The Throne RESPECT. Cover Story

You are now watching the throne. And in an online exclusive from the latest issue of RESPECT.YN gives his critique on Jay and Ye’s album. This read cray!

Jay-Z and Kanye have just made more history together, and hip-hop will never be the same again. From the projects to the penthouse, rap has a new home. Get your weight up—not your hate up.

There has never been an album like this. No. Truly. You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far.

Watch The Throne was created by two of our culture’s biggest stars— truly united in one vision to raise the bar. Set the standards. Lead hip-hop to uncharted territory. They were in the studio working together in every moment—from Peter Gabriel’s recording facility in Bath, England, to New York’s Mercer Hotel—and Jay-Z and Kanye have delivered an amazing album that celebrates success, excess…and progress.

It’s unfair to dismiss this collection of introspective, celebratory, angry, intelligent tunes as an out-of-touch collection of big-money talk at odds with America’s current troubled economic condition. Like Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith, Shawn Carter and Kanye West are black folk who have overcome hardship, accomplished great things and grinded to the top. Why can’t they rap about it? Honest hip-hop. Can they live?

Here’s a news flash: At least one of your favorite rappers is a multimillionaire. He’s got plenty of money, even if he doesn’t feel comfortable talkin’ about it. Hip-hop came from poor New York City kids who wanted to succeed, have nice things. Hip-hop wanted to change that world, and guess what? It did. For many. Reap the benefits with closed mouths? Nah, that ain’t our style.

No one recognized us, but we are the best. We say what we feel. We grab the mic and our dicks and tell you about it. Bragging and boasting. In our rhymes, we always wanted to get rich—come up. Get large. Aspiration. Ambition. From The Sugarhill Gang’s “I got a color TV so I can see the Knicks play basketball” to the Notorious One’s “Birthdays was the worst days/ Now we sip Champagne when we thirst-ay.” Dream big. Roll the dice.

Life after Biggie and Pac proved it was possible. The Master Ps and the Puffys have always had more impact on the culture than the poor righteous teachers. The point is: A conversation must be had. We’re in this together—rich, poor or the disappearing middle class. I’m 40 and can connect to the artistry found on Watch The Throne. I admire the courage that Jay and Kanye demonstrate on this album. They spit about deep shit: money, paranoia, women, love, death, family, failed friendships, failed relationships, politics, crime, blackness. The future will prove me right—this is the most important album in hip-hop history.

Two of our biggest winners have overcome their big brother/lil brother trust issues. Their gift to us? The sharing of truths. To make our heads bob one minute and think the next. Ignite imagination. Inspiration. Holy intellect. This record is a reminder that there’s no ending to the power of hip-hop. Our culture. Our drive. Our reward. We’re on a mission.

Let’s explore.

“No Church in the Wild”
Main Producer: 88 Keys

Track Murderer: Jay > ’Ye. ’Ye > Jay. Draw.

Watch The Throne commences with a courageous curveball. The opening track is surprisingly dark, produced by Polo-gear-obsessed producer 88 Keys and led by the soulful punch of Odd Future’s Frank Ocean on the chorus. “What’s a God to a non-believer?” he asks, which anchors one of WTT’s most consistent themes: mortality. Jay-Z paints vivid introspective pictures, Yeezy rhymes about crazy bitches. There’s a captive congregation, and Mr. Carter is ready to address them: “Jesus was a carpenter/ Yeezy laid beats/ Hova flow the Holy Ghost/ Get the hell up out your seats.” To hell with the song’s bizarre bridge lead by The-Dream, because it comes off as clumsy as his part on Jay Electronica’s 2010 “Shiny Suit Theory.” Hey, didn’t Jay kill Autotune already? Anyway, Mr. West sounds agitated. A boisterous bachelor livin’ the rock star life—but it weighs on him. “Sunglasses and Advil/ Last night was mad real.” Fresh off a crazy night at the club, ’Ye nails the best punchline, noting that the lady in leopard was “rubbin’ the wood like Kiki Shepard.” It’s showtime!

“Lift Off”
Main Producer: Kanye

Track Murderer: ’Ye. (Jay doesn’t really rhyme here, though.)

