Growing up in the decade of yo-yo’s and rollerblades, I was always under the impression that Kanye West was the bee’s-knees. He was an everyman’s access to the somewhat underworld of hip hop. Jay-Zwas never one to grace my speakers, until fairly recently when he made it more mainstream. I hate to admit that I’m mainstream, but I just can’t pull off the gangster image.
When I heard that Kanye West and Jay-Z were then collaborating under the stage name of ‘The Throne’ to record an album together, it was a great day for music fans everywhere. Following less than a year after Kayne West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and not long since The Blueprint 3, it was set to provide double the joy.
Upon listening to the first buzz single “H.A.M.” (which didn’t make the standard album cut), the tone was somewhat set. A ferocious rap spewed out over an intimidating back-drop of gospel choirs is something only they could do: it takes an ego. Noticeable at first is how the music sounds like a continuation of both artists’ progress thus far. As for the lyrics and tone of the record, again, it follows the artists’ journey thus far: “Watch the throne/Don’t step on our robe/Bad enough we let you step on our glow.”
Basically, it’s the two biggest names in rap proclaiming how amazing they are for about 45 minutes: and it makes for a terrific listen. Their egos are really nothing new to us, so it’s all about the music. “Lift Off” featuring vocals by Beyonce appears early in the record and on first listen sounds already like an anthem fit to fill a stadium. “Now we gon’ take it to the moon/Take it to the stars/ You don’t know what we been through to make it this far.”
Beyonce isn’t the only familiar face to make an appearance on the record: Yeezy’s protégée Mr Hudson features on “Why I Love You” to close the record, with Frank Ocean appearing twice and the legendary Otis Redding even making an appearance on the track “Otis”: “Photo shoot fresh/Looking like wealth/I’m about to call the paparazzi on myself.” Other uncredited artists include Elly Jackson of La Roux on one of the highlights “That’s My B*tch”.
It’s a record packed with talent, both fresh and of times gone: the appearance of a Nina Simone sample proves that. It’s not the first time that both rappers have appeared together, and all the times before have left us wanting just that little bit more. Here, that little bit more is provided. For once, there is no main artist, no ‘featuring’ artist and both are on level plains.
They are careful to warn us to “Watch The Throne”. However, seeing as it has always been Yeezy and Jay on the throne in the first place, I’m not sure who they’re planning to steal the throne from. I don’t see either becoming part of the Monarchy just yet.