Essay About Jay-Z & Kanye “Watch The Throne” Review
If you have read any of my other posts regarding the music business, you may have inferred that I would despise artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z. You might guess that I would say that Jay-Z is at best a mediocre rhymesmith and a very savvy businessman, who simply had the advantage of a power vacuum in the rap game that was created by the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG. You might think I would say that Nas could rap and write circles around “Jigga” with his eyes closed; that Kanye West is nothing but a Narcissistic Egomaniacal song engineer who never thought he would become famous for rapping, but then did, and couldn’t get enough of his own shuttershade wearing face on the billboards. If you thought these things, you would be right. But last night after reading an article in the Huffington Post about Watch The Throne, a collaborative effort between Kanye West and Jay-Z that has been called a genuine musical achievement, I decided to take a gamble. I figured as an outsider to the affection given to both of these artists (and a lover of genuinely good music regardless the artist or genre) I would be the perfect man to tell you how awful this album is. I figured incorrectly.
This album is not bad. It might even be good. To the many that know me, these words will appear shocking. There is no one short of John Cougar Mellancamp and the newly graved Michael Jackson that I despise more than Kanye West. And many have heard my scientific theory of the Jay-Z power vacuum. Yet I cannot sit here and tell you that this is a bad album. This long overdue collaboration between two rappers under the same label is good. It has the dark and eccentric sound of Kanye that I usually scorn, but mixed with the somewhat different touch that Jay-Z brings, every song has a redeemable verse or section. If I was feeling as though Kanye was not killing it on a specific track, Jay-Z would come in and offer something different that made me keep listening.
I really fought myself the first time through this record. I wanted to give an honest appraisal, but at the same time, I really do not care for what these two do on stage and in some cases off the stage.
I was supposed to see Mr. West perform at Bonnaroo in 2008. He was to be the main show on one of the days of the festival, to go on sometime around 10:00pm. We were then told he would not arrive until midnight; then until 2:00am; then 4:00am. Finally somewhere around 4:30am I could hear him start his set from the confines of my jeep across the festival (it was raining, and let’s just say our tent wasn’t functioning correctly). Kanye came on stage, was booed, and had things thrown at him for being late. Being late in the music business is the norm. No band shows up on time for a show, or goes on when they say they will, and that goes for even my favorite band, but six and a half hours late? Who did this guy think he was? Mick Jagger? He later complained that he had never been so offended in his life, and said something like “we should have been grateful that he showed up.” That was enough for me publicly despise him.
The point of that long-winded story is to make you aware that if this were a bad album, I would tell you. Not every song is great, but these days with three or four more listenable or catchy songs, I am inclined to call the album at least a mild success. “Ni**as in Paris” actually had my head bobbing on the first listen, and also has a Will Ferrell snippet. “Otis,” a sample of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” also met my approval. “New Day,” although littered with annoying T-Payne audio tuned voices, has very honest lyrics, especially from Mr. West. I have a feeling people will praise and enjoy this song. “That’s My B**ch” sounds like a recantation of an NWA song with a modern twist, and I actually dig it. The three minute silent prelude to “Illest MotherF**ker Alive” is not necessary, and “Lift Off” is just an excuse for Jay-Z to showcase his far better looking girlfriend’s voice. But overall the album kept my attention.
The very special, and I think important thing about this album, is that it allows both rappers to showcase their skills. Kanye’s studio presence is felt, and Jay’s hooks and verses shine through. When two great musicians come together to work, there often is this release of pressure to be the best. They are in the room with other greats, and they seem to just want to impress (not in an arrogant way) each other and have a good time working on their craft. At times this record seems scattered and a bit disjointed, but I believe this is still a must have for a hip-hop fan. I think that anyone who likes either of these two artists will genuinely listen to this over and over again. If you grab it, get the iTunes Deluxe Version, as you will get a track featuring the great Curtis Mayfield. Let me know what you think.