With two huge main-stream names packed in one album, you would expect that the artists would put more of an effort into their work. Not so. Kanye West is definitely on his A-game in “Watch The Throne,” even with his lame rhymes. (I’m takin’ my coat off/showin’ my tattoos off/I’m such a show off) Jay-Z’s verses reflect nothing new in him as an artist; his sound is the same as it has been for the past few years. His lyrical contributions are abysmal as well, and completely lack creativity.
Jay-Z, whose last album,“Blueprint 3,” was released two years ago, still hasn’t improved his rhymes in that period of time. Take the “Blueprint 3” song “Run This Town” for example, the lyrics “…black Caesar/in a black ceasar” are pretty unimaginative for Jay-Z, who usually paints a pretty good picture with his words. The opening line to “…in Paris” is “I ball so hard that [people] wanna fine me/ first those [people] gotta find me.” It’s that kind of lazy rapping that isn’t acceptable from a big name star. Two years haven’t changed a whole lot for him, which is an eternity in the music industry.
Still, there is an inherent catchiness to the album. The two artists went for a progressive hip-hop release, and for the most part their product is a success. The production and music itself are slick, the mixing and mastering are good and there’s a healthy dose of auto-tune – but it’s not over done. All the beats and the snares and all of the pieces in between are fantastic on the production side. The opener for the entire album has some of the best mixing. It’s a smooth buttery sensation that your ears will drink like fine whiskey.
While “Watch The Throne” is definitely ambitious, it still falls flat. It looks as though Kanye and Jay-Z put most of their time into production, and just spent a weekend drinking to come up with lyrics. It’s rushed. And Kanye needs to not try and rhyme. Every time he lays down a verse on a song, it derails and doesn’t ever make sense. In his verse on the first song on the album, he states “Coke on black skin striped like a zebra/that’s what I call jungle fever,” really doesn’t paint a cohesive picture until you hear the rest of his verse, but then that’s how he stays progressive, presumably. Another is “I’m from the murder capitol/where they murder for capital” from the song “Murder to Excellence” is just lazy on Kanye’s part too. Despite this, the album keeps a thematic cohesion, and it is clear that the two really went with the “record feel” instead of grouping potential singles on one release.
Most rap artists try for the “singles market;” this album went against that idea, to make a more experimental piece that probes why they are great, and why you should be listening to them in the first place. The album does flow really well, going to where the super powers are, and to where people should be “watching the throne.” The places of note are New York, Paris, and Rome, or some incarnation of it.
This, in essence, is the best set up for how to watch the throne. When you have two super producers and rappers, it should all go swimmingly, but the album doesn’t seem to work due to lazy lyrics, where the story is hidden in the random ego stroking.
While shooting for the sun, “Watch The Throne” fails and hits the moon instead. For as long as Jay-Z and Kanye West have been in the rap game, one would think that they’d put more effort into this ambitious release. Perhaps the next time they get together, they’ll really give more time into lyrical content instead of just the production work.