Artwork by: John Liwag
Introduction by: Jonathan Sawyer
So we decided to leave the mall probe and scalpel at home for this one and let the “experts” do the intense dissecting. On our end, there was really just the enjoyment of sweet, sweet music from two of the game’s best. But of course — we did have a reaction. And we will disclose, that our response (review) as noted here, is indeed fact — beyond mere opinion (insert sarcasm here).
The method to our madness may have been a tad off-kilter, but we aimed at dividing the two kings, looking at them separately, and grading each one’s performance (based on their own self-set grading scale). That’s right — the red pen was out in full force for this one. So here you have it, kids — a lighter, more enjoyable Jay-Z beside Kanye, “breakdown” of Watch The Throne. If you were looking for a three-part novel — maybe next time. People don’t read any more though anyway, do they? So, time’s up. Pencils down. Now let’s see who passed.
“No Church in the Wild”
Most notable line(s): “Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats. Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats, preach.
Thoughts: I really could’ve gone with Jay’s whole verse on this one as it is all tied together and brought down within the last two lines. There can be plenty of dissecting within his bars on this one. No “ungh” lines, really, but a few head-scratchers. All in all, we seem to have a battle of good versus. evil and hypocrisy in general. Deep stuff from Jay.
Most notable line(s): “Think about the girl in all leopard who was rubbing the wood like Keke Shephard. Two tattoos one read ‘No Apologies’ the other said ‘Love is cursed by Monogamy’. ”
Thoughts: Not the strongest verse by Kanye, but in certain spots, he has some really gritty lines. Bad girls, late nights and money to blow are the essence. But he gets a C just because it can’t hold its ground against Jay’s deeper take in the opening verse. Jay asked questions, Kanye just spoke.
Most notable line(s): “When you earn hard (Earnhardt) as me, eventually you hit a big wall.”
Thoughts: Jay didn’t really have much time to work with here, and the lone salvage was in the above line. After all, he is a master of the wordplay. RIP.
Most notable line(s): “How many people want to roll on me now? Like you know na na na, you know me by now.”
Thoughts: Mostly 808’s and Heartbreaks singing on the track with his voice used as an instrument rather than words with any particular outstanding meaning. This track served as the cure to Kanye’s melodic needs. Not much to build from either rapper, actually. Despite two D’s for these guys’ verses, “Lift Off” is still a good song. Shout-out to Beyonce for that one.
“Ni**as in Paris”
Most notable line(s): “I’m liable to go Michael. Take your pick — Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, Game 6.”
Thoughts: Not really much to note here, although Biggie did say it first. We got Spam instead of Filet Mignon from Jay, here. On a positive note though, Will Ferrell was a nice touch.
Most notable line(s): “Prince William ain’t do it right if you ask me, cause if I was him I would have married Kate and Ashley.”
Thoughts: This song was just more of a flex song with nothing too deep. I agree with Sawyer, Will Ferrell breathes the most life into this track.
Most notable line(s): “Build your fences, we digging tunnels. Can’t you see we gettin’ money up under you?”
Thoughts: Jay has plenty of money and is a very powerful and prominent figure. That is all. PS — he said “swag.”
Most notable line(s): “I adopted these ni**as, Phillip Drummond ‘em. Now I’m ‘bout to make them tuck they whole summer in.”
*Notable: Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses. Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.
Thoughts: The give-and-go playcalling on this track is unrivaled but I think ‘Ye outdid Jay. Name-dropping high fashion labels has menswear bloggers set until New Years. It doesn’t hurt that only think of Aziz Ansari now.
“Gotta Have It”
Most notable line(s): “Bueller had a Muller, but I switched it for a millie cause I’m richer and prior to this sh*t was moving free base.”
Thoughts: And the king of the triple entendre lives on. Again, did Jay forget to tell you that he has money?
Most notable line(s): “Sorry I’m in pajamas but I just got off the P.J. And last party we had, they shut down Prive… Ain’t that like LeBron James?”
Thoughts: Standing up for himself again the media and flexing in the same song. Well done.
Most notable line(s): “Sorry junior, I already ruined ya. Cause you ain’t even alive, paparazzi pursuin’ ya.
Thoughts: Jay’s ode to his unborn child (son). Nothing too deep, but a pretty cool concept, in my opinion.
Most notable line(s): “I just want him to have an easy life. Not like Yeezy life, just want him to be someone people like.”
Thoughts: This song is about how he’ll want his son to learn through his experiences. He recognizes the faults he made in his life and wants his son to learn from them — whether it’s about his association with white America or women. Nothing spectacular in the lyricism department; just good.
“That’s My B*tch”
Most notable line(s): “Now shoo children, stop looking at her tits. Get ya own dog, ya heard? That’s my b*tch.”
Thoughts: Why did this song make the album? Nonetheless, black women gets no love — I guess.
