OPINION: On Watch the Throne and the beautiful win. An appreciation. #WTT
by Marcus K. Dowling
To hate Watch the Throne is akin to having minimal respect or appreciation for hip hop. However, this is NOT a hip hop album. Not by the traditional standards by which we judge the expressions of rappin’ ass rappers at least. Jay-Z and Kanye West are in an entirely different stratosphere than the genre to which they are linked, and now aspire to take it to the next level. In an era where people don’t buy music, nor attend concerts or do much of anything involving money regarding music, hip hop has ascended to being the most dominant form of popular sonic expression. In an era like this, it’s completely believable that a genre whose party culture came from people not being able to afford to travel downtown, whose most creative moments came from interpolating pop perfection, and whose most important forces define themselves by established standards of triumph is in the lead. In this crucible Watch the Throne, an entirely progressive concept album of what hip hop’s latest greatest level of success looks and sounds like was created.
Hubris didn’t allow Jay and Yeezy to name this album Watch the Throne, history did. Kanye West broke Twitter and introduced it as a mainstream vehicle of pop adoration and expression. Jay-Z became Berry Gordy, and even got to marry Diana Ross. And, as we all know, that’s just scratching the surface. And yes, that’s important too. We ALL know. When a rapper decides to turn pop, they now almost always succeed. Everyone loves rap, and everyone loves rappers. The two rappers that almost everyone universally loves or respects in the first generation where everyone loves rappers? Jay-Z and Kanye West. Watch the Throne? Absolutely. They’re the kings and well, yeah. We’re all milling about the royal court. Some of us are sitting at their feet gazing upon their opulent paradise in awe, some of us are in the back of the room, one million Brutuses planning the denouement of this Julius Caesar life as a play.
These are songs that define the next generation. If Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC or the 213 combo of Dre, Snoop and Warren G were “Niggas in Paris,” they would’ve been viewed as charming oddities. Now, Kanye and Jay are explaining to those who came before and will succeed after that the hip hop generation can do that and be viewed, just like everyone else, charming men leading a charmed life. “Otis” is not a great song. But, it’s amazing in its absurdity. Otis Redding, Jay-Z and Kanye West are screaming at you in a cacophonous harmony. Three generations of great black men celebrating 50 plus years of the great progression. From getting shot in Memphis to living the life and blowing money fast on Melrose Place. Yes, the song may suck, but its about a whole lot more than music here. This is music as a lifestyle guide. The bars are less complicated because you don’t want to over complicate the message. Simple words. Complex times. The solutions are in the songs.
Hating this album is perfectly okay though. There are those of you who like your coffee black, no sugar, no cream, and you like your hip hop to be hip hop. Well, Jay-Z and Kanye West are kind of done with hip hop the way it was. As musical visionaries, they see where hip hop can aspire to get in, fit in and expand in this most curious new world order. In writing songs about rich dudes being rich, and crafting ponderous tracks that live in an appreciation of the past and actively strangle the future, Watch the Throne is a continuation of rap music’s next quest. In a day where young rappers just state that there’s an Odd Future and that Timez Are Weird These Days, Jay-Z and Kanye West are living the life that everyone talks about. Sit back, shut up, relax and enjoy. You have no money, your country doesn’t either, but rap is beautiful and winning, and you should be beautiful and winning, too.