Preview: Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch The Throne”

On July 8, 2011, Jay-Z hosted an intimate listening session for the looming, game changing, genre bending Hip-Hop opus Watch The Throne. Roughly 20 people were invited to the exclusive event, which interestingly enough included the two teenage New Yorkers that purchased the first two copies of the album on Amazon.com’s preorder. They were there along with their parents, who were gracious enough to tolerate a long evening for the sake of their kids. Where to begin? There was so much to absorb of the evening so I’ll write this similar to the way Watch The Throne was crafted…free-flowing and without rules.

There were some ground rules for the session though. 1) No live tweeting. We could say we were there and that’s about it. One journo from The Fader was kicked out with the swiftness for tweeting specifics. 2) No quoting exact lyrics in write ups. Why? Because, although we heard a lot, Watch The Throne is not finished. Lyrics may change. 3) No specific song titles. They aren’t set either.

So, here is the song-by-song rundown of Watch The Throne.

Song # 1

In the first song, Beyonce completely blasts off to a beat laced with heavy synths. Kanye bursts onto the track, weaving in and out of autotune and various vocal distortions. Very off beat, but in a good way. Jay-Z follows up flowing to very short or truncated verses. Clearly, Beyonce is the ancho to a song that ebbs and flows until it blasts off in a spaceship counting down. (This was actually the second song, but the first seemed to be a partial record that got hacked off.)

Song # 2

Bouncy is the first word that comes to mind with Song # 3. The track almost sounds like a traditional southern Hip-Hop record. Jay’s flowing much faster, sort of in the vein of “Big Pimpin’.” Jay’s rapping double time and then yields to ‘Ye, who raps at a slower pace. The song concludes with the crash of a slowed down menacing beat, reminscent of 80s instrumentalists Art of Noise.

By now, Jay is bouncing to the beats that he’s manning the session from the Mac Book. He stops most of the songs abruptly even.

Song # 3

The fourth song begins with a long, bluesy Otis Redding sample…which gets chopped up lovely. Jay and ‘Ye go back and forth, almost bar for bar. Straight spittin…. I personally felt is was similar to the way Biggie and Jay spit over “Brooklyn’s Finest,” but my homey Aqua completely disagreed. Nevertheless, they went in.

Song # 4

Or is that song 4? Anyway, the next song was wrought with melancholy if you only went according to the track. Upon further examination, Jay-Z and Kanye trade lyrics about raising their future kids. To attempt to regurgitate the content wouldn’t do the song justice. The song is a very honest and vulnerable look at something the pair long for, but not commonly addressed.

Song # 5

Song # 6 had the whole room bobbing their head in unison to a slow, dragging epic track. Feels European, the United Kingdom to be specific.

Song # 6

This one was a joint where Kanye and Jay rap over a singer’s voice trading bars every 2-4 lines.

Song # 7

This song was my absolute favorite. The beat went super hard with Kanye and Jay asking aggressively, “Who gon’ stop me, huh?” This song was rooted in a bassline that was deeply monophonic. At the end, the pair throw the listeners for a loop and jump off the path. Suddenly, the beat changes, random instruments come in and out of this living, breathing song.

Song # 8

Song 8 feels very African in nature. Kanye comes in singing for a couple bars and then Jay starts rapping. Interestingly enough, they are rapping about Black on Black violence. Black Panther Fred Hampton gets a mention. An unlikely positive song.

Song # 9

Sounds like Frank Ocean is the new golden boy…maybe? Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott get nods on song 9. This inspirational song references Jesus and centers on making it as a success in America. Kanye used a particularly clever metaphor. He raps about making his beats and selling them to Jay at the early part of his career. But they says he now “gets high on his own supply,” the dope being his own music.

Song # 10

Number 10 offers the operatic synths laced with a rock sample talking about love. The track goes hard. The beats elevates and suddenly…the album is over. The ending is more abrupt than anything I’ve ever heard.

Jay gets asked if this version of the album was the regular or the deluxe version. The Brooklyn don doesn’t speak on it. He simply cues up two more songs that knock. Jay then says, “Does that answer your question?” Room explodes into spontaneous laughter. Jay also let the room hear a song with Swizz Beatz that he admitted might not make the album. He also indicated that “H.A.M.,” the first song he and Kanye released may not make the album either.

Overall, Watch The Throne is one of the most interesting pieces of Hip-Hop I’ve heard in a long time. Many people asked is it “classic” or is it “dope as expected.” I believe, to properly enjoy the album, they are going to need to shed expectations and erase what they know. I already can see there will be a segment of the population that simple will not “get” this album.