This seems more like an album opener. Beyoncé belts, “We gon take it to the moon/ Take it to the stars/ How many people you know can take it this far?” in over-the-top Vegas cabaret glory. If you saw that documentary that prematurely leaked, you know Kanye was pretty geeked about this tune also. He’s so gassed, he forgot to write rhymes. He rumbles and stumbles through his verses—reminiscent of the times in concert when he ad-libs melodies in between his antimedia tirades. Delightful. Jay pops up briefly, basically to let us know that he knows other rappers are gonna be “pissed off” when this album drops. The space shuttle clips make this clunker suck even more. The cool lil tribal bridge is too little too late. Although not as horrendous as Kingdom Come’s “Hollywood,” “Lift Off” never leaves the gate.

“Niggas in Paris”
Main Producer: Hit-Boy

Track Murderer: ’Ye.

He gets his Quincy Jones on—Kanye executive produces the fuck out of other dude’s beats. I don’t know if he touched up young producer Hit-Boy’s track, but this is the LP’s best production. An unabashed club banger 2.0, it will have you standing on a couch with a drink in your hand in no time. Jay speaks of his Nets ownership and the time he was fined $50K for visiting the Kentucky Wildcats’ locker room during the 2011 NCAA Tournament (owners aren’t permitted to associate with collegiate players). But this is an ode to a different type of ballin’. Word to Jim Jones. Fun and frolicking in France, ’Ye is in party mode again: “Prince William ain’t do it right/ If you ask me/ ’Cause if I was him, I would have married Kate and Ashley.” Later ’Ye declares, “Don’t let me get in my zone,” over the song’s electro-crunch-filled finish. Makes you feel like you’re already watching the two at a concert performance. Powerful stuff.

“Otis”
Main Producer: Kanye

Track Murderer: ’Ye. Close, though.

This is more of what people would expect of a Jay-Z/Kanye album. Donda’s baby boy behind the boards, choppin’ up soul samples the way No ID taught him. This is The Blueprint 10 years later—but this time, ’Ye gets to rhyme. Hov stays classy and “photo shoot” fresh, while Kanye is happy to keep it crass and get in the competition’s ass. YMCMB? Do you know who we be? “Niggas talking real reckless/ Stuntmen/ I adopted these niggas/ Phillip Drummon’d them/ Now I’m about to make them tuck their whole summer in.” This is a back-and-forth, pass-the-mic, tag-team, vintage Roc-a-Fella Records session shared with the world. The fact that this song with no hook was presented as the project’s first single speaks to this dynamic duo’s desire not to abandon our culture’s foundation.

“Gotta Have It”
Main Producer: Neptunes

Track Murderer: Jay.

The first song of the second quarter of WTT fittingly follows “Otis”—it finds Shawn and Kanye still sharing the ball like LeBron and D. Wade (who they namedrop over playful Neptunes-produced bounce). This is one of three tunes (“No Church in the Wild” and “Otis”) that feature vocal samples from James Brown’s nifty funk of 1974’s “Don’t Tell a Lie About Me and I Won’t Tell The Truth on You” to spice up the mix. It’s needed ’cause the song is really about nothing. But the rhymes here are nonsensical and clever. ’Ye: “Sorry I’m in pajamas/ But I just got off the PJ” (private jet). And Jay shows he keeps up with current affairs in his reference to “plankin’ on a million.” Cash rules!

“New Day”
Main Producer: RZA

Track Murderer: Draw.

Playtime is over. Jay and ’Ye take a page out of Tupac’s book and pen verses to their unborn children. Mr. West warns the young lad not to follow in his steps and draws from his public scandals: the 2005 Katrina telethon and the Taylor Swift clash at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. He draws from his relationships: dumping his college girlfriend and getting into a relationship with a former stripper. The most moving part is Kanye’s reference to his deceased mother: “I’ll never let his mom move to L.A. knowing she couldn’t take the pressure, now we all pray.” Strong and sentimental stuff, but Shawn follows strongly. “Sorry, junior, I already ruined ya,” he snaps, detailing how he’d be the strong father figure he never had. “Look a man dead in his eyes so he know you talk truth when you speak it/ Give your word, keep it.” The almost G-Funk groove produced here by the Wu-Tang leader is infectious, as is the refrain by each MC, enough to make any rap nerd crack a Kool-Aid smile: “Me and the RZA connect.” Bong!

