Review: JAY-Z & Kanye West

JAY-Z & Kanye West

Watch the Throne

Roc-a-Fella Records

3/5

With the American economy in the shitter, it’s probably not the greatest time for Hov and ‘Ye to be name-checking German luxury cars, Rothko paintings and other lifestyle porn. But let’s get real. Would it make any sense for two of the richest and most famous men in popular music to be feigning hard times? They’re living the dream and they want to celebrate. It’s hard to blame them. The problem here is the uneven music, which runs the gamut from schlock (witness Beyonce hamming it up on the corny “Lift Off”) to obvious, phoned-in production choices (sampling “Apache” on the track “That’s My Bitch” feels like the hip-hop equivalent of a bar band busting out “Satisfaction”) to a few inspired moments (the tense opener “No Church in the Wild” and the RZA-produced “New Day”). Though the guys have some bona fide classics in their back catalogue, I can’t see this being one of them.

Note: Since I wrote this review last week, I’ve come across numerous articles about an uncleared sample that appears on “The Joy” – a Watch the Throne bonus track. The sample is from the song “Different Strokes” by soul singer Syl Johnson, who’s none too pleased about his work being used without his permission. 

For what it’s worth, have a look at this You Tube video, which highlights the prominent samples on Watch the Throne and places them back to back with the source material:

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