Best songs: “Ni**as In Paris”, “Who Gon’ Stop Me”, “Murder To Excellence”, “Made In America”, “Illest Motherf*cker Alive”, “H.A.M.”
I usually like to listen to an album for at least a week and even as much as three weeks before I review it. But since I’ve been playing Watch The Throne straight since it released at midnight, I’m going to give it a stab. Everyone knows the hype/history surrounding this album, so let’s just get into the song break down.
1. No Church In The Wild f. Frank Ocean (prod. Kanye West, Mike Dean & Ken Lewis)
It’s surprising they start the album with an atheist concept, considering later on the album Frank Ocean’s singing about “baby jesus”. I’m not a fan of Jay’s start-and-stop flow here as it throws of the momentum of the rolling guitar riff. Yeezy does a much better job flow wise and lyrically has more interesting subject matter. The big winner here is Frank Ocean who may have just surpassed The Weeknd as a more three dimensional artist going forward.
The song ends with a Dexter sounding interlude which plays throughout the album in the same vein of a theatrical play.
2. Lift Off f. Beyoncé (prod. Kanye West, Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Q-Tip & Don Jazzy; Additional Vocals by Seal, Mr Hudson, Don Jazzy, Bankulli & Ricardo Louis)
Just from the credits that Seal is on this is interesting, unfortunately, I can’t hear him or Mr. Hudson anywhere on the track. Add that to the disdain I have for Beyonce’s screaming vocal stacks, a non-rhythmic beat, and weak 8 bar raps, this track is a hot mess until about 3:12. On the bright side, I think this will make a cool video, especially when the spaceship takes off.
3. Ni**as In Paris (prod. Hit-Boy)
What’s most interesting here is the Blades of Glory sample after Yeezy’s verse saying “I don’t even know what that means? No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative. No it’s not. It gets the people going!”. My take on that is that since it’s over a “south style beat” they are taking subliminal shots at all these “BMF” style songs that have choruses repeating the name of some random guy usually a drug dealer. It’s also interesting because like H.A.M., production-wise it tries to bridge the gap between South drum patterns and Yeezy’s prog-hop style.
4. Otis f. Otis Redding (prod. Kanye West)
I appreciate the rapping on here cause you cant deny Jay’s claim to swag and Kanye’s boombastic flow. Production wise, I think they could have incorporated drums and flip the sample with more skill. As it sounds right now its like a interlude on a Ghostface album, which may have been what they we’re going for.
5. Gotta Have It (prod. The Neptunes)
I enjoyed the James Brown and Indian sounding vocal sample, but I think the Neptunes need to do something with their drum patterns and samples as they are beyond played out. Lyrically Jay’s “planken on a million” and Ye’s got “maybachs on bachs on bachs” is awesome to say the least.
6. New Day (prod. The RZA)
Is this is what Rza is producing these days because the drums sound way too synth, not to mention the auto-tuned sample of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” playing throughout these “heartfelt” verses makes it unlistenable. While the concept of rapping to your unborn child is interesting, I really don’t care about either Kanye or Jay-Z’s unborn song. I’d rather listen to Will Smith’s Just The Two of Us.
7. That’s My Bi**h (prod. Q-Tip & Kanye West)
When the unmixed leak dropped a few months back I was blown away because this song was not only a sure hit but also allowed Kanye and Jay to retain their artistic credibility. Unfortunately this new re-worked version falls short both on the way it was mixed, song arrangement and Jay’s additional bars. Like really is Penelope Cruz considered a non-white pretty icon?
8. Welcome To The Jungle (prod. Swizz Beatz)
I really hate when Swizzy uses this drum pattern but what’s even worse is when he does his trademark hypeman flow on the hook. Fortunately, Jay sounds incredibly focused flow-wise. However he isn’t saying anything he hasn’t said before and to makes matters worse he calls himself a “tortured soul”. If a guy that’s worth half a billion is a tortured soul, what are we?
9. Who Gon’ Stop Me (prod. Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph & Kanye West)
This isn’t as dubstep sounding (read: gay) as I thought it would be and it’s actually the standout track being both innovative yet still staying hip hop. Yeezy’s guitar amp’d “Who Gonna Stop Me” chant is probably going to start some fights in the club (mainly by me) and when the beat flips into a hooded up timbaland territory all hell will break lose.
10. Murder To Excellence (prod. Swizz Beatz & Symbolyc One)
Immediately the Indigo Twins’ “La La La” sample will grab you and bring back feelings of the Kanye/Jay-Z earlier collab “Never Let Me Down” from The College Dropout. Interestingly the subject matter is similar as the two trade rhymes about “black on black violence” before the beat flips and the subject matter becomes “black wealth”.
11. Made In America f. Frank Ocean (prod. Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph)
Frank Ocean links Martin Luther King, his wife, the Virgin Mary, Jesus’s dad Josepsh and baby Jesus himself in some sort of Black Christian free association type of way. Yeezy clearly best Hov here as Jay’s “start and stop” flow and self-compressed voice makes it difficult for him to emote as effectively as little brother Ye.
12. Why I Love You f. Mr Hudson (prod. Mike Dean & Kanye West)
The album ends with Mr. Hudson’s interpolation of Cassius “I Love You So” which has Jay-Z channeling Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” about a king’s demise. Kanye plays hypeman for much of this song.
13. Illest Motherf*cker Alive (prod. Southside & Kanye West)
This is the song Yeezy was rapping to Russel Crowe in the Watch The Throne documentary which leaked a few weeks back. I’m not sure why this is a bonus track, because this is one of the best songs on the album. But probably made the bonus cut because it’s produced by Southside (Lex Luger’s homie) and is not “artistic” read “hipster” enough.
14. H*A*M (prod. Lex Luger & Kanye West)
Again reduced to bonus status because it wasn’t emo enough, but honestly this shit still go ham. Yeezy’s verse over anything Rick Ross has done.
15. Primetime (prod. No I.D.)
Jay really goes into “Reasonable Doubt” mode here giving us a numbers inspired verse ala “Twenty Twos” which may take a few months to fully comprehend. Yeezy also comes with a witty verse, though I wish he didn’t say anything when the beat pauses.
16. The Joy f. Curtis Mayfield (prod. Pete Rock & Kanye West)
The Good Friday leak makes up the final cut and I still don’t feel Pete Rock’s beat, though enjoy Yeezy’s theatrics.
My two favorite artists making an album together is like some kinda WWE dream team like The Rock and Steve Austin. Sonically the album delivers by being both innovative, incorporating elements of dubstep and progressive rock, while staying grounded in traditional hip hop. From a rap perspective it falls short because Jay-Z isn’t as good as Kanye at emoting himself because his voice, while well-trained, only has one setting -monotone. Kanye on the other hand, while strong in delivering heartfelt simple raps, falls short in the technical department which isn’t a problem here, but I would have liked to hear Yeezy spit a 100 bar verse.
Is this album a classic? Only time will tell. Is it better than other rap releases in the last year? Hell yes maybe even last three years.