Watch the Throne is as brilliant in parts as it is contradictory in others
Watch the Throne 3/5 Tongues were wagging from the moment Jay-Z and Kanye West announced this hip-hop duumvirate. Some of Hova’s biggest hits had Kanye on production, but with both on the mic could it be more than the sum of its parts: Jay’s effortlessly cool flow tag-teamed with Kanye’s manic, occasionally brilliant and just as often cringe-inducing couplets?
Watch the Throne squeezes it all in. It’s got some soaring hooks, a few dope beats and a ton of contradictions. The same album that includes a tender letter to their unborn sons (‘New Day’) and mourns black-on-black crime (‘Murder to Excellence’) also features the former Def Jam CEO bragging about wanton wealth (‘So many watches I need eight arms’) and guns (‘Black strap, you know what that’s for’), countered with Kanye’s head-shaking ‘Ix-nay off my d****-nay / That’s pig Latin, itch-bay.’
Otis Redding and Nina Simone get spliced and diced on ‘Otis’ and the RZA-produced ‘New Day’, respectively, while cameos from Beyoncé, La Roux and Bon Iver kick up stardust. But it’s ho-hum Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean who inexplicably gets two key guest spots, the second of which, ‘Made in America’, repeats, ‘Sweet Jesus, sweet baby Jesus’. Jay serves up a verse about grandma and cutting drugs, punctuated with his huhs and uhs.
One of the disc’s strongest cuts, ‘Why I Love You’, brings back 808s & Heartbreak ringer Mr Hudson for the woozy chorus, which splits the difference between trap music and the kind of throbbing, bass-heavy electro making waves on dance floors and message boards. That Kanye shines brighter than rap’s once reigning rhymer pretty much says it all. It also leaves us thinking that it’s these guys who should be watching the throne, not us.