Kanye West and Jay-Z's 'Watch the Throne': Read the EW review

Kanye-Jay-Z

Image Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

Yesterday, as you may have heard, Jay-Z and Kanye West (also known as “The Throne”) dropped their full-length collaboration, Watch the Throne.

It’s available exclusively on iTunes—where it has already taken the no. 1 spot in 23 countries—with a physical copy due in Best Buy stores this Friday, August 12. Below, see the full review of the album, which will also appear in the issue of EW hitting newsstands this Friday.

The Throne
Watch the Throne
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam/ Roc Nation)

On their first full-length collaboration, topline superstars Jay-Z and Kanye West choose to hide behind the sobriquet “The Throne.” But why? Do they love professional wrestling and think their tag team needs a badass name for the ring? Are they hoping to snag spots as direwolves on Game of Thrones? Or do they simply want to temper the heightened expectations that tend to saddle supergroups?

The latter seems like a distinct possibility. Too much of Watch the Throne sounds cluttered and disjointed, as though Jay and ‘Ye built their garish castle in the sky via FedEx and text messages. “Welcome to the Jungle” offers a lot of bluster but little heart, and “N—-s in Paris” seems to be the result of the ritual torturing of an Atari 2600. Everything falls apart on the album-closing “Why I Love You,” which cranks up West’s love of prog-rock bombast so much that it sounds like guest crooner Mr Hudson is trying to sing the hook over a poorly recorded bootleg of a Muse concert.

But Throne is certainly no disaster. “Otis,” on which the pair exchange breathless verses about their rags-to-riches elevation from street-corner slinging to private jets, revels in the cleverly sampled sweat and soul of Otis Redding’s 1966 classic “Try a Little Tenderness.” “Lift Off” nearly suffocates amid baroque strings and self-importance, but is rescued by Beyoncé, who whips the chorus with a belt so powerful you’d think it insulted her mother. The album’s centerpiece, “New Day,” finds guest the RZA laying down a busy, warm beat that gives the duo the freedom to write love letters to their unborn children, with West speculating about his future son, “I mean I might even make him be Republican/So everybody know he love white people.”

In fact, the greatness of “New Day” drives home the album’s big problem: It feels too much like a Kanye West project featuring a clutch of Jay-Z cameos. They sound like they’re on the same page only during fleeting moments, and when those slip by, listening inevitably is more frustrating than fulfilling. Then again, neither Kanye nor Jay should worry too much, right? After all, this misstep officially belongs to “The Throne.” B-


Read more on EW.com:
Kanye West drops ‘Watch the Throne,’ but not before comparing himself to Hitler
Independent record stores protest Jay-Z and Kanye’s album-release shutout
Review: Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Review: Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3


Comments (125 total) Add your comment
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  • papamidnite

    1st!!!
    after listening to it once through..
    not that impressed but I will give it few more spins..

    • Mike

      I took a poll of everyone reading this article and they’re all very proud of you for being 1st.

      • Jason C.

        I’m not proud of them…

      • Mike

        @Jason – sense the sarcasm.

      • Larry

        These monkeys belong in the zoo

      • Jason

        This review sucks!

    • wise one

      I’m with you! I am really not impressed. I’m glad I didn’t actually purchase this CD!. Youtube will allow you all to judge for yourself. They will no doubt sell many CDs and be #1 on the charts but the quality of this project is simply lacking. I’m tired of big name artists making crap music and calling it creative liberty or “artful”. No WTT is just “crapful”!

  • Muhammad Akill

    whoever wrote ths review is a b*tch…oh and btw kanye hates white ppl….

    • Lee

      This is a very true statement.

    • whuzz

      Why is Jayz shaking hands with Hitler

      • crispy

        They’re not shaking hands. That’s a Holocaust Fist-Bump.

      • Sid

        Those white models strangled and hanging from the ceiling must have turn kids off from his music.

