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

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-

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

Kanye West drops 'Watch the Throne,' but not before comparing himself to Hitler

When he woke up this morning, rapper/producer/provocateur Kanye West probably expected there to be a lot of headlines about him flying around the Internet. And while there are plenty of people writing breathlessly about the arrival of Watch the Throne, his long-awaited album-length collaboration with Jay-Z, West is grabbing just as many Internet eyeballs because of his comments at the Big Chill festival in the U.K. over the weekend.

On Saturday night, West paused in the middle of his set to rant about how much people dislike him and how persecuted he always feels. “I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street, and people look at me like I’m f—ing insane, like I’m Hitler,” he told the crowd. “One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did.” That day will remain in the distant future for the people in attendance, who booed West for comparing himself to the architect of the Third Reich.

It seems like West is saying that he is hated as much as people hate Hitler, which seems hyperbolic even for him. Also, it probably isn’t even true. We haven’t done any sort of research on this, but we imagine Hitler’s approval rating is still way lower than Kanye’s, even though the former has been dead for six decades. READ FULL STORY

While you're waiting to 'Watch the Throne,' enjoy these punchline-friendly jams

On “Otis,” the first single from Kanye West and Jay-Z’s upcoming Watch The Throne, Jay-Z spits, “Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth/ I’m about to call the paparazzi on myself.” Not to be outdone, Kanye fires back with, “Luxury rap, the Hermes of verses/ Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive!”

Ba-dum, crash. It’s been a great summer for club-goers and college kids (read: people who love LMFAO), but when it comes to witty, winking rap one-liners, well, let’s just say we’ve missed these guys.

There’s no arguing with the fact that Jay-Z and Kanye are two of the cleverest guys in hip-hop. So if you’re getting feverish waiting for Watch The Throne to drop on Monday, fear not—we’re here to help! To tide you over for the weekend, we recommend that you first watch Jay and ‘Ye’s vaguely inexplicable new teaser trailer, and then check out these other tracks we love by rhymers with a sense of humor. READ FULL STORY

Kanye West joins Nicki Minaj on stage at Britney Spears concert: Watch it here!

One of the centerpieces of Nicki Minaj’s set on this summer’s Britney Spears-hosted Femme Fatale tour has been her head-spinning verse on “Monster,” the fantastic track from Kanye West’s 2010 magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Of course, that song also contains verses from West, Jay-Z, and Rick Ross, so it always feels a little incomplete onstage without them.

‘Ye decided to bring some extra noise during the Femme Fatale stop last night in Uniondale, New York, storming the stage during the opening notes of “Monster” for a run through through his song-opening verse.

The crowd, as expected, went a little nutty. Check out the video of West’s guest appearance here: READ FULL STORY

Independent record stores protest Jay-Z and Kanye's album-release shutout


The roll-out of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collab album Watch the Throne is threefold: On Aug. 8, both standard and deluxe versions hit iTunes digitally. Next comes the standard physical version (CD and albums), which gets to formal stores Aug. 12. Best Buy, however, will have the deluxe version exclusively. Then on Aug. 22 it’s out everywhere else.

It’s the second and third part that has indie record store owners up in arms. Peeved that Best Buy will be the only place to buy the Throne CD, the Record Store Day folks sent an email out to their indie store brothers and sisters addressed to the rhymers. In it they call Jay and Kanye’s decision to give Best Buy a deluxe head start a “short-sighted strategy, and that your decisions will be doing great damage to over 1,700 independent record stores —stores that have supported you and your music for years.”

(Though they do ask nicely: the letter also says “We know that you are busy, and that you put most of your energies into creating great music, but we are writing to you in the hope that you will hear us and take the time to rectify this matter.”)

The deluxe version of Throne features an additional four tracks—ones that the kind of music fanatics who frequent indie joints for music will want. They’ll likely have to take their dollars to the mainstream giant to get all 16 songs.

It’s definitely not fair. But as they say, business is business. Allowing the indies to sell the deluxe on Aug. 12 is probably the “right” thing to do. Really though, it’s the artists’ album. And if they want to keep it away from the little guys (as bad as that sounds), it’s their prerogative.

Sound off and check out the full letter (and the growing number of signatures supporting it) after the jump.


Kanye West and Jay-Z announce new group name, 'Watch the Throne' album release and tour dates

A royal decree has been made: For their upcoming run as a touring duo, hip-hop rulers Kanye West, Jay-Z, and their backing mates shall be known as The Throne.

The tour news came this morning along with the duo finally revealing an official release date of their highly anticipated collab Watch the Throne: August 8, exclusively on iTunes (physical versions of the album hit stores Aug. 12). That day, tickets will also be available for the Watch the Throne Tour at Ticketmaster and LiveNation. You can check out when they’ll hit a city near you here.

Throne, recorded at international locales including London, Bath, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Paris, and New York City, features production from The Neptunes and RZA among others and vocal appearances from Jay’s wife Beyoncé and Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean. Check out the official track listing after the jump.


Kanye West and Jay-Z unveil regal raps on soulful single 'Otis'

Ladies and gents, Kanye West and Jay-Z are ready.