“That’s My Bitch”
Main Producer: Q-Tip

Track Murderer: Kanye.

Return to the celebration. It ain’t safe in the city, because Mr. West is on the hunt for late-night lovelies over a romping Q-Tip track that incorporates classic hip-hop breakbeats, like the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache.” “Too $hort called, told me I fell in love with her,” he jokes and drops the killer line: “My dick worth money/ I put Monie in the middle.” If you really wanna party with ’Ye. Hov tackles the topic a different way, wondering why he sees so few beautiful, iconic images of women of color: “Put some colored girls in the MOMA/ Half these broads ain’t got nothing on Willona?/ Don’t make me bring Thelma in it.” Man, good times. And before the song closes, the elephant in the room gets addressed “Now, shoo children, stop lookin’ at her tits/ Get your own dog, ya heard/ That’s my bitch.” What up, B!

“Welcome to the Jungle”
Producer: Swizz Beatz

Track Murderer: Jay. (‘Ye doesn’t really rhyme here, though.)

In a parade of production stars, Kaseem Dean shines. He’s solely credited here and delivers the hooks—and the ad libs (right…oh!). From 1998’s “Money Cash Hoes” to 2009’s “On to the Next One,” Swizz has shown his ability to get the best out of Shawn. The opposite of “Lift Off,” ’Ye takes a backseat and lets Hov shine. Jay lyrically blacks out over the tinkering thump: eulogizing the losses of his uncle, his father, his nephew and Michael Jackson (“Rest in peace to the leader of the Jackson 5”). Yup, Gloria’s warrior is having a bad day. “Mama, look at ya son/ What happened to my smile?” It’s a great vocal performance. Unfortunately, after Shawn pours out his soul, things abruptly end. No Kanye verse. Swizz’s final refrain, “Goddamnit,” is pretty fitting.

“Who Gon Stop Me”
Main Producer: Sak Pase

Track Murderer: Jay.

The most ambitious track on the album finds the Throne rhyming over dubstep. This is some Speed Racer rap shit, and you almost wish SC would flash back to his double-time rhymin’ roots with Jaz- O. His new rhyme partner, ’Ye, is still gettin’ freaky like Marv Albert, but once again Hov flourishes. Jay gets so locked in the pocket, he instructs engineer Noah Goldstein to put some more beat on it as he declares a “middle finger to my old life.” The Kanye-led chorus is also sure to shake things up: “This is something like the Holocaust/ Millions of our people lost.” Referring to the internal conflict in the African-American community, Jay keeps a black strap with an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. But the sentiment here harkens back to “Niggas in Paris”: Ball ’til you fall. Ride ’til the wheels fall off.

“Murder to Excellence”
Main Producers: Swizz/S1

Track Murderer: Jay.

Currency doesn’t replace consciousness. These two rap superstars can’t save the world, but they are concerned with the ills of it. Black-on-black crime is addressed in the first half of this two-part song. On “Murder,” Jay acknowledges the senseless slaying of student and star athlete Danroy Henry, and West reminds us his hometown is the U.S.A.’s murder capital and compares the deaths in his city to the number of soldiers lost in Iraq. Hov informs us his birthday is the day Fred Hampton was murdered in a 1969 Chicago police raid. Hov’s message remains: The success of Shawn Carter should be an inspiration to his people. The “Excellence” portion is about pride and achievement. Hov namedrops fellow elites Will Smith and Oprah and observes, “That ain’t enough, we gonna need a million more.” Kanye drives the point further that he and Jay are rich, blessed but stressed just like everyone else.

“Made in America”
Main Producer: Sak Pase

Track Murderer: Kanye.

