a hook is not wavy. Although Jay-Z salvages it a bit with his bars. The things he raps about now sounds more like someone who sits on the corporate boardroom or the director’s table at a major organization, which is, well, what he does. Really hard for the streets to grasp the concept of these songs, but if you are equally streets and equally corporate/upwardly-mobile, you can appreciate Jay-Z in the past half decade or so up to the present. Kanye West is just a bit too out there for me, although his multis and phors are generally on point when he’s not singing on this one.
2. Lift Off (Feat. Beyoncé).
Sounds more like something from a bad 80’s cartoon. Someone had to be on E to both 1) make this joint and 2) OK it to be on the track list. Someone will allege that this is classic material, but I disagree. Worst song on the album. EASILY.
3. Niggas in Paris.
On some late 90’s Jay-Z here. Almost like those “Nigga What, Nigga Who” joints with Amil. I will give Kanye credit, his bars have become a lot more sophisticated (for his standards) since he regressed the past two albums. We all know Kanye is Top 5 in the game currently, production-wise, but I expect more than 8-bar loops. Although working in the movie scenes, reverb and tinkering with the EQ and RPMs is creative and tastefully done here.
4. Otis (Feat. Otis Redding).
Don’t understand the meaning of “Featuring” on some of these tracks. These cats have been dead for years. They weren’t in the “boof” (booth) when you did the record, or even got on the .mp3 in another studio elsewhere. Why not “Feat. James Brown”, since he was sampled on this song also?
THEY’RE DEAD. Stop it.
This is the most notable song on the album, of course, because it was the first true single with airplay. It’s creative, to say the least, but sometimes I get bothered when people sample songs that are sentimental to me, only to brag about material things and controlling the game. The song is catchy, though, and although Hot 97 played it to death (thanks Funk Flex SMH) within a week, it’s a good song. Top 4 off the album.
5. Gotta Have It.
Not great, not bad. Nothing special. Sounds like filler.
6. New Day.
First thing I thought was some RETURN OF THE BOOM BAP with the break beat that started the song. “Me and the RZA connect” ha. I’m sick and friggin’ tired of autotune and vocoders, man. It’ll destroy ANY song for me. I can’t “hear” the phors, multis, subs, punchlines, if you feel me — because of it. Not a bad song, though. The melody is about the only thing I can hear over that annoying autotune. I thought Jay said there was Death to Autotune two summers ago. What is this, some sort of Lazarus Project?
7. That’s My Bitch.
Is this one of the tracks that Neptunes did? I can tolerate this joint, it has a throwback feel and the hook definitely feels like one of those obscure joints from the 90s that you only heard once or twice in 1994 and then “rediscovered” in 2007, kicking yourself for not appreciating it more at the time.
8. Welcome to the Jungle.
Seizure-Inducing beat, but much like “All About the Benjamins” with Puff, and “Shootouts” with Jim Jones and Sen City, you can appreciate it more if you have Mids and a nice speaker system. Rap is boring to Jay-Z. You can’t really say he doesn’t rhyme well, but Kanye seems to like to rap as an outlet to brag. That’s fine, that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s fine (Derek Anderson Voice), but I say stick to refining your production. That gets stale eventually, B. Make sure you save some of these beats for Cam’ron’s next solo joint.
9. Who Gon’ Stop Me.
Hardest joint on the album. Wordplay is on point. I like the way the beat switches up also, not the same stale 8-16 loop.
10. Murder to Excellence.
Creative, I’ll say that much. One of the better songs on the album. And again, the beat doesn’t remain the same. Switching up the loops, sample or not, shows real production ability.
11. Made in America (Feat. Frank Ocean).
Everyone is obsessed with Frank Ocean.
This will have to grow on me. It’s not bad at all, but it don’t just jump out and GRAB you, either.
12. Why I Love You (Feat. Mr. Hudson).
13. Illest Motherfucker Alive.
Feels like some Jeezy or Gucci Mane or some Young Money, minus Aubrey’s annoying Ambien/Sleep Inducing voice.
Not coincidentally, Kanye mentions “No Doz” in the song ha.
Everyone loved this one from the time it initially dropped. I don’t see the fascination. It’s one of them joints that you are OK with playing in the background at a party where you can’t hear yourself think and you have to yell just to talk to the person next to you at a lounge or a loft party.
I think also, because the saying originated in the south, and it’s WILD OLD already — it kind of seemed forced to me and didn’t grab my attention. But gave it 5 fair listens. Like the way the beat changes up at the end, though.
I thought this was gonna be on some mid-90s Hip-Hop for a minute. It’s not bad, but I don’t understand the concept or purpose. Nice sequencing on this one. Kanye doesn’t really bring his A game on production nor lyrics, though. Thankfully, the beat doesn’t remain the same throughout. Some of these cats who call themselves “producers” just because they take an ill sample and loop it — please. Not Kanye’s best work here, but he’s a certified producer, though.
16. The Joy (Feat. Curtis Mayfield).
Funky, that’s for sure. Mellow, 90’s type joint. I can dig it.
OVERALL: I give it a 7.5 out of 10. Lyrics could have been better, since you expect more from Jay-Z, and have heard better from Kanye since late 2009. Production, while very creative and top shelf overall, had a few low points and that absolute DEBACLE of a fairytale (I expected to see Tinkerbell come floating into my room as soon as the beat dropped) called “Lift Off” should have been LEFT OFF the album.
I knock it a point or so because the output didn’t match the hype, but on the strength of it being Jay and Kanye, I cannot give it less than 7. A .5 credit goes to making me feel 90’s a little on a couple of joints.