"Watch the Throne" by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Jay-Z & Kanye West
Watch the Throne

Roc-A-Fella Records
2011

Review

This wasn't made for me subject matter-wise. But when you have two of the most recognizable and commercially successful rappers together you stick to what works. So what works? Hot ass beats, slick as a rain slicker production and some old-fashioned shit-talking lyrics. I was hesitant to even bother to review this because it is essentially critic-proof. In fact, any criticism that would be thrown against it would be less a criticism of the album per se, and more a criticism of popular-Hip-Hop itself. These guys have sold millions of albums. They've sold out stadiums. They've gotten the attention of people who don't normally listen to Hip-Hop at all. So my opinion of this album is about as important as an abandoned building - or put another way, I'm going to be in the minority on this one and that's OK. It's just the opinion of one technologist with a music blog. Jay-Z and Kanye will be OK.

Maybe it's a sign of age. Sure this sounds hot. The shit that gets talked is ill. This is a very skillful amalgamation of production, lyricism, and commercial awareness.

...in a sentence, this album exemplifies to me that old paradox I like to refer to as the "Ain't No Fun" paradox. "Ain't No Fun" is all at once super catchy and extremely offensive. Now, nothing here approaches that level of audacity, but it's so aware of it needs to be to be delivered to the right mass audience. And then you have the fact that this is being eaten up by folks that don't normally truck in Hip-Hop. It's got that sheen of coolness to it to where it transcends the genre in a way where people look up to it just to fit in. I'm just getting tired of hearing the same talking up of material possessions. We all get mad at bankers for being rich. We all identify with the 99%. Then we all eat up this talk about money when it gets served up in a nice shiny trend-aware package. It's hard for me to swallow.

I'll be fair and say that there are a few moments of introspection like on "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Murder to Excellence" but let's face it, those aren't going to be singles. Then there's "Made In America" which seems earnest enough but again uses a sort of short-hand to get it's message across (Baby Jesus, The Kings, etc...).

(like I said, critic-proof...you can't criticize the album without criticizing popular hip-hop itself).

Ignoring the lyrical content and this albums current place in popular culture (or put another way, using the Ebert standard of "does this album serve the audience to which it was intended") I'll say that there is some really great production through and through and some clever lyrics. The album is sort of brought down by lack of a cohesive theme but that doesn't matter.

...this serves it's audience perfectly. Me not loving this is me not loving popular Hip-Hop.

3.750 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. No Church in the Wild (04:32) 5
2. Lift Off (feat. Beyoncé) (04:26) 3
3. Niggas in Paris (03:39) 5
4. Otis (02:58) 4
5. Gotta Have It (02:20) 3
6. New Day (04:32) 4
7. That’s My Bitch (03:32) 4
8. Welcome to the Jungle (02:54) 4
9. Who Gon Stop Me (04:16) 4
10. Murder to Excellence (05:00) 4
11. Made in America (04:52) 4
12. Why I Love You (03:21) 3
13. Illest Motherfucker Alive (08:23) 3
14. H•A•M (04:35) 2
15. Primetime (03:19) 4
16. The Joy (05:17) 4