But, that is the beauty of Watch The Throne. Everybody won’t love it and others will swear by it. It will be the topic of debates and hate. Through it all, its very cool to see Hip-Hop artist evolving creatively. Fearlessly.

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  • behind da barz

    --------the chemicals R identical, we're one & the same / with 7 letters in all 3 of my government names / walked on water, nah, neither did jesus / its a parable to make followers & readers believers--------i gave her my honorable discharge & she took it like a soldier--------what's a black beetle anyway, a fuckin roach-------she told the director she tryna get in a school-he said "take them glasses off and get in the pool"---------what ya'll call swag to me is faggotry-------my outfit so disrespectful / u go 'head n sneeze let my presence bless u--------its quite amazing that u rhyme like u do / & how u shine like u grew up in a shrine in peru-------its hard fuckin with niggaz u hope u can trust / ure a fool if ure main bitch is easy to fuck--------beyond the walls of intelligence life is divine / i think of crime when im in a new york state of mind - ------THE WAY SOME ACT IN RAP IS KINDA WACK / IT LACKS CREATIVITY & INTELLIGENCE / BUT THEY DON'T CARE BECAUSE THEIR COMPANY IS SELLING IT / ITS MY PHILOSOPHY ON THE INDUSTRY--------From days I wasn't "Abel/able", there was always "Cain/caine-------know how to leave anything in 30 seconds / when you feel the heat coming & flee with the murder weapon--------ayo my silent moments' loud as the crack of thunder / my hunger like the crocodile that attacked the hunter-------i'm something between platinum & flop, underground & mainstream / conscious, backpack, scratch dat; same thing---------this phiscal year im'a stay hot, buzzin / wit dudes that help me shoot like a-rod's cousin-------i fight chicks who bite dicks / give 'em lock-jaw then make 'em fight pits ------all we see is terrorism on telievision ------i'm da illest nigga alive watch me prove it / i'll snatch your crown with your head still attatched to it ------slap your face till your head ache your neck break / the next day slash your throat thru the neckbrace ------ I'm ahead of the game, ahead of these lames / I'm a head case, the head nurse gets me better with brain ------ure now dealin with da kid who heat-holds & reloads / like god gave him a gta ammunition cheat-code ------once upon a time i used to grind all night / with dat coke residue that was ipod white ------ --i took trips with so much shit in the whip / that if the cops pulled us over the dogs would get sick (sniff) ------ i put my lifetime in between the paper's lines / i'm da quiet storm nigga who fight rhyme ------brain cells are lit ideas start to hit / next the formation of words dat fit / at da table i sit making it legit / when my pen hits da paper...aah shit -------i save money while u spendin ure doe / i must stash like da hair between your lip & your nose ------age don't count in the booth / when your flow stayed submerged in the fountain of youth -------when i'm writing i'm trapped in between the lines / i escape when i finish da rhyme - ------if we can't eat together then u aint my mans / so when u see me in da streets dont shake my hand- -----money is da root of all evil / dats why u always gotta now where u stand with your people--------i can show u how to gamble your money, handle a gun / & be a family man & go home to your sun- -------black diamonds in my jesus-piece / MY GOD-------its like da ball be over the plate & they dont call it a strike- ------i'm a gangsta & a gentleman, show you both sides of the coin / knife at your throat-gun at your groin- --------my testimonial be "death to a phony mc / you wanna impress me, show me a ki--------lord knows what homey would do if i showed him da 9 / a one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind--------on da road to riches & diamond rings / in the land of the blind a man with one eye is the king--------you lack the minerals & vitamins, iron & the niacin--------stares get exchanged then the 5th come out / the tough guy disappears then the bitch come out--------if you got a bith you dont argue with dat bitch / you dont listen to dat bitch all you do is fuck dat bitch-------know da bitch b4 you call yourself lovin it / nogga wit a benz fuckin it------went from $20Gs for blow to $30gs a show / to orgies wit hoes i never seen befo'-------i'm intelectual; passed more essays / than police motorcade parades thru east l.a.