After months of speculation and two weeks after letting EW and a few other outlets hear a rough version of their highly anticipated collab Watch the Throne, the two officially released a cut from it so that we may all bask in its opulent glory; you can listen to it by clicking here at Jay’s Life + Times.

It’s called “Otis”—named after the classic Otis Redding sample the beat is wrapped around. Jay and ‘Ye go tit for tat on the braggadocio-heavy cut. “I invented swag,” Jay declares from jump, and what follows is a lyrical onslaught of upscale rhymes and confidence justified by years of success.

Kanye explains why he hasn’t been caught out by the paparrazzi:”They ain’t seen me ’cause I pulled up in my other Benz/Last week I was in my other-other Benz.” Sure, these aren’t exactly the issues of the common man. But it’s so hip-hop. With no hook or chorus, it’s pleasantly unconventional.  And between the soulful bounce and the aggressive delivery, this might be the most well-executed rap song of the year so far.

Have you heard “Otis yet? Think it’s better than “H.A.M.“? Tell us what you think. Looking forward to Watch the Throne?

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Katy Perry, Adele, Kanye West lead 2011 MTV Video Music Awards nominations

Quick: Which clip won the Moonman for Video of the Year at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards?

Having a hard time remembering? That’s because the actual awards are only about the fourth most important aspect of any given VMAs (just behind the performances, the host and whatever Kanye West does).

Still, the nominations do provide an excellent jumping-off point for the show, which will air live from Los Angeles on August 28. This year, Katy Perry leads the way with nine nominations, split between nods for “Firework,” “Teenage Dream,” “E.T.” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” Adele is right behind with seven nods for “Rolling in the Deep,” and Kanye West also racked up seven (most of which are for “All of the Lights,” though “Power” did get a pair of noms as well.

The five videos competing for Video of the Year are “Firework,” “Rolling in the Deep,” Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” Beastie Boys’ “Make Some Noise” and, in a somewhat shocking turn of events (if only because the buzz on his crew has died down so profoundly), Tyler, the Creator’s “Yonkers.”

You can check out the complete list of nominees after the jump. Oh, and the winner of the 2010 Video of the Year was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” READ FULL STORY

Kanye West makes surprise cameo with Q-Tip at hip-hop festival in Brooklyn: Watch the video here

When New York rhymer Q-Tip and his A Tribe Called Quest dropped their classic hip-hop set Midnight Marauders in 1993, Kanye West–an avid fan of the trio–was 19.

So you can imagine the joy he felt last Saturday when his teen idol brought him, now a full-on star himself, up on stage as a surprise guest at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival to perform Marauders‘ standout single “Award Tour.”

A Chicago native, West looked right at home on the outdoor NY stage. In his retro chic tank top and snapback cap, Kanye didn’t just rock with Tip, but also hopped off the stage and into the crowd to perform the title track from his last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Check out the clips after the jump.


Jay-Z previews collab with Kanye West, 'Watch the Throne': On the scene at the NYC listening session

Leave it to hip-hop’s smoothest star to break up the tension in a crowded room.

“Why don’t you sit on the floor,” Jay-Z, clad in a Yankees cap, white v-neck tee, and matching shell-toe Adidas, asked the few people lingering around the entrance to his Mercer Hotel suite in Manhattan’s Soho last night. “We can make it like camp.” The revered rhymer invited friends and a select few journalists for an early listen of Watch the Throne, his long-awaited full-length collaboration with Kanye West (who was notably absent from the evening).

The room—one of many Jay and ‘Ye had transformed into a full-blown recording studio at the luxury New York inn since the beginning of the year—is still decked out with equipment: an MPC drum machine here, keyboards and microphones there. The duo is still buffing and polishing Throne, so we were asked not to quote any lyrics, since they might change before the release date. (Still to be determined, but Jay promises “soon.”)

Simply put: Throne proves to be a masterpiece. No exaggeration. Though it was mostly crafted here in New York, songs were also written in  Paris, Australia, and Bath, England. The influences of the international locales are evident, but its the true grit of New York’s hip-hop spirit that truly shines through.And though the title suggests pomposity and majesty, Throne is lyrically well-balanced and accessible. There are opulent raps dripping with swag for sure, but also plenty that smack of militancy, worry, and grief.

Speaking of grief, Jay diffused any notions of conflict between he and Kanye, offering up instead an anecdote that made West seem downright generous. Back in 2009, Jay told West that “Run This Town” would be the first single off of  Blueprint 3. West, who produced the track and offered some verse for it, opposed: He said he’d just attended a barbecue where “Town” played, but didn’t get a big response.Jay’s “Empire State of Mind” would be a better look, Kanye insisted.

Jay ended going with “Town” first, followed by his now-ubiquitous New York anthem. They both were smashes. But Jay said that the story exemplified West’s drive to win—even if it means sacrificing his own ego. “He’s difficult to work with for specific, well-intentioned reasons,” Jay said.

Below is a track-by-track description of Throne’s cuts. Mind you, all titles given (and some weren’t) are subject to change.


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