Is joint album worth its weight in gold-plated packaging?
By Rob Markman
Jay-Z and Kanye West are no strangers to high-profile releases. As soloists, the two hip-hop titans have their fair shares of #1 LPs, smash singles, Grammys and gold and platinum plaques. So when it was time to drop their collaborative Watch the Throne, expectations were no doubt high.
From the first time fans heard the Lex Luger-produced “H.A.M.” in January to the release of the Throne’s current single “Otis” just a few weeks ago, the Watch the Throne hype machine has been in overdrive. As the clock ticked from Sunday night to Monday morning on the East Coast, the time for speculation was laid to rest. The album was finally released, the music devoured and critiques formed. Some complained of the album’s layered sound and omnipresent money talk; others praised Jay and Kanye for their social commentary on songs like “Murder to Excellence” and “Made in America.”
In the end, everyone had an opinion, and we’ve rounded up the critics’ thoughts:
“Those expecting a disastrous ego clash will have to wait for Congress to reconvene — or until Jay-Z and West hit the road together this fall. Here, the duo volley between the contemplative and the petulant, dreaming contorted American dreams in which your worth is defined by your Rolex, your tenacity, your Warhol collection, your desire, the cars in your garage and the chips on your shoulder. Over the course of 16 tracks, rebellion is consistently tempered with gluttony — the two dissonant spirits that make this country great.” — Chris Richards, The Washington Post
“Too much of Watch the Throne sounds cluttered and disjointed, as though Jay and ‘Ye built their garish castle in the sky via FedEx and text messages.” — Kyle Anderson, Entertainment Weekly
“The album’s highlight, and an instant classic, is ‘Made in America,’ a solid, slow-paced Frank Ocean-teamed jam about the American dream that reveals the main difference between West and Jay-Z: humility.” — Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times
“The Neptunes-produced ‘Gotta Have It’ is pleasant, but the real gem is ‘New Day,’ a song Jay and Kanye pen to their fictional unborn sons. It shows both as vulnerable and honest, backed by RZA and Kanye’s production.” — JP DelaCuesta and Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur, All Hip-Hop
The Final Word
“Both West and Jay-Z were vocal backers of Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, but now that America is struggling to regain its economic bearings, they rhyme about their private jets, expensive watches and supermodel escapades.” — Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
“Dig deep into Throne, past the bacchanal celebration of the finer things in life, and you’ll find the album’s heart: two men grappling with what it means to be successful and black in a nation that still thinks of them as second class.” — Claire Suddath, Time
“In an age of ‘I love you, love me’ synth pop of Ladies Gaga, Spears and Perry, listening to Watch the Throne feels like coming off of happy pills and realizing that it’s OK that sometimes, life doesn’t just love you the way you were born.” — Kia Makarechi, Huffington Post
What do you think of Jay and Kanye’s joint album? Share your reviews in the comments!