  • Michael

    Horrible review. An entire paragraph is dedicated to bashing the title of the duo. Get someone better and more educated on hip-hop to review a major album like this

    • Green

      It certainly indicates Kyle’s knowledge of hip hop when 25% of the article is dedicated to how bad the name is.

      • Sid

        God Kyle, can you try to be more knowledge about crappy music next time.

  • negatory

    there’s no such thing as a “clever sample”. what the EW reviewer describes are people who can’t write sing or play. the lines quoted are barely generic. deserves an F but like most hip-hop records, gets a pass with excuses made.

    • erin

      Go away. I don’t comment on articles about particle physics because I don’t know anything about that. Maybe you should consider doing the same.

      • negatory

        you failed to mention what I said that was mistaken. by all means, enlighten me.

      • You Mad

        @negatory

        why try enlightening you when youre a moron who dont know what youre talking about.

      • Sid

        It’s like talking about the UK riots and only mentioning about the weather. Sad review.

      • negatory

        @ You Mad…hey, another insult. how sad for you that you have to justify defending this crap by attacking me. it must be really strong music for you to be able to come up with all those reasons for liking it.

      • You Mad

        On second thought, I downloaded the torrent of this cd, and you were right. It’s terrible.

    • Darell

      You are mistaken in thinking that it takes no musical talent to make hip-hop. Saying that rappers are no musicians is elitist, pretentious, and borderline racist of you. If you think hip-hop is easy, try and do it, then talk about how successful (or more likely not) you are.

      • Darell

        not*

      • Rufus

        borderline racist?? wow.
        I guess anybody who doesn’t like country music hates white people??? Dislike reggae? You’re a jamaican hater.

    • negatory

      rappers are successful i.e. rich because they peddle violence and porn. I am a writer but have no desire to yell profanity over machines. if a rapper doesn’t play an instrument or compose on one, he’s not a musician. unless you wanna say a guy who doesn’t know how to use tools is a carpenter. and hey, playing the race card regarding rap is pretty weak. assuming anything about my race based on musical taste makes YOU racist. I love black music…key word, MUSIC. forget insulting me and my character…just say what you like lyrically and musically about this record and let that be your argument.

      • jj

        Thanks for you opinion. Not that anyone cares what your definition of ‘music’ is. Because a massive amount of people in 23 countries obviously disagree with you.

      • Kevin

        Please link me to the awesome music you create, negatory. I have a good hunch it’s terrible.

      • negatory

        a massive amount of people also watched Saw 1-6. what the masses do means nothing. it does mean you can’t describe a single reason for liking this “music” other than large quantities of others bought it.

        Kevin, I’d be crazy to disclose personal info on a site like this. even if my stuff is bad, it deserves points for not resorting to using the words “ni**a” and “mother****er” 20x a song in order to persuade morons to buy it.

      • Jason C.

        @negatory You’re worried about disclosing music on a site like this? That’s not really personal information. You could easily direct people to a site where your copyrighted music is on Youtube or something of that nature. However, while rappers such as Kanye West and Jay-Z use the words you mentioned, that doesn’t mean that they’re using that to persuade people to buy their music, they actually deal with social and political issues. Jay-Z’s rhymes have been compared to great poets such as Alfred Lord Tennyson (who he actually looks up to in his writing). If you took time to be knowledgeable about the music you’re tirelessly deriding you’d know that there is actually more to it than you say in your ridiculous comments.

      • Darell

        I was talking about the craft of hip-hop….not making money…this is a pointless debate and you just really sound ignorant to me, hip-hop is a social commentary, in which one can express their raw emotions through poetry, (a foundastion of songwriting) that fits the measures of the beat while following the flow of the music that you are rapping to. The form itself is actually incredibly difficult to master, so disregarding that and assuming that it takes no effort and is so simple is, as I said before, incredibly elitist of you. I believe that you’re opinions are quite pretentious, not meaning to insult you, and I think that you have some borderline racist issues. You seem to me to be the type of person who when jazz was starting to evolve would have said “They just play loudly and fast, there’s no musicality to it, etc. I mean I love black music like ragtime but this is jazz stuff isn’t even music.”