It gets blacker as Frank Ocean returns with an earnest chorus that name-checks MLKJR, Malcolm X—and God. Seriously, this song could play at the NAACP Image Awards. This is hip-hop a black kid could play his grandfather. Kanye speaks of his mother again, and how she was so instrumental in his career and his fellow Throne partner’s: “Niggas hustle every day for a beat from ’Ye/ What I do? Turn around and give them beats to Jay/ And I’m rappin’ on the beats they were supposed to buy/ I guess I’m gettin’ high off my own supply.” SC returns to BK and his grandma’s banana pudding. But he still can’t knock the hustle. “I pledge allegiance to the scramblers/ This is the Star-Spangled Banner.” A tad sappy but still spine-tingling, this track connects another one of the album’s central themes: black excellence.

“Why I Love You”
Main Producer: Mike Dean

Track Murderer: Jay.

Jay and Kanye are the last two standing triumphantly from the Roc-a-Fella Records era, so you knew that legacy, old partners and friends had to be addressed. You don’t know the pain Hov feels: “I tried to teach niggas how to be kings/ And all they ever wanted to be was soldiers.” Is he talkin’ about outspoken former artists like Beanie Sigel or his former partner, Dame Dash? It’s probably both. “Fuck you, squares/ The circle got smaller/ The castle got bigger/ The walls got taller.” Ouch! “Wasn’t I a good king?” Jay asks rhetorically as Kanye serves as his hype man, cosigning their allegiance all the way through to the awkwardly brilliant last verse. Who woulda thought? The kid with the pink Polo was the heir to the throne.

“Illest Motherfucker Alive”
Main Producer: Southside

Track Murderer: Jay.

There’s a painful three-minute-long silence break before this song begins on WTT’s deluxe edition. Guess the Throne wanted the sentiment of “Why I Love You” to really sink in. The broke and bitter aren’t gonna like this one. Kanye got staples on his dick ’cause he’s fuckin’ centerfolds and wearing $1,000 Lanvin Ts with no logos. King Hov compares his 11 number-one albums to Bill Russell’s 11 NBA Championship rings. And no, Jay didn’t say that he, ’Ye, Beyoncé and Rihanna are the new Beatles, did he? Ha! With an audacious classical backdrop, the Throne don’t let up on detailing their glamorous life. Every day is like a video shoot.

“H.A.M.”
Main Producer: Lex Luger

Track Murderer: Jay-Z.

It’s the return of WTT’s first offering. The critically panned Lex Luger concoction was the album’s non-starter—it dropped back in January. Why did it not exactly light up the rap stratosphere? Kanye’s unsure and clumsy verse provides some answer. He’s snarling with all swag and no substance. Hov’s contribution has way more bite. He snaps, “Fuck y’all mad at me for?” and proceeds to put his Timbo up his peers’ asses: “You got baby money/ Keep it real with niggas/ Niggas ain’t got my lady’s money.” Royal family rap. Mike Dean’s churchlike symphony at the song’s bridge almost makes the tune something special—but almost doesn’t count.

“Primetime”
Main Producer: No ID

Track Murderer: Draw.

It was a big mistake omitting, in the final hours, this song from the non-deluxe album’s main track list. This is the sensational sleeper of the disc, as Hov flourishes on his opening verse, which revolves around numbers. The “40-year-old phenom” effortlessly glides and guides you through his journey: “Started in ’88/ Got warm in ’92/ I landed in ’96, that’s the year I came through.” He also promises that at “42 he’ll be better than 24.” Get SC’s b-day card ready for December 4. Ha! ’Ye holds his own and is still lady-chasin’ starlets. Why must an angel be his centerfold? “Well, Adam gave up a rib, so mine better be prime,” he reasons. Plus, he provides some philosophy: “I never live in fear/ I’m too out of my mind.” Who was crazy enough not to recognize this gem? Sorry, Dion.

“The Joy”
Main Producer: Pete Rock
Track Murderer: Kanye

A vibrant leftover from Kanye’s Good Music Friday releases, this is the Throne once again showcasing a legendary producer. Pete Rock leads this (Curtis Mayfield–sampled) soul ride as the album’s emotive ride comes to a close. Kanye is the star of this show as he dissects fatherhood (“Don C just had a shorty, so it’s not that bad/ But I still hear the ghosts of the kids I never had”) and his career comeback from Swift-Gate (“You know the demo/ Your boy act wild/ You ain’t get the memo/ Yeezy’s back in style”). With ’Ye havin’ two verses, Hov’s appearance comes off as a feature. But his endorsement is monumental as he proclaims, “Pete Rock make the needle drop,” and delves into his childhood—and sippin’ his pop’s Miller nips. Pause. Kid Cudi’s refrain at the end is prophetic: “Don’t let them take your fire.”

