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Watch the Throne

by JAY-Z & Kanye West

Released August 8, 2011 via Roc-A-Fella Records / Roc Nation / Def Jam Recordings

Reviewed August 12, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
No Church In the Wild (73%), Otis (63%), Ni**as In Paris (61%)

Watch the Throne is the culmination of a pair that defined the 2000s and didn’t bother to stop when the 2010s rolled around. Little Brother had become his own man, and Big Brother wouldn’t let that maturation pass without an audience. As a result, Throne is self-indulgent, bombastic, and seems like too much at once; but you still want more. These are the two biggest hip-hop artists, delivering their boldest lines atop the most memorable instrumentals of their time. But that was The Throne’s guarantee just by coming together for an album, even when that promise’s impermanence soon revealed itself. The age-old question of who could stop them was answered: It was themselves. Despite its imperfect grandiosity bloating the album at times, the union of JAY-Z and Kanye West still feels like a beautiful and braggadocious “Why the fuck not?” in the face of every critic, even a decade later. – Ben (Synth) (9/10)

Frank Ocean is the first voice heard on Watch the Throne, a pauper¹ at the golden, ornate gates that guards the kingdom overseen by The Throne. At the time, the status of king had been claimed by Kanye West following his triumphant return to maximalist form on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). However, the current then-head-honcho JAY-Z wasn’t quick to give up his title so easily. Watch the Throne is, in essence, a passing of the torch, and a temporary co-assumption of king, whether intentional or not. JAY-Z is repeatedly pushed to the side in favour of Kanye’s exuberance or more melodic samples and vocal features (e.g. “Lift Off” or “New Day”). Meanwhile, Kanye is similarly braggadocious, but maintains a consistent presence due to the lasting impressions left with each verse of his. Materialism and swagger make up the bulk of Watch the Throne’s lyrical content, which is derivative at worst and charismatically fiery at best. They pair well with a wide-range of instrumental atmospheres: vintage and carefree (“Otis,” “New Day”), electronic and full-throttle (“In Paris,” “Who Gon’ Stop Me”), or a fusion of synth and sample (“Gotta Have It”). The aforementioned themes bode well with a brief discussion of success in spite of racialised socioeconomic pressure. Watch the Throne would have greatly benefitted from giving this topic more space, exchanging less impressive braggadocio. Nevertheless, every track on this collaboration is anthemic—sonically rich, nasty, and opulent. Ye & Jay sit upon the lavish throne of hip-hop, but sometimes it feels that throne is meant for only one. – Cam (8.3/10)

¹ at no discredit to his own talent, I should add.

Ben (Synth): 9/10 | Daniel: 8.8/10 | Alan: 8.5/10 | DeVán: 8.5/10 | Cam: 8.3/10

Dominick: 8/10 | Pax: 7.9/10 | Hadley: 7.5/10 | Jared: 7.5/10


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