From the ornate gold cover designed by Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci to the overblown, ear-punishing last half of the album, Watch the Throne is not what I expected from Jay-Z and Kayne West's colloboration. (I did indeed expect to be spending hours inscribing its lyrics onto pictures of cats, but well--everybody's life is weird in some ways.)
Yes, I have your cats. Fresh lulz, straight from Watch the Throne, on which Kanye was even kind enough to drop an "lololol" to make it easier.
I'm about to go H.A.M. (I mean, I really should get some ham, this is going to be a rough one.)
My expectations about this album likely contribute to the way I feel about it; I was really looking forward to having new Kanye and Jay in my ears, but the latter half of this cabana party is almost unlistenable. Up to "Who Gon Stop Me," I was on board. That was when it started feeling like I was too drunk on someone's yacht, my phone was gone and since I didn't know the address of where I ended up, I could not call a taxi to take me home. How did I even get on a yacht in the first place? The beginning of WTT is an awesome shindig, the last half is the morning after when you realize that everyone has taken pictures of you in compromising positions.
WTT has me so hungover, I don't even know anymore.
No Church in The Wild:
WTT starts out with this sexy powerhouse of a song. This is the girl that hits on you at the beginning of the night, but is nowhere to be found when everyone is leaving. Frank Ocean dominates, with a hook that gets stuck in my head constantly. His presence made me wonder why he was the only perfomer from Odd Future that made it onto this album--Tyler might have been able to save them, to provide desperately needed relevance to this duo.
Lift Off: Undeserving of a cat. [Ed.: original note was "just fucking put a cat in a spacesuit in for this one, not worth our time"] This is a Beyonce song. (NOTE: not a Destiny's Child song. A Beyonce song.) The only stab I could take at making a cat to accompany this tragic track (and yes, I know about Q Tip) was a picture of a kitty floating in space. I half-heartedly tagged it with "LIFT OFF" at the top. The bottom text box proved to be a bigger hurdle, the end text being "this is a beyonce song omg nuffin funny r charmin about it i iz asleep." That's the whole of it, pretty much.
Niggas in Paris: Another track I think is the best of the bunch. The Will Ferrell/Jon Heder samples from that fucking skating movie don't do much to lend credence to it, though. Fortunately, the flow is enough to make up for it and it can be written off as a whim of Kanye's. (I am assuming this; I assume a lot.)
This introduces a huge problem of the album...the juxaposition of the two rappers doesn't really serve the both of them well. When it wasn't spread out over an entire production, Jay and Ye are fantastic when they're together on each other's separate albums. This prolonged amount of time of exposure (mainly to just the two of them, there are
significantly less guest spots than on their solo stuff) does neither of them justice. It makes Jay-Z seem like a square and Kanye entirely off the rails. Jay comes out of the whole thing cleaner, demonstrated by bars traded in this song:
Jay: "I got that hot bitch in my home" / Kanye: "You know how many hot bitches I own?"
Think about the images you've just been presented with. Jay-Z calls your attention to his smoking hot wife, wandering around their house in a silk bathrobe. Kanye makes it sound like he has so many random women around him, he doesn't even bother to learn their names.
Otis: Let's talk for a moment about the expense of JUST the samples that Kanye and Jay use throughout the album...so much so that they can kinda just sit back and let Otis Redding sing for awhile. Or Nina Simone. Or the four (at least) James Brown songs that they plunder.
The video for this song (Spike Jones directed and no, I didn't make that up as a funny hipster joke) reads like an ad, with our heroes rapping in front of an American flag and decimating a car. There are fireworks and models. I'm sure you can see it in your mind, so I needn't post it. In lieu of that, I'll post Chuck D's response to it. Last night, when I was talking to my husband about what I would write today, I mentioned that in my dreams Chuck D sits Jay-Z down and says "We need to talk."
Chuck D is basically saying "Stop it."
Gotta Have It: Thank you, Kanye. I didn't even have to reach for this one, I just made a discrimating cat pic decision and slapped some comic sans on it.
Round about here is where you get tired of listening to lists of displays of wealth. It's the linchpin of the album. Our captain at soldout, Russ, put it this way: "...the thing that pushes me away, a little, from getting as obsessed with WTT as i was with MBDTF: there’s 0 humility and very little reality on WTT. there’s no entry-point, no every-man, no, if you will, pictures of anyone’s dick. it’s all flash and gauche, and that’s fine, no one does it better, but fuck if i even have a bill to plank on."
I call it "alienating opulence."
In "New Day," Nina Simone provides the background for Jay to muse about how he's already screwed up any son he would have and for Kanye to self-examine himself with no real analytical reflection. It's depressing. "That's My Bitch" is an ode to the female of the species, I guess? Kanye just does some bars with amped-up objectification (he reeeallly doesn't give a shit anymore) and Jay-Z almost seems scared, like he
knows his smoking hot wife is going to hear this and he gives a damn about what she thinks.
"Welcome to the Jungle" is the very last track that I can listen to; after that it devolves so much that I'm tempted to just delete the songs. "Who Gon Stop Me" is irritating and tedious. "Murder to Excellence" is where they start trying to make 'a point,' which is something to do with reconciling the civil rights movement with billionare mogul rappers. More is said about the issue in "So Appalled" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy than any of the three songs they attempt to spread it out over here. I have only made it past "Made in America" three times and the last two of those were forced listens, trying to digest it.
Nothing much can hurt Jay-Z at this point in his career and he's kind of a teddy bear, anyway. I suspect he'll be a father soon. Kanye doesn't fare as well and his personality relies on his music being great. If his music is great, everyone can ignore how obnoxious he is. It becomes more difficult to do this with the flagrant, unapologetic tone of his rhymes: it doesn't even seem like he's struggling with himself internally anymore. The brattiness is full-force and the difference here is that he's playing against Jay-Z, who just looks like a grown man. Kanye is no longer pulling it off like he used to (and not to harp or anything, but Odd Future IS and why isn't Tyler on this record??). He's also not getting any points for the flagrant debauchery in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis.
I leave you with the only memorable part of the last few songs, a testament to how I feel about it in general, Frank Ocean crooning:
Soldout would like to thank Flickr users Crsan, AlishaV, supercoco_, naunasse, bruno.praha, and KaCey97007 for making their content Creative Commons licensed on Flickr. You are the true heroes.
Editor's note: no matter what we do, the single best review of WTT is right fucking HERE.