OUTRO

I’m anxious to see where The Throne’s musical marriage goes next. WTT is the close of a trilogy of a true creative partnership. Kanye used to make beats for Jay in the early 2000s. Now they truly compose music together. Lest we forget, Kanye shaped the direction of Jay’s 2009 Blueprint 3, and Hov’s presence was abundant with great guest turns on Kanye’s 2010 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. All three discs are the sound of the expansion of hip-hop. Follow the leaders. An A-level rapper and producer, Kanye has always been clear about his goal to be a cultural icon. Jay-Z, the GOAT MC, has grown into that. They’re not businessmen. They’re businesses, man. Walking, breathing, global brands. Ask Steve Stoute. It’s no shock that their sound has changed. If you want their old shit, buy their old albums. From BK to Brixton, from Chicago to Copenhagen, they want to move the masses. WTT’s production stretches hip-hop’s boom-bap aesthetic and embraces electronic dance music in an organic way without losing its—our—edge.

Longevity. Legacy. Stadium status. How many five-star albums can Mr. West make? Hov beat Elvis, but can he really knock out eight more number-one albums and beat The Beatles? If you still don’t enjoy the album, are you really not gonna go to a show on the tour? Ha! This is an important moment in hip-hop. It’s okay to savor it. Get inspired!

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34 Comments
  • fuk waka

    all the above is all true
    watch the throne is a classic!!
    dat shit makes u wanna wear a tux when listening to it

  • Cory

    wow, this really was not the most important album in hip-hop history. What about, like, Straight Outta Compton? Or The Low End Theory?

  • Black Shady

    The Most Important Album In Hip Hop History? HA!!! this is the biggest lie of the decade

  • GShii

    YN = Biggest dickrider in history

  • lol

    ” The future will prove me right—this is the most important album in hip-hop history.”

    LMFAO!!!!!!!!!!

  • john

    Wow how far down has jaysz’s dick gone down your throat???

    Biggest dickriders ever

  • ZoomZoomDad-Otis

    this is the biggest lie of the decade = William L. Roberts. WTT is a good album.

  • wayneslegacy

    WTT the throne was good but its not a classic lets be honest…i was expecting it to be vintage jay and vintage kanye meaning college drop out mixed with lttle black album instead it was like american gangster mixed with twisted fanstasys which doesnt cut it 4 me. Id even say like father like son was up 2 par with this album even tho im comparing apples &oranges

  • @tshiamofs

    Fuck this! Another review of WTT, its been months heaven’s sake. I hoped it was an interview..speakin of collabs, when are we getting that Cole and Lamar shit?

  • 106

    I agree with this WTT is classic and by far the best album of the year.

  • NightmanCometh

    Rap radar rides jay z so hard, and this is MY proof.. its sad.. This album came out two months agoo… i like the album, but there really isnt even much of substance being said besides Why I Love You, New Day and some others..

    Not even top 3 important Jay z albums since 2000..

    what did this album prove or go against to be so important lol? nothin ground breakin it did what everyone expected and sounds a little worse or a little better than expected depending on who you ask..

  • M.T

    Well Said. The production was amazing. They both delivered lyrically but it would been nice if they went harder on some tracks. All in all this was a great album.

  • ynisabitch

    Elliot wilson is a jay z dick rider..I mean a major dick rider. He over analyzed this entire album…he tries to take simple lyrics like sunglasses and advil/last night was mad real and tries to associate it with some higher level thinking type ish…the record is nice. Its not the most influential album in hip hop history..u can’t pick one album to have that title because so many albums have come out that have been great for their own distinct reasons. Like look at marshall mathers lp, all eyez on me, the chronic, NWA’s first project and even reasonable doubt…they all hold special meaning and represented a time period and generation for diff reasons. This album is good..not great could have been better production wise and kanye really half assed a lot of verses on this project. On lift off he spit some real below average type shit that if any other rapper wuda said ya wouldd have crucified him. Considering elliot wilson is 40 I can see why he has a bias when talking about jay z.