Most notable line(s): “She say I care more about them basquions. Basquiats, she learning a new word, it’s yacht.”
Thoughts: Meh. Not too much to say about this song at all, actually.
“Welcome to the Jungle”
Most notable line(s): “My dreams is big, reality set in. Let off a clip from a automatic weapon. Through shots in the door, it died in Vegas. Thought it fought so hard, I knew it wouldn’t make it.”
Thoughts: The emotionless Jay-Z. Are you sad, mad, depressed? Or do you remain comfortably numb? Regardless, do we see references to Big, Pac, or both here? All in all, though — I just feel a tad awkward listening to Jay like this.
Most notable line(s): “So que sera, get a of Ciroc. Let it chase the pain, before it goes too far.”
Thoughts: Nothing much from Kanye… literally. Four lines and the song is over. ‘Ye takes the backseat to Jay-Z’s reading of Aubrey Graham’s diary. I do enjoy the association to “Dark Fantasy” though.
“Who Gon Stop Me”
Most notable line(s): “Ok here, like a hare, like a rabbit. I like karats, I’m allergic to havin’ bunny ears. Like broke, like nope. Like “ha,” I ain’t no joke.”
Thoughts: Jay somewhat spazzes on this one, as again — he wants you to know that he’s paid, powerful, street-born, and can’t be stopped. Oh — and featuring Kanye, of course.
Most notable line(s): “This is something like the Holocaust. Millions of our people lost.”
*Honorable mention: “Ni**as talking, they bitchmade. Ixnay off my dicksnay. That’s pig latin, itch-bay.”
Thoughts: Kanye makes pig latin work! And he gets away with referencing the Holocaust in a somewhat accepted way… if that’s possible. He could’ve gone harder on this verse.
“Murder to Excellence”
Most notable line(s): “In sheepskin coats, I silence the lambs. Do you know who I am, Claurice?”
Thoughts: Jay’s third go has about 187 quotables in there. Just take your pick. But seeing as “Silence of the Lambs” is one of my favorite movies, I really like the reference. But in short, what’s all this same-demographic competition for? Jay will just overthrow you.
Most notable line(s): “In the past if you picture events like a black tie, what’s the last thing you expect to see, black guys? What’s the life expectancy for black guys? The system’s working effectively, that’s why!”
Thoughts: He makes good points about the subject on hand rather than discussing how fresh he is, so it’s good change of pace with Jay’s lines. Kanye West represents the dark and sad truths that people are usually unable to say besides, well, ‘Ye.
“Made in America”
Most notable line(s): “I got my liberty chopping grams up. Street justice, I pray God understand us.”
Thoughts: Evidently Jay used to meddle in the drug trade. Who knew?
Most notable line(s): And I’m rapping on the beat they was supposed to be. Guess I’m getting high off my own supply.
Thoughts: I like storytelling from Kanye; reminiscent of his older material. This felt off the cuff and candid. He didn’t kill his verse, but Frank Ocean wins. Ocean really carries this song.
“Why I Love You”
Most notable line(s): “F*ck you squares, the circle got smaller. The castle got bigger, the walls got taller. And truth be told after all that said, n*ggas still got love for ya.”
Thoughts: Where’d Kanye go? All the minions keep coming for the king, though — to no avail, however.
Most notable line(s): “Huh?”
Thoughts: Mr. West had hypeman status on this one. This wasn’t even “The Throne.” Kanye was just the left arm rest. I hate to give him two F’s on this response, but there honestly wasn’t much to grab from besides half-said lines that completed or echoed Jay-Z’s lines.
“Illest Motherf*cker Alive”
Most notable line(s): “11 in a row, Bill Russell rings. Michael Jordan swag, y’all think Michael Jordan bad. N*gga I got 5 more rings than Michael Jordan had. Elvis has left the building now I’m on the Beatles’ ass.”
*Honorable mention: “Bey be my Yoko Ono, Rih Rih complete my family. Imagine how that’s goin’ look front row at the Grammys.”
Thoughts: Been there, done that. Oh — and conquered by the way. Roc Nation.
Most notable line(s): “Bullet proof condom when I’m in these hoes. Got staples on my dick (why) f*ckin’ centerfolds.”
Thoughts: Kanye is dope. These are the reasons why.
Most notable line(s): “Started in ’88, got warm in ’92. I landed in ’96, that’s the year I came through.”
Thoughts: In his 40′s and reaching the pinnacle? Not too sure about that, be he is still ripping. Anybody remember Reasonable Doubt, though?
Most notable line(s): “I told her run a bubble bath. And float in that motherfucker like a hovercraft. And soak in that motherfucker ‘til I call you back. I mean, who says shit like that, and doesn’t laugh? Heh.”
Thoughts: Wordplay and his flow on this track are some of the best on the album.
Most notable line(s): “Give all glory to Gloria. They said “you raised that boy too fast, but you was raising a warrior.” We victorious, they’ll never take the joy from us, uh.”
