Jay-Z and Kanye West need no introductions and have no shortages of fans. So, of course, when they announced their collaboration on a full-length album, the duo, who have been working together on various projects for over a decade, hardly needed to do any further advertisement. They could have been writing a series of children’s fairytales, and they might’ve outsold J.K. Rowling. And with this knowledge, the pair did little to promote their work – a move that, for anyone else, would be ridiculously foolish. However, the duo let their album, “Watch The Throne,” talk, and what it’s saying is that the two masterminds might just be as good together as they are apart.
“Throne” simultaneously gives Jay-Z’s more rugged style a glossy finish and roughs up West’s finesse – all, of course, with a healthy dose of swag. The album is ridiculously strong; for these two, there are no space fillers or last-minute thoughts. The duo showcase their egos, of course, most notably in the grimier “Who Gon Stop Me,” while delivering moving messages to their future children in “New Day” and throwing in a dash of oldies with “Otis,” which features a sample from ‘60s soul artist Otis Redding. The lyrics are both clever (“Prince William… [should’ve] married Kate & Ashley”) and poignant (“I taught them how to be kings/But all they wanted was to be soldiers”). In short, they hit all the major points that a good rap album should.
But with not one but two mammoth personalities in the studio, there was bound to be a bit of a clash between titans. As smoothly as the beats of The Neptunes mediate conflict between the two heavy hitters, these are, after all, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Each artist is used to stealing the show on their own – nothing more than that needs to be said about West – and the result is a tug-of-war that brings a prodigious work down a couple notches.
For instance, “Niggas In Paris,” though one of the stunners from the album, features West as somewhat of an afterthought to a masterpiece. Perhaps West wants to make up for “Lift Off,” which he and Beyoncé Knowles (particularly Knowles, in this case) take over. Whether or not the duo meant to equally distribute the wealth at the song level remains unclear, but their chemistry might have been a little smoother, especially considering how long the pair has worked in tandem.
A lack of chemistry, though, seems forgivable in exchange for a pair of shiny new thrones as the undeniable current kings of hip-hop. The duo’s pairing is certainly the most powerful full-length rap collaboration in recent memory, if not ever. To label “Throne,” which showcases the heights that hip-hop can reach, as anything but a success would be erroneous.