  • Your mother’s “friend”

    @G Shii beat me to it , lets face it the album was great compared to everything else thats out but compared to everything else they’ve done it comes up short , the problem was they tried to do too much same thing happened with “the best of both worlds” c’mon YN be real with yourself for once these rappers you dickride so much probably think you’re a lame , i’m pretty sure if Jay had any respect for you he would’ve let you co-write “Decoded” or at least do the cover

  • Word

    Damn YN lay off the cock. But this was a good album. TIME will tell if its a classic or not.

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  • Real nig

    http://www.prohiphop.com/images/graf/xxlbackcover.jpg

    This nigga is obsessed with Jay. Get off his dick.

  • http://twitter.com/scoobiesogroovy @ScoobieSoGroovy

    I love (pause) Kanye and Jay just as much as the next, but hip hop history tho?! Damn, elliott, let they nutz breathe a lil bit bruh! So u mean to tell me this album, as great as it was, is more important than BIG’s Life After Death AND Tupac’s Makeveli: The Don Kiluminati 7 Day Theory???? C’mon son…GTFOHWTBS!!!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/scoobiesogroovy @ScoobieSoGroovy

    And after looking @ Real nig’s pic he just posted, I’m convinced elliott has an unhealthy fetish for Jay-Z….get that shit checked homie!!!!

  • the void

    lol how bout “track murderer”?

  • J

    Love the album, rapradar’s great, and love reading YNs take on things. This article was a disappointment though. Hardly a feature essay.

  • damone

    Good read WTT was crazy for sure. Haters go hate tho.

  • http://Rapradar.com UrMomsSancho

    Heavy D is Dead at 44

    Credit me with this story RR or you will face repercussions

  • http://skwer.org haq

    wtt isn’t a hh album to begin with…

  • Stop

    I guess Jay Z gonna have two babies this year the one with beyonce and YN… You Old Dick Rider

  • smh

    fail. this album wasn’t a competition.

  • Bishop

    Everybody is comin at YN, at that’s exactly why he should be praised. He’s bringing light to what’s slept on these days. You fags think you know what real hip-hop is better than the next man does. Music is and will forever remain a game filled with opinions. But some things are facts. And that’s that Jay-Z is the greatest rapper of all time, and Kanye West is a musical genius. Put those two together and it’s a classic no matter how you cut it

  • B. Emerson 909

    Kanye did not murder Ni66as in Paris, Jay did.

  • http://twitter.com/topbananas48 TopBananas

    Welcome to the Jungle is a horrible beat. Swizz is either hit or miss with Jay, and imo he misses more than he hits. Didn’t he do Dig a Hole on Kingdom Come? Anyway the album is ill. But yo YN, calm down on the rap quotes. Every line of yours, you’re quoting some song. We get it, you know your sh^t.

  • Kwamé

    THE ULTIMATE JAY Z DICKRIDER.ur twice my age old nigga.act ur age.

  • http://Twitter.com/aaronomarPMF AO

    Keeping it “Roc” for a minute, Young Guru had an interview with the former editor of Scratch Magazine over the weekend…I recorded it (audio)…talks Watch The Throne, Jay Electronica, among other things…

    http://www.pardonmyfresh.com/2011/11/young-guru-interview-istandard-beast-of.html

  • SHIZ

    JAY KILLED NIGGAS IN PARIS AND THE JOY. IN YHR JOY PETE ROC SAMPLES CURTIS MAFIELD’S “THE MAKINGS OF YOU,” AND JAY TALKS ABOUT HOW HE USED TO HEAR THE SONG THE SAMPLE WAS TAKEN FROM IN THRU THE WALL IN HIS MAMAS HOUSE DURING A GROWN UP PARTY. HOV KEEPS ON SUBJECT OF THE CHORUS. KANYE WENT LEFT. ON EVERY SONG HOV KEEPS TOPIC WHILE KANYE GO OFF TOPIC ON A FEW.

  • Dujay

    i wish that this album was good enough to be the most important in history but it wasnt quite at that level

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