Thoughts: A little reminiscing from Jigga here — no big deal. Oh — and word to Kid Cudi.
Most notable line(s): “So the next time you see me on your fallopian though the jewelry’s Egyptian, know the hunger’s Ethiopian. Stupid questions like “Is he gon’ be dope again? Have you seen him? Has anybody spoke to him?” This beat deserves Hennessey, a bad bitch and a bag of weed; the Holy Trinity.”
Thoughts: The beat provides perfectly for the rhymes that Yeezy spits on it. When the drum beat drops out, it’s super smooth. Two quality verses from Kanye here.
Most notable line(s): “See the sh*t I saw growing up, then maybe you could take a peek at Bey’s boobs.”
Thoughts: He’s better than you. Seen more than you. Been more places than you. And thus, reaps the spoils. Oink Oink, pig.
Most notable line(s): “Just forget it. You talk it, I live it. Like Eli, I did it. Joke’s on you motherfucker, I get it. No paper ho, but you can have some more of me. Or-a-gy or are we speaking metaphorically.
Thoughts: Energetic song, but with a name like H.A.M. — you would expect it. Nothing crazy lyrically, it’s more of the beat that gets me amped.
Jay brought some topics that we have never really heard from the king before (what was up with the depression?), yet some that we have witnessed quite a bit. His wordplay remains impeccable, while his attitude and swagger stay on another level. We got a good dose of arrogant rap from Hov on this project, and I’m not mad one bit.
It was hard to really catch a good flow with the album, however. But no matter what they would have given us, we still would be unhappy in some aspects. When the bar is set to mars, would they have ever reached it, according to us “fans?” I’m not really sure if we got the knockout punch from either of them, though. Maybe we will all feel differently after it’s had time to really sink in. Pardon our critiquing after less than a week, but all the cool kids were doing it.
The lone favorite (so I’ve heard) appears to be “Ni**as in Paris,” but I find it somewhat unfitting amongst the rest of the album (still a good track, though).
And maybe it’s just me, but whenever Hov and Kanye work together on a track or project or whatever, such as this, it almost seems as if Ye is reluctant to go at Jay and really spit. Or maybe he just doesn’t have it in him (yeah — argue that amongst yourselves).
Truth is — this isn’t Jay-Z and Kanye versus the rest of hip-hop or music in general, even. It is each one versus himself. And as they have continually upped themselves and their music in general, we as fans expect thunder, lightning, and earthquakes every time. We also must understand that they, like everyone else, evolve. It’s preposterous to think Jay is going to give us another album like ’96. Let their sounds breathe, if you will.
So I’ll leave the final grading up to you. You can get out your calculator and average the scores yourself, if you’d like. Just remember — this “testing” wasn’t for the tracks in full, but simply for Jay and Kanye’s separate performances. If you didn’t know, we like to do things a bit different around here. And really, bro — it wasn’t that serious (at least on our end). But I for one, am pleasantly impressed with the overall body of work. Greatest album ever? No. Best album from Jay or Ye? Probably not that either. But it’s pretty, pretty good. (no Curb).
Dr. J (Liwag)
Eloquently put above, I want to put an emphasis on Sawyer’s explanation of what we did here. This “wasn’t for the tracks in full, but simply for Jay and Kanye’s separate performances” of what we know that they’re capable of. Overall, it was a scale based on what was possible, what was expected and what actually happened.
A week to digest an album of this nature is absolutely impossible. So is this a review? Definitely not. Are our grades subject to change? Surely. But after five full days of playing it, Watch The Throne definitely isn’t terrible. The grades we them aren’t exactly indicative of whether the album is good or bad — it’s much too earlier to tell.
Although if I may regress, I place My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Reasonable Doubt higher on my list. But if I’m constantly playing this album on repeat, the way I have these past five days, then my list most likely will change.
The thing I disliked about reviewing this album is that the standards in which you had to “rate” it, had no other albums to compare it to. Hear me out here.
There’s no measuring stick in cultural impact. That’s because only a few artists are capable of such — Jay-Z and Kanye West being on that short list. There’s no ranking for how “visual” an album is. While listening to Watch The Throne, imagery of all sorts comes to mind. No other album does that.
Trying to give grades and numbers to verses based on knowledge of music history doesn’t give this album justice at all. These guys are ahead of all of that; ahead of the curve. As far as Kanye is concerned, 808′s and Heartbreak finally just clicked for people this year!
To make a concise point, who knows where I stand today and who should really care? This was done for fun and not to be taken serious like those other guys. There are an unlimited approaches you could take.
There’s only so much you can measure, and it makes it all the more frustrating when you understand and are aware of the “unmeasurables.” On a scale of 1 to 10 or grades from an A to an F, Watch The Throne will be widely misrepresented. That’s what makes a great album: one that provokes thought, uncertainty and research. Going through this process has definitely made for plenty of all three.