They say that you can gauge pretty accurately how good an album is based on its b-sides, and if “H.A.M.” was any indication on the kind of music that would be on Watch the Throne I can honestly say my expectations were quite low. The song was kitschy in a way that “opera meets Waka Flocka” doesn’t even begin to describe how polarizing it was (luckily, that track was cut from the album during one of its many reformative incarnations). What we’re left with is a hubristic album; a celebration of what its like to be Kanye West and Jay-Z, two rappers who have maintained a surprising amount of relevancy over the past decade. But really, what does this all add up to? The formula here is “bitches + money + more bitches = money and bitches” and its this phallic thinking that is pursued to the extent that Kanye and Jay-Z’s efforts amount to what is essentially a dick waving contest. Is Watch the Throne necessary? Not necessarily. It’s just another shiny gem and claim staked within the empire of these two rapper moguls.
There are nonetheless a few choice cuts to extract from this beefed up production. The Frank Ocean helmed “No Church in the Wild” is effective in building up the ominous tension, as the euphoric waltz “Lift Off” is like walking into the world’s most lavished party (undoubtedly thrown by Kanye and Jay-Z themselves). “Niggas in Paris” though? Lacking anything resembling substance and coming off as incredibly boring. See, this whole album is lacking in any sort of purpose or direction other than to further exclamate the point that Kanye West is the most influential rapper around, and Jay-Z is the first veteran rap “godfather” not to fade out into obscurity and awful family friendly comedies. All the glitz, glamor, and bravado certainly don’t help tracks like “New Day” and “Murder to Excellence” where the duo touch down on more serious subject matter such as “life in the limelight is hard” and “black on black violence is wrong”. Please, don’t try and fool me album. Watch the Throne is just one big Roman orgy; drunk off of its own excess with Kanye and Jay-Z being the only participating members.
Essentially its an album of highs and lows that despite its fantastic production and quasi-legendary talent never amasses to the brilliantly bold aspirations of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or the consistently virtuosic displays of power that classic Jay-Z albums posses. It must be terribly lonely living on the top of the world because apparently there’s nothing left for these two rappers to prove. And so, in their victory lap around the globe they essentially reaffirm two things; that it’s impossible to humble someone whose head is so far up their ass that everything they say equates to shit talking rhetoric, and that rich rappers really like shiny and expensive things. It would be a different story if all of the gloating actually sounded justified, but when half of these songs revolve around designer labels and sport cars and not actual talent its easy to feel left out in the cold. Good ass job? More like good job, ass.