With a lot of anticipation we awaited the album on which Kanye West would collaborate with Jay-Z, as the two are at the top of their game. West issued the superb 'My beautiful dark twisted fantasy' last year - the album got nominated for a Cutting Edge Award, and Jay-Z has since long convinced friend and foe of his skills, live and albumwise. 'Empire state of mind' for instance remains a personal favorite that captures New York City in music and lyrics like no other song does.
But those two working together didn't lead to a record you'd want to listen to over and over again. For that the songs are in many respects too dark. Admittedly it is what you should do: go back to 'Watch the throne' again and again. Preferably not hearing it through your headphones, but pumped through a decent sound system. Only then you can enjoy the superb production by the RZA. As a whole the album may way heavily on your senses, when skipping from song to song you can only conclude: 'Damn, here comes another great one'.
The lyrics are very personal too, with Jay-Z and West talking about their lives as milionnaire rappers. No blingbling celebration this time around though. Yes, they ARE doing well. But their life's a struggle too, having to come to terms with people being jealous and hateful, living with their ego, and with the press always lingering around to capture them at their worst. Jay-Z on the one hand but especially West admits he's not perfect and has made critical errors in his life. Things he hopes he can prevent his son from doing. You can't find love in strip clubs and the ego shouldn't ever play up, is his advice to West jr, and 'be nice'. 'Maybe even a Republican / so everybody knows he love white people'. Or how race is still an issue in the US.
That dark reality check doesn't let 'Watch the throne' sound like candy to your ears, nor does it make it the most accessible record ever. But it is an effort that oozes integrity, one that tilts hiphop to a higher level. First song of the album 'No church in the wild' is amazingly addictive, driven by a captivating rhythm. Together with 'Lift off' - including nice vocal work by Jay-Z squeeze Beyoncé -, single 'Otis' (with an Otis Redding sample'), and 'New day' (backed up by Nina Simone's 'Feeling good') it's one of the most easy to listen to tunes of the record. In 'Why i love you' we recognise Cassius's 'I love you so'. As that track already borrowed key elements from 'I feel a song (in my heart)' by Sandra Richardson, 'Watch the throne' is a voyage through musical history too. Nice work!