-------DEAD IN THE MIDDLE OF LITTLE ITALY LITTLE DID WE KNOW / WE RIDDLED SOME MIDDLE-MAN WHO DIDN'T DO DIDDLY-------visualizing the realism of life in actuality / fuck who's da baddest; a person's status depends on salary-------mechanical movement, understandable smooth shit / that murderers move with-the thief's theme--------DEEP LIKE "THE SHINING" SPARKLE LIKE A DIAMOND / SNEAK AN UZI ON DA ISLAND IN MY ARMY JACKET LINING / HIT THE EARTH LIKE A COMET - INVASION / NAS IS LIKE THE AFRO-CENTRIC ASIAN; ½ MAN, ½ AMAZING-------& why certainly i'm squirtin / bust a nut then get up & wipe my dick on your curtain-------walk by your casket & spit in your face--------i know how to get my peers off me / make 'em cry & die from high blood-pressure cuz tears are salty-------i'm not trying to give you love & affection / i'm tryna give you 60 seconds of erection / then im'a give you cab fare & directions / get your independent ass outta here - question?---------black cat is bad luck; bad guys wear black / must've been a white guy who started all that--------either you're slinging crack-rocks or you got a wicked jumpshot--------all us blacks got is sports & entertainment--------2 many athletes, actors & rappers / but not enough niggaz at nasa - ------why did bush knock down the towers?--------I REACT LIKE MIKE / ANY ONE TY-SON, JOR-DAN, JACK-SON / action, pack gunz, ridiculous--------all the teachers couldn't reach me & my mom couldn't beat me / hard enough to make up for my pop not seeing me---------kings from queens, from queens comes kings / we're raising hell like a class when the lunch bell rings---------excuse me miss, can i give you a minute? / may i buy you a glass of ice with liquor in it?--------what goes around comes around i figure / now we got white kids calling themselves nigga / the tables turn as the crosses burn...---------YOU LOVE TO HEAR THE STORY AGAIN & AGAIN / OF HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED WAY BACK WHEN--------i guess they got a grudge cause i won't budge / playin tough, staring down the judge with my hands cuffed---------A CHILD IS BORN WITH NO STATE OF MIND / BLIND TO THE WAYS OF MANKIND--------who shot biggie smalls? if we don't get them they gon' get us all / i'm down to run up pn them crackers in their city hall----------its kinda hard to be optimistic / when your homey is laying dead in a casket----------they say the blacker the berry; the sweeter the juice / i say the darker the flesh; then the deeper the roots---------i took your breath away then we'd perform cpr---------there's no real way it can be explained / i guess its just the way i smile when i hear your name--------CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME / C.R.E.A.M. GET THE MONEY, DOLLAR DOLLAR BILL Y'AAAAALL------------see I’m a poet to some, a regular modern day shakespeare / jesus christ the king of these latter day saints here / To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me as / a monger of hate and satan a scatter-brained atheist--------i remember marvin gaye used to sing to me / he had me feeling like black was the thing to be------------this be that put-you-out-your-misery song / that makes you ask your man 'is this the joint he's dissin me on?'---------foul all your life now ure 90 / on ure death bed u regret being grimey---------INDUSTRY RULE #4080, RECORD COMPANY PEOPLE ARE SHAAADYYYY / so kids watch your back cause i think they smoke crack---------society's a weak excuse for a man-----------planet earth my place of birth / born to be the sole controller of the universe---------the mic had my prints, on on it was a body---------a squealer tells, but the dealer still sells---------some young male put in jail / lawyer so good his bail was on sale----------i'm just takin a piss......unless you're gonna do it----------fuck street clothes, we thug it out in tuxedos / stomp niggaz with hard bottoms in casinos--------people higher up have the lowest self-esteem / & the prettiest people do the ugliest things-----------IF YOU ADMIRE SOMEONE YOU SHOULD GO 'HEAD & TELL 'EM / PEOPLE NEVER GET THE ROSES WHILE THEY CAN STILL SMELL 'EM-----------goddamn, what a nigga gotta do to make a million / without the fbi catching feelings--------i got a story to tell / in these streets we got drugs & guns for sale---------we keep the nine tucked chop dimes up rap about it / wild out fuck niggaz up laugh about it---------- read between tha lines of ya eyes and ya brows / ya handshake aint matchin ya smile---------what the fuck i rap for? to push a fuckin rav-4?-------fuck all the glamour & glitz, i plan to get rich / i'm from new york & never was a fan of the knicks----------the white boy blossomed after dre endorsed him / his flow on renegade-fuckin awesome...applaud him-------before i start you know i gotta / pay homage & respects to afrika bambaata---------DRUGS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS / MONEY IS THE KEY TO SEX------i pimped my crib so i must exhibit------- I - WILL - NOT - LOSE !
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