Just when you thought Kanye West and Jay-Z couldn't get any better musically, they decided to release Watch the Throne, an entire album of their collaborative efforts together. It was obvious even before that, as individual acts they are the only source for meaningful mainstream hip hop, but when they combine their styles, the result is even more incredible.
Opening with the visceral "No Church in the Wild," the tone of the album is set as being extremely political and often lyrically provocative. Of course, what would anything Jay-Z related be without contributing vocals from Beyoncé, which appear on "Lift Off"? The first few songs on Watch the Throne, in fact, are much more dominant on Jay-Z's part, with Kanye's voice demure (relatively speaking) on tracks like "Ni*%as in Paris" and "Gotta Have It" (though the beat on "Gotta Have It" is distinctly Kanye).
Kanye's standard form of unrelenting honesty is especially heightened on "New Day" when he talks about how he is going to raise his future son, affirming--with his typical brand of tongue in cheek--"I mean I might even make him be Republican so everybody know he love white people." The track following "New Day," "That's My Bitch," is arguably the best on the album. Jay-Z's voice is once again prominent as he comments on the prevalence of white women as the norm for what men are supposed to consider beautiful:
"I mean Marilyn Monroe she's quite nice, but why all the pretty icons always all white?"
"Murder to Excellence" is another standout track for its lyrics. Opening with a chilling high-pitched vocal harmonization, the song drives home the overall message of "Black excellence, truly yours." "Made in America" is perhaps the most disappointing offering on Watch the Throne, both in terms of music and lyrics, smattering together the names of historical black figures with the repetition of "Sweet baby Jesus."
As the album winds down, the sound shifts slightly to a more rock-tinged beat, as on "Why I Love You" and "Illest Motherfucker Alive," reverting back to its original modulations on "H*a*m." Jay-Z still manages to take all of the good lyrics, including "I played chicken with a Mack truck" and the usual referral to his Bed-Stuy days with "See the shit I saw growing up."
What Watch the Throne will leave you feeling is the desire for Jay-Z and Kanye West to always collaborate. I get the sense that this is just a glimmer of the musical magic they are capable of making together. Until then, look out for The Throne Tour in the fall.