Jay-Z and Kanye West’s bombastic Watch The Throne hit iTunes yesterday, and the joint collaboration between music’s two biggest MCs is already the #1 album in 23 countries. (It’s also projected to sell nearly half a million copies in its first week.) So yeah, it’s obvious people are watching The Throne — but are people liking it? We rummaged through all the various published reviews to find out the general consensus of the duo’s debut release as partners, and for these two kings of hip-hop, it’s a mixed bag. Round-up below:
:: EW gave it a B-, saying, “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.” They call it “no disaster”, but “It feels too much like a Kanye West project featuring a clutch of Jay-Z cameos.”
:: The Chicago Tribute was not impressed, giving it two out of four stars, and their headline “A Royal Waste” — says it all.
:: PopDust reviewed each song individually, in order from least favorite track (Holocaust-referencing “Who Gon Stop Me”, which they call a “grand dubstep experiment” that “might as well be a… mixtape cut”) to best track (“N****s In Paris”, which they don’t even seem that excited about).
:: Huffington Post‘s positive review mostly focused on Kanye: “No one in popular music humanizes the dark side of fame as adeptly as he does.” As for the album as a whole, “If not made up entirely of club bangers, no one can question that the album does sound like the two invested a great deal of time (and phone calls, calling in production from RZA, Swizz Beatz and more) on it.”
:: PopCrush was head over heels for the disc, calling the LP a “near masterpiece”, and that “Jay-Z and Kanye West display an honesty that is seldom heard in today’s commercialize rap genre.”
:: The Los Angeles Times calls the album “a cocksure, fiery, smart, if problematic, collaboration that showcases the pair’s distinct lyrical skills, their way around a metaphor and an ability to execute both a grand narrative and the details that turn it into truth. Musically, the production is captivating… even if a relative lack of structural variety within the songs makes the record feel a little longer than it actually is.”
:: Vulture is surprised the duo’s joint LP is as good as it is: “‘Epic’ is the default setting, but things get minimalist and sinister almost as often. And partially, it’s the simple joy of hearing these two go back and forth, not verse for verse, but often line for line.” They make very clear, however, “that isn’t to say both haven’t rapped better elsewhere.”
:: Time calls the album “beautifully decadent”, and asks you to “dig deep into Throne, past the bacchanal celebration of the finer things in life, and you’ll find the album’s heart: two men grappling with what it means to be successful and black in a nation that still thinks of them as second class.”
That’s just a handful of critics — what did you think of Jay and Kanye’s try at a collaboration? Tell us below.