Monday, 8 August 2011
REVIEW: KANYE WEST & JAY-Z-WATCH THE THRONE
Jay and 'Ye keep their throne well looked after.
Collaboration albums, sometimes they are a curse, especially in hip-hop. Jay-Z knows this all too well from his R. Kelly, 'Best Of Both Of World' efforts. Still this hasn't stopped Jay from gifting us with another collabo album (besides his 'Collision Course' with Linkin Park really crashed creative music boundaries), as he picks a better partner and like-minded, safer choice in producer, labelmate, best friend and fellow best rapper Kanye West. Over the last year the genre has been blessed with much better collaboration albums from Jay's one-time, 'Unplugged' backing band The Roots soul sessions with John Legend ('Wake Up!'), to Jay's foe become friend Nas and Damian Marley's 'Distant Relatives' and Eminem and Royce Da 5' 9"'s long-awaited, reconciliation sequel to 'Bad Meets Evil'. Now though the world's best rappers alive look to 'Watch The Throne' with their highly-anticipated release (and with Lil' Wayne and Drake about to team up for more of the same, the inspiration is set).
This Jay-Z collabo lives up to the hype and is worth the long-wait. Just like it's cover it's a gold standard LP, that should add another platinum plaque to Mr. Carter and Mr. West's catalogue and the Rocafella records offices. Following classic record together (West's 'Never Let Me Down', and Jay's 'Run This Town') the pair have worked together so much recently, from Kanye's latest classic album ('My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy') to his 'G.O.O.D Friday' free music giveaways last Christmas. Following their first meaty single 'H.A.M.' (this big song thankfully makes the deluxe edition of the album), which received a lukewarm, vegetarian response earlier this year, the pair have cut a quality control disc of a dozen desirable tracks which may just help you fall in love with hip-hop again and big-hyped records.
Even though 'Ye handles most of the production and Jay offers some of the best lines, the great thing about this album is that both stars shine together, they don't outdo each other, they just fit (take note R. Kelly). Sure this doesn't offer us a great lyrical, back and forth battle ('like the 'Bad Meets Evil' E.P.), but it does make for some incredible, futuristic sounding music, as these two experiment and pass the lyrical baton back and forth.
This E.P. come L.P. is full of hits. From the praising opening of 'No Church in the Wild' (featuring Frank Ocean) to the Mr. Hudson, heartfelt 'Why I Love You'. It's the 'Try A Little Tenderness', Otis Redding sampling single 'Otis' that reminds us just how good these two are at sampling and crafting great hip-hop music with a twist. Taking it back to 'The Blueprint' days where these two first worked together Jay exclaims "sounds so soulful, don't you agree".
We sure do and the uplifting, out of this world 'Lift Off' featuring Jay-Z's 'b', Beyoncé is another huge song, single worthy of being a hit. The two get real experimental with a cool formula on the ill-advised titled 'N%$£&! in Paris' (it was recorded in a French hotel room by the smash cultivator Hit-Boy and West), with Will Ferrell 'Blades Of Glory' soundbites, Jay boasting "ball so hard mother$£%&@~# wanna find me" and Kanye warning "Don't let me get in my zone" this is just crazy. Then on The Neptunes helmed 'Gotta Have It', Jay and Kanye further prove why their the best rappers on the planet with more classic rhymes as Pharrell tells us "I got what you need". He's talking about the perfect track for these two, which proves you must have the album.
The Nina Simone sampling 'New Day' produced by legendary Wu swordsmen The RZA is one of the albums deepest cuts, refreshing on a record that's mostly full of bold bravado and boasting. The Q-Tip produced 'That’s My B#@$£' should afford the pair respect from classic hip-hop heads despite the disrespectful title, while 'Welcome to the Jungle' is a forest full of rap barbs rained on wax. As the pair drop 'Who Gon Stop Me' the answer is nobody as Kanye and Jay-Z keep the rhymes and the record rolling with more beat and rhyme shifting dynamics. On 'Murder to Excellence' the pair make a killing of high-standard rap, but they save the best for second to last. Young, incredible, up and coming singer Frank Ocean (of hip-hop collective OFWGKTA) joins the pair again for a national and race pride chorus on the inspirational 'Made In America'. West and Jay do their thing, but it's clear (being made welcome twice on a guest-feature sparse album) that this kid on the hook is going to be a star.
On the deluxe disc of this great album there's more at stake than the promo single 'H.A.M'. There's also the sick 'Illest M*&$£~#£$~" Alive' and the top billing 'Primetime', but one of this Cd's best is the Curtis Mayfield sampled/assisted (whichever way you want to call it) track 'The Joy'. A great homage to old time records and a former 'G.O.O.D. Friday' release. As the late Mayfield harmonises the finer things in life "A little sugar, honey suckle lamb/Great expression of happiness/Boy, you could not miss with a dozen roses/Such would astound you/The joy of children laughing around you/These are the makings of you", West takes the direction of lamenting a life he could of had rapping "another shorty that won't make it to the family will/If I don't make it, can't take it, hope the family will/they aint crazy they don't know how insanity feel/Don C just had a shorty so it's not that bad/but I still hear the ghosts of the kids I never had". Jay-Z also takes it back with nice nostalgic lines like "This is my momma s*&%/I used to hear this through the walls in the hood when I was back in my pyjama s$£%", while Kid Cudi's ad-libs and Pete Rock's perfect production really help make this a classic.
Jay-Z makes the best out of steering the rhymes but Kanye's production makes this creative control his vehicle. Continuing the avant-garde sound of Kanye's last classic album, and the reign of Jay-Z's incredible lyrics these two really shine together, for a complete, cohesive set. The spotlight is on these two hip-hop heavy-weight artists and with a magnificent, hard-worked, musical album that almost feels hip-hop cinematic the pair don't fail to shine. It may be a few beats and breaks away from being a classic (or maybe just a few listens) but it's clear that this album will be an incredible addition to the catalogue, collaborative collection and legend of both rappers and their legacy together. The throne is safe. Watch out. TIM DAVID HARVEY.