I dig 'Watch The Throne.' I think it's a good album...but it's not without its problems. I mean, we are watching the 'Throne'...but what's the 'Throne' about?
'Watch The Throne' sounds very overproduced. What do I mean? Look at "Lift Off" for example. Between the clips of real shuttle launches, auto-tune style voice effects, an overuse of Beyonce's hook, Jay and Kanye's mish mash vocals and dropped in background ad libs, there is just way too much going on. Many other songs suffer the same fate. You get the feeling that Jay and Ye were aiming for that big, stadium sound on most songs and had crowd participation in mind while crafting the music. This is fine and all but it hurts the overall product.
Did someone forget to tell Swizz Beatz he was producing for the biggest album of 2011? Swizzy's mailed in contribution is just brutal on "Welcome To The Jungle." One could argue that it's the same beat Swizz has been making since the 90s. Still though, there isn't a drop of creativity in the production. It's that recycled stutter step sound. Maybe the blame shouldn't lie on Swizz 'cause Ye and Jay obviously accepted the beat. Sidebar: Swizz did deliver on "Murder To Excellence."
Jay-Z has referenced his drug dealing past many times previously but it has never sounded as forced as it does on 'Watch The Throne.' When Hov says "‘Cause I’m richer, and prior to this shit was movin’ freebase" on "Gotta Have It" you bop your head but also think "geez-us Jay...we know...you used to sell drugs." You see, when Jay references his drug dealing past now it's starting to feel like how when 50 still spit raps about killing people even though he lived in a sprawling mansion with hundreds of millions of dollars. It almost comes across as cheesy...almost as if Jay is trying to convince us that he's still credible. He doesn't need to do this. He still has credibility in Hip-Hop...and always will.
As for Kanye, he's always spit lyrics that celebrated riches and were somewhat ignorant in nature. We love him for it...but we also appreciate Kanye when he gets introspective or makes us think. There just isn't enough of that on the album (Yes...there is "New Day" and "Made In America"). "Who's Gonna Stop Me" is a dope track but much like "N*ggas In Paris", "Gotta Have It", "Otis", etc...Ye just isn't saying much. Does that make it not dope? No...but it leaves the listener looking for a little more.
The marketing behind 'Watch The Throne' was incredible...from the lack of leaks to the positioning of the album as the saving grace of Hip-Hop, it was awesome. But when it came time to listen to the album, what was it about? No, not every album release needs a concept but this one did. I was anticipating introspective, powerful music that shunned commercialism, was political, aggressive and timeless...instead we got a lot of songs with Jay and Kanye telling us how rich they were and how many women they've been with. The whole 'Throne' aspect of the album had me feeling like this was Jay-Z and Kanye stepping up to say "hey, we are taking back Hip-Hop...it's ours." And sure, they did this from a sales standpoint...but a lot of the album ideas could be found on a Gucci Mane album.
This could be looked at as a positive (and business minded folks would say it is) but the album leaves the listener wanting so much more. Not necessarily because of how incredible it is (although again...it's a solid album), but because Kanye and Jay's verses are so short. Take "Made In America" for example. It's one of the better songs on the album but it just ends with so much more to say. It doesn't even the scratch the surface of the song's vibe about Jay-Z and Kanye talking about their come-up. What about a verse going back and forth? What about additional verses? It seems like the album's best stuff gives us the least. You can really understand when listening to the album how this was originally an EP.
THE MUSIC ISN'T TIMELESS
Look...regardless of how you feel about Jay-Z and Kanye as solo artists, they ALWAYS give us SOME timeless music each time out. Do you not still bump "U Don't Know" or "Good Life" or "Through The Wire" or "Ain't No N*gga" or nod your head when "Empire State of Mind" comes on? Of course you do. The songs that come closest to "timeless" material on this album for me are "No Church In The Wild", "New Day" and "Murder To Excellence." But even these songs just don't have that "it" factor that Jay and Ye's classics do. It's not that the album seems rushed but to me it seems a little forced.
TOO MANY PRODUCERS
There are just way too many hands in the mix on this album. 'Watch The Throne' could have benefited from Kanye handling 90% of the work but instead there are a total of 16 hands in the mix and it just makes for a fractured listen. Too many different vibes, no cohesiveness from track to track. I personally would have liked the album to hold that "New Day" and "Made In America" type of vibe but instead were jumpin' in the club and heading back to the 80s with all sorts of quirky sounds tossed in the mix. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
WHERE IS JAY'S RESPONSE TO 'BIG BROTHER?'
Tell me you didn't wanna hear that...