Monday, August 8, 2011
Kanye West & Jay-Z - Watch The Throne Album Review
The most anticipated album of 2011 has finally arrived and somehow managed to avoid being leaked which is newsworthy in itself. I'm sure Ye and Hov just served up a blueprint to all the majors on how to protect intellectual properties. With that said, the short version of my review of "Watch The Throne" can be condensed into one word: overrated. Yeah, I said it.
Anytime Kanye drops an album I expect it to be artistic and imaginative and "Watch The Throne" definitely meets those criteria. One of the best attributes throughout the album is song arrangement with none of the songs fitting the the typical rap arrangement of intro-hook-16 bars... I appreciate that the production is always changing instead of simply riding a loop all the way through a song which is boring as hell. The downside of the artistic arrangement is that doesn't always lend itself to clubs and mixtapes and who wants to ride around in their whip with a cello or a bunch of choir voices blaring out the trunk? As a DJ I always think of music in terms of where it will be valuable or useful - where can I spin this and get a good reaction? One of the shortfalls of the album is the engineering. I noticed throughout that it really lacks a crispness. Maybe they were shooting for a dated flavor and analog vibe, but I want to hear snares crack and hats ride. I thought that was glaringly absent.
As for lyrical content; Kanye and Jay-Z both deliver some seriously poignant lines throughout "Watch The Throne". Lyrical content and wordplay is worthy of heavy replay, but the delivery is pedestrian with lazy cadence and no effort to create unique rhyme patterns. Imagine if you heard this very same album, but from two completely unknown artists...you don't have to say it out loud, but be honest - you wouldn't be saying 'best album of the year!" even once. Its frustrating to hear some of the best lines and an arsenal of vocabulary spewed with such a trivial cadence. Listen to the 'flow' in the first song "No Church in the Wild" and tell me again that this is the best album of 2011. No way.
With that said, I expect you will see nothing short of absolutely rave reviews from every major media outlet across every possible medium. Sales will climb like crazy. Tons of DJs will scream its the best album ever and fans will have Ye and Hov's nuts on their chins without a doubt. Kanye and Jay-Z deserve a lot of credit for collaborating on such a big project and their unprecedented ability to fight the premature album leaks should be studied by all artists and labels. The production deserves to celebrated as visionary and song arrangement should be studied by all producers. "Watch The Throne" is a good album...just not the greatest album of 2011 like all the hype would have you believe. That is, if you have the nuts to say it out loud.
My personal favorites: "Niggas in Paris", "Otis" "Gotta Have It", "That's My Bitch", "Who Gon Stop Me", and "H.A.M."
No Church in the Wild ft Frank Ocean and The Dream (prod. Kanye West, Mike Dean & Ken Lewis - contains samples from: Spooky Tooth "Sunshine Help Me", Phil Manzanera "K Scope", James Brown "Don't Tell a Lie About Me and I Won't Tell The Truth About You")
Lift Off ft Beyonce (prod. Kanye West, Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Q-Tip & Don Jazzy)
Niggas In Paris (prod. Hit-Boy - contains samples from: "Blades of Glory" motion picture, Reverend W.A. Donaldson "Baptizing Scene")
Otis ft Otis Redding (prod. Kanye West - contains samples from: Otis Redding "Try a Little Tenderness", James Brown "Don't Tell a Lie About Me and I Won't Tell The Truth About You")
Gotta Have It (prod. The Neptunes - contains samples from: James Brown "Don't Tell a Lie About Me and I Won't Tell The Truth About You", James Brown "My Thang", James Brown "People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul")
New Day (prod. The RZA - contains samples from: Nina Simone "Feeling Good") I'm impressed with the mix on the samples from Nina Simone. Even though it's really heavy on reverb, it sounds a lot more modern than the original recording which can be difficult when chopping records from that era when the the sound quality of the original recordings wasn't good to begin with.
That's My Bitch (prod. Q-Tip & Kanye West - contains samples from: James Brown "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved", Incredible Bongo Band "Apache")
Welcome to the Jungle (prod. Swizz Beatz) I hate the drum pattern and the kit used for the snare hit; mostly because that snare hit is so dated. It might not have been so bad if they had put some effort into the engineering and tweeked the snare, but as it is it bothered me throughout the entire song.
Who Gon Stop Me (prod. Sham "Sak Pase" Joseph & Kanye West - contains samples from Flux Pavillion "I Can't Stop")
Murder To Excellence (prod. Swizz Beatz & Symbolyc One - contains samples from Quincy Jones "Celie Shaves Mr/Scarification") I love the arrangement of this track with all the twists and flips in the production. I wish more producers would put more effort into arrangement instead of the common intro-hook-16-hook-16-hook-16-outro that is really just the same simple 4 sequences moved in block orders. Big shoutout to Dallas' own S1 for yet another HUGE placement.
Made in America ft Frank Ocean (prod. Sham "Sak Pase" Joseph)
Why I Love You ft Mr Hudson (prod. Mike Dean & Kanye West - contains samples from Cassius "I Love You So")
Illest Muthafucker Alive (prod. Southside & Kanye West) This song has one of my favorite lines from the entire album when Ye says "Damn baby, pussy can't be your only hustle". If you got the digital version of this then you probably have the 3 minutes of silence to start the song...I have no idea what that's all about.
H.A.M. (prod. Lex Luger & Kanye West) I never thought I would say this, but it's refreshing to hear Lex Luger production even though Ye had to add his artistic shit all over the track with the haunting choir shit. Nothing I can't fix as a DJ with the simple slide of my crossfader.
Primetime (prod. No I.D. - contains samples from Orange Crush "Action") My favorite part of the track is the transition from the hook into the verses. Just something about that sequence is dope to me.
The Joy ft Curtis Mayfield (prod. Pete Rock & Kanye West - contains samples from Curtis Mayfield "The Makings of You (Live)", Sly Johnson "Different Strokes")
I bet two of the most google'd entries are "Watch the Throne Download" and "Watch the Throne rar" right now. If Kanye and Jay-Z can figure out how to stop the bootlegs of free downloads...they will own every label in the game.