When two hip-hop heavyweights decide to make a joint album, the least we can say is that the expectations are high. And Kanye West and Jay-Z have not screwed up. With currently more than 1.5 million albums sold in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, Watch The Throne has met with great commercial success but this success was not unanimous. While some speak of genius and masterpiece, others are more skeptical...
For my part, Watch The Throne is a solid album. The two artists did not take too many risks but still release an album that gets the job done and we begin to nod on several songs. For example, Otis, one of the key pieces of the album samples brilliantly Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding. And what about Niggas In Paris? Unless you lived in a grave in 2011 and 2012, you have probably heard this song and seen the buzz it created (during their Watch the Throne Tour, the rappers concluded their show with this song and they performed the song up to 12 times in a row in Paris!).
Kanye West and Jay-Z give us an album where the cult of luxury and wealth is widely emphasized, sometimes on the verge of arrogance, but we should not expect anything less when we know the two characters. However, other topics are discussed: In Welcome To Jungle and Murder To Excellence, the duo address Afrocentric concerns, the excellent Made In America tells the story that led them to fame and New Day evokes their future fatherhood (Jay-Z has since become a father and it is a matter of months for Kanye). As for featuring, the two big stars did not invite any rapper. However, Beyonce sings the chorus of Lift Off, the promising Frank Ocean (whom his first album's review has already done here) sings on the first track of the album, No Church in the Wild, as well as on Made In America, and Mr Hudson, a member of Kanye's GOOD Music label, who sings the chorus of the excellent Why I Love You.
In the end, Watch The Throne is not the classic album that Kanye and Jay-Z would have wanted to do, but it is still a very good album combining the know-how, the creativity and the marketing skills of the two kings of Hip Hop.