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Have you ever heard of the expression: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”? We all have. This saying can be applied to a way of living or at best the music industry. It is the mantra for sticking to what fans like in order to sell records and puts butts in stadium seats. The kings of hip-hop Jay-Z and Kanye West understand this and take the age old saying to its literal meaning. Watch the Throne, the latest album from Yeezy and Hov, sticks with their famous array of sounds and eccentric production styles for sampling artists outside the hip-hop genre, adding random movie quotes and utilizing odd instrumentals in their music. The record also provides fans a further example of the solid rap style that’s sold millions of albums before, yet there is something extremely different this time around. Pride comes before the fall is an accurate explanation for a weakened legacy. Sadly, Yeezy and Hov have fallen from their thrones and are no longer kings.
When audiences heard about the long awaited collaboration this duo was setting out to make, the world went nuts. Whether or not that was premature is beside the point. It seems to me Watch the Throne is just another regurgitation of ideas that have been used time and time again. Unlike West’s game changing album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch the Throne doesn’t reinvent the hip-hop genre, but retells a story that was told better the first time around with far more imagination. That story is of two kings who have taken over the throne among their genre and like most kings who once ruled their land were subject to the vices of over-indulgence, narcissism and greed.
It’s evident that this record is an example of their growing egos. If there is one thing I dislike most about Watch the Throne it's that the artists know exactly what their fans want. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The unstoppable hip-hop production team set out to make an album which celebrates their past work. It’s an admirable way to appease millions of their fans and if anybody disagrees than he or she probably hasn't listened to The Black Album or Twisted Fantasy. What made those records so great though was the fact that they had an endless amount of emotion behind each song. Watch the Throne is the antithesis of emotion. It showcases the group's evolving egos that are unsettling at best. The king that holds a throne the longest loses his sense of humanity. West and Z have no morals.
The epic introduction “No Church in the Wild” is a great example of what the duo is capable of creating. After such a powerful opener, the album quickly exposes its true self with songs like “Niggas in Paris” and “Who Gon Stop Me.” These songs remind the audience that the rappers are unnecessarily committed to themselves. In the end, the record progresses to a stellar finale, “Why I Love You,” but the in-between is bogged down by useless self proclamations on power over the music industry which subsequently alienates their audience.
Themes of success, money and power are used for lyrical content as if audiences would appreciate the rappers insight into being famous. Though it was an admirable attempt, Hov and Yeezy still have a botched view that keeps the effort from ever becoming a real assessment on the fame and fortune people in their position have. Unlike The Black Album which unifies the ideas of ghetto life or Dark Twisted Fantasy which discusses hedonism and greed, this album literally adheres to the most hated aspects of famous people. It’s a narcissistic look from hip-hops most beloved stars.
The joke is on them though. As an audience member of West and Z’s show, I believe that people will start to teeter away from their shtick. The production behind Watch the Throne is perfect. The songs utilize West’s beautiful explorations of sound that are unlike any other in the industry, while Jay’s style is greater than ever. Yet, their pride and unbridled egos fall in the way of making anything truly special.
Kanye West and Jay-Z knew exactly what fans wanted and that was the deadly assumption that killed their legacy. With a repertoire as engaging and talented as theirs, expectations were very high. Their familiar styles, overused layers, indulgent nature and massive egos usurped these kings and proved them not worthy. In the wake of their demise, it only leaves me with one last question. Who will ascend to their throne?
After long consideration and three full listens, Watch the Throne is a mediocre album at best. With records like The Blueprint, The Black Album and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy under their belt, it's upsetting that the famous duo could not hold up to their past empire. Though Watch the Throne is not a failure by any means, it only proves that like any great nation, empire and throne, eventual failure to suite everyone's ideals is the most common aspect to any great King. I give Watch the Throne a 2.5 out of 5.
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