Like a kid on Christmas morning, hip-hop fans rushed to iTunes to download Jay-Z and Kanye West’s blockbuster album Watch the Throne as soon as it went on sale Sunday night. The hip-hop kings assembled a royal lineup of collaborators including Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, The RZA, Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes, Q-Tip, and more to create the year’s biggest rap release. But was it able to live up to all the hype? The reviews are in.
USA Today: Star collaborations don’t always work out as well in practice as they do on paper (see: Jay-Z and R. Kelly). But in this case, they’ve created an artistic Throne that other rappers can aspire to. 4/4
Los Angeles Times: The album’s highlight, and an instant classic, is “Made in America,” a solid, slow-paced Frank Ocean-teamed jam about the American dream that reveals the main difference between West and Jay-Z: humility. … On Watch the Throne, the two kings prove much more nimble and disciplined, displaying a confidence that suggests they’re not going anywhere. 3/4
The Washington Post: Jay’s most diamond-encrusted verses might give us the guts to fantasize beyond our means, but most of us will never actually touch that kind of wealth. Meantime, West continues to invest in the power of ego—something a recession can never take away. Because of that, Watch the Throne is his album.
Boston Herald: Watch the Throne has been hailed as a second coming. Instead, it’s a great hip-hop album with the flaws we’ve come to expect from Hova and Yeezy—both giants have delivered revolutionary rhymes and mainstream mediocrity. B+
New York Post: Watch the Throne is neither West’s nor Jay-Z’s best, but count it as a success, especially getting two performers as dynamic and egomaniacal as this duo to mesh into a cohesive team.
Chicago Tribune: The production is often stellar, favoring West’s soul-dusties sensibility, with snippets of James Brown, Otis Redding, and Nina Simone. But it rarely takes the kind of chances West routinely takes on his solo albums. Instead, the idea is to create an album that lives up to its royal billing, a gilded collection of potential hits with lots of hooks and plenty of branding opportunities. 2/4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “No Church in the Wild,” “Ni**as in Paris,” “New Day,” “Made in America”