      • Darell

        foundation*, I really need to start proofreading…

      • Inscrutable

        How could this site correctly judge music if the majority of the visitors are uneducated dolts who don’t know or don’t recognize the value of a set definition or other music which they avoid because it doesn’t sound the same as the music they like? More power to ya negatory; people will try to minimize your impact because they know what you say is mostly true, while their views while containing others’ opinions that they spout like robots, are mostly false. Quality not quantity.

    • Jason C.

      What you’re missing though is that Kanye can actually play instruments, and he has done so on his and other rappers albums. Samples are used as an homage to music and artists a rapper loves, and sometimes helps to strengthen the point. It’s not all about laziness. You’re simply ignorant.

      • Inscrutable

        If he could play these instruments well and succeed, don’t you think he’d be doing that now? He knows he can’t do anything but brainwash with those repeated phrases so he fills his wallet with the spoils of the most profitable operation. Maybe not lazy totally, but lazy in the sense that he does not want an intelligent audience because that money is hard to gain and not easy like Top 40 is. Low standards rule as the money pours in.

  • chirs

    awrful review, couldn’t disagree more with almost eveything you said, jay-z shines well above kanye on this album, the verses are excellent, this deserves an A- in my opinion the best album of the year, looks like kanye will have two grammys this year, one for this and one for my beautiful dark twisted fantasy the best album of last year

    • MCS

      I agree, poor review. IF the reviewer actually listened to the whole album (which I doubt) it is quite good. Not the best, but he definitely undersold it.

    • Makeith

      I don’t know what you were listening too but that album is far from an A. You people are blinded by who’s rapping and not really listening to the music. If this was a new group dropping this album, would you still give it an A…no! It sucked big time; not one real single on the entire album, all fillers.

  • carly

    Uhm….who reviewed this. YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. Kanye has always produced Jay Z’s songs so of course it sounds like a Kanye project. IDIOT

    • TheTruth

      No, no -id, timbo, just blaze have just as many tracks with Jay Z. Stop jocking and actually be fair. This means looking at your Gods’ (Hov and Ye) flaws. They are human and can make mistakes. Hip hop is about true emotions, meaning being vulnerable sometimes to show the truth. As awesome as seeing these two is, they did nothing but brag on the album; and gave us no depth of emotions… The reason I listen to music.

      • Scott

        Thank you. I expected so much more out of these two, considering the talent involved. I’ve listened to the album 3 times now and I have no idea what the theme is yet, and you could probably put this album on random and not notice the difference, a lot of songs sound the same. Dark Twisted Fantasy is 10x better than this. WTT is solid, but nothing special. And where’s the banger, the song we’ll remember years from now?

  • Demond

    I can’t wait to pick this cd up Friday.These are two of the only artists I listen to in rap/hip-hop.Also,terrible review.

    • Sid

      can’t wait pick up cd friday. They, two artists I listen to on rap/hip hop. Review is a terrible. Best on da planet earph baby

  • negatory

    hey, don’t criticize the reviewer. they should’ve been harsher. on the other hand, maybe another “song” about “ni***as” is the best those two pinheads could do. their machines can make sounds that almost sound human, but they can’t write a decent lyric or melody. that takes talent rappers just don’t have.

    • Lawrence

      You just made yourself sound ignorant.

      • negatory

        what did I say that was in error?

      • Sid

        Dis Be Da Best Album On Duh Planet Earph

    • erin

      go back to the nursing home and listen to your Patti Page records, dear.

      • negatory

        erin, I wasn’t even born when Otis cut Try a Little Tenderness., the song those two bozos sampled. you might give Otis’ version a listen, though. you’ll hear a great vocalist and a crack band play timeless music. and they don’t even have to use the word “ni**a” once. imagine that.

