The big album of the year, bar none. It’s hard to remember any album in recent memory that had such a build-up and so much expectations placed on it, although it didn’t quite start that way. Originally planned as a five-track EP, Watch The Throne fast evolved into a full album. The first anyone heard from the tag team of Jay-Z & Kanye West was the rather sloppy "H.A.M.", which dampened many people’s hopes for the collaboration (fortunately the track was relegated to the deluxe version’s extra disc). Could these two icons of hip-hop produced an expensive gold-plated flop? Well, in short, no.
Watch The Throne is unashamedly brash and flash; it flaunts its cost like an expensive piece of jewellery. Kanye’s influence is clear to see. The more experimental of the pair, he takes over with the overall sound of the record. There are still the big crossover pop moments, but there’s also unorthodox samples from two soul legends (Otis Redding on "Otis", Nina Simone on "New Day"), dubstep, Will Ferrell dialogue, a bizzare bluesy motif that appears at the end of several tracks and the epic shapeshifting "Murder To Excellence". It’s a bit removed from “Empire State Of Mind” to say the least…
Whilst the record in grandiose and materialistic, there’s also a clear social conscience running through its core. Countless references to the struggles of African-Americans in the US, black-on-black murder, the two stars’ worries over fatherhood, religion, politics and much more shoot down the idea that this is basically two rappers dicking around in the studio, talking about their clothes and women. Watch The Throne is a landmark.