By Joshua Madden
Jay-Z and Kanye West are both known for their powerful solo albums, but perhaps the two have found a second calling as collaborators. “Watch the Throne” – which is a joint effort from the two rappers – is an outright success and is one of the best albums I have had the opportunity to listen to this year.
It could be argued that Jay-Z has the darker sound of the two, with heavier beats than one would expect to find on an album from Kanye West, but “Watch the Throne” wisely uses beats that sound much more like the background on Jay-Z’s song “Renegade” than what was present in Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”.
“808s and Heartbreak” was, in many ways, a forerunner to “Watch the Throne”. While many saw that album as a disappointment, I think that the inclusion of Jay-Z in the verses makes everything seem a little better on “Watch the Throne”.
I may be a little biased because I enjoyed “808s and Heartbreak” in a way that many listeners did not, but that’s partially because “808s and Heartbreak” was a departure from the usual Kanye West sound. In the same way, “Watch the Throne” is also a departure from that sound, although elements of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” are clearly present here.
One of the strongest aspects of this album are the additional collaborators who are brought in for the album. I personally enjoyed Beyonce’s contribution to the song “Lift Off”, which brought more of an up tempo flair to the album than can also be found in other songs.
Otis Redding, however, is the one who really shines in the album with the song “Otis”, which was performed at this year’s VMA ceremony. There’s a reason it was performed at the VMAs: other than “No Church in the Wild”, it is probably the strongest song on the album. Vaguely reminiscent of “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” off of Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint”, the song simply works and has a surprisingly catchy tune.
The other song I mentioned as being one of the best on the album, “No Church in the Wild”, features Frank Ocean and has more of a Kanye-centered feel in contrast to the Jay-Z centered “Otis.” “No Church in the Wild” sounds much like “Lost in America” from Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” album and is a terrific beginning to the album.
When it comes down to it, there’s just very little to complain about with “Watch the Throne.” I was initially a little skeptical of the two rappers collaborating on album. The two have very distinct sounds and I was curious if the two could mesh well enough to produce an entire album.
I’m happy to report that they did so successfully. “Watch the Throne” is awarded five stars out of five and I would highly recommend that rap and hip-hop fans pick up the album.