      • erin

        I “might give Otis’ version a listen”?? How adorably patronizing of you. In fact, I TEACH American popular music history. I am a huge fan of classic R&B as well as good rap music. When you discount an entire genre of music, rather than evaluating each record for its own quality, your opinion cannot be given much merit.

      • negatory

        lady, I don’t teach music, I write it. and rap deserves to be discarded as the garbage it is. something like “Ni***s in Paris” is absolutely degrading. any writer with a beginner’s flow could come up with that, IF he’s read enough Hustler. writing to a set meter and not bragging about yourself in each verse coupled with obscenites, that’s craft. if you’re teaching your students different, you’re doing them a great disservice.

      • Sid

        I like fish sticks in my mouth.

    • Damian313

      Welcome to America dumbass!!! Every song in every genre has foul language!!! And I notice you keep bringing up the word no##ga! Listen to the album you retard they barely use the N word!!! And pretty much every genre incorporates hip hop beats in there songs!! Go jump in a mosh pit and bang your head against a speaker that probably your version of good music?

    • Jason C.

      Maybe you should learn something before you decide to talk down about a genre of music.

    • Inscrutable

      That N word has been run into the ground so much that it’s meaningless. Much like Mainstream Rap. Underground is thriving, but struggling against the tidal waves of money thrown at the mediocre. Sales are so poor they stick a bunch of these clowns together so they claim sales are high.

  • juicy

    this review is NO good. even if I weren’t a Jay or ‘Ye fan I’d know better than to publish such novice opinions. “street-corners slinging” FOH with this review..Leave it to those who really know and appreciate music.

  • TxWildBear

    Clearly Negatory has a few platinum plaques around to show off his prowess…or perhaps he’s just another in a long line of failed musicians/haters that can’t stand the success other people have.

    I listened to the whole album and there were maybe 2 tracks on the album that were complete trash. There were a couple that were “meh” and the rest of the album sounded like a classic. New Day is the best track on the album- RZA did his thing.

    It’s ugly to throw shots at the throne when you’re groveling in the mud- some around here would do well to remember that.

    • Lawrence

      you took the words right outta my mouth

  • erin

    Why do people who hate all hip-hop read and comment on a review of a hip-hop album??
    Don’t answer that, I know it’s because they’re idiots.

  • erin

    EW, why don’t you have music reviewers specific to genre? If someone doesn’t know very much about rap and hip-hop, and really only loves indie rock, why have them try to write a review of a major hip-hop album? It’s not going to be at all useful to real music lovers. Jus sayin

    • Rufus

      Only real music lovers love hip-hop…surrrrreeee

    • Inscrutable

      Amazing how you can tell the majority of the critics “hate” Hip Hop music. There is a growing concern that Hip Hop is losing its’ spirit; it has not. What are your sources when you claim that someone who cricizes this substandard facsimile is somehow automatically a hater of Hip Hop? You have none? Ah, so your generalization about comments is invalid and void.

  • jhladsjlh

    Redo this review and let someone write it who knows what they are talking about,

  • rlb237

    Odd that this review isn’t as favorable as the first one EW already printed in an issue about 2 weeks ago, after Jay-Z had a listening party for the disc.

    • rlb237

      And by odd, I mean stupid that they didn’t have the same person who already wrote about it do the full, “official” review, since that person clearly knew more about the genre and Jay-Z’s/Kanye’s past songs and collaborations.

      • rek343

        Who cares. Nobody is going to listen to this.

      • @rek343

        50 Cent, is that you?

  • jmateo

    There’s nobody better than these two here they mix old with the New Jay is the lyrical king of all times while ye has just done some of best producing and mixing beats above and beyond the rest of the hip hop world together they are the throne!!!!!!!!

    • Jason C.

      While I enjoy and respect both artists (for their music, not necessarily personalities), Eminem is the lyrical king and best rapper alive. I’d even put Mos Def above Jay-Z and Kanye West.

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