For this week’s “MN Throwback” we’re taking a look back at a magical day in music history – August 8, 2011. Some would say 8/8/11 was the day Jay-Z & Kanye West’s Watch The Throne dropped, but we’d argue it’s the day ‘fire’ was created. It was fire – there’s no other way of putting it without circling back to the fact that Watch The Throne was a fiery, Drogon-like, flamethrower of an album.
1. No Church in The Wild (Feat. Frank Ocean)
2. Lift Off (Feat. Beyoncé)
3. Niggas in Paris
4. Otis (Feat. Otis Redding)
5. Gotta Have It
6. New Day
7. Prime Time
8. Who Gon Stop Me
9. Murder to Excellence
10. Welcome to The Jungle
11. Sweet Baby Jesus (Feat. Frank Ocean)
12. Love You So (Feat. Mr Hudson)
13. Illest Motherfucker Alive (Bonus)
14. H*A*M (Bonus)
15. That’s My Bitch (Bonus)
16. The Joy (Feat. Curtis Mayfield) (Bonus)
Watch The Throne (WTT) combined two of the generation’s largest talents to create a complex project that hit every mark flawlessly. Tough beats to soft beats, gangsta shit to real shit… just, levels of range unseen on typical Hip-Hop albums. The venerable rappers showed love for one another and vibed so effortlessly with one another; their chemistry is easily the strongest attribute of the album. This was back when Ye and Hov were real homies (not to say they don’t deep down have real love for one another but it’s different now, we all know this) and their partnership on WTT was like having two Batmans instead of Batman and Robin. Spike Jonze even directed the bananas video to “Otis” with a Maybach turned Batmobile in it – everything was so dialed in.
With appearances by Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, Kid Cudi, Otis Redding (infamously) and more, WTT featured a star studded lineup that could’ve rivaled the ’19 Golden State Warriors. Sonically, WTT offered something to fit a variety tastes. If harmony was your thing then “Lift Off” tickled your fancy. If you wanted some weirder, Kanye-funkadelic-G.O.O.D. Music type ‘ish then “No Church in the Wild” slapped. Then you had tracks like “Murder to Excellence”, “Otis”, and “Gotta Have It” that perfectly fuse Kanye and Jays styles’ like Vegetto! Below you’ll find some of our favorite verses from Watch The Throne:
“You gon’ make me come down to your house where yo’ mummy at/Mummy wrap the kids, have ‘em cryin’ for they mummy back.” ― Jay-Z “Gotta Have It”
“Y’all think Michael Jordan bad/Nigga I got 5 more rings than Michael Jordan had/Elvis has left the building now I’m on the Beatles ass.” ― Jay-Z “Illest Motherf*cker Alive”
“See, I just want ‘em to have an easy life, not like Yeezy life/Just want ‘im to be someone people like/Don’t want ‘em to be hated, all the time judged/Don’t be like your daddy that would never budge” ― Kanye West “New Day”
“It’s time for us to stop and re-define black power / 41 souls murdered in 50 hours” ― Kanye West “Murder In Excellence”
When it came to WTT‘s sales and reception the album performed very well. The collaboration moved 400,000 units in its first week, and opened in the top spot of the Billboard Hot-200 (2011). The [Will Ferrell sample using] single, “Ni**as in Paris” hit the 5th spot in the Billboard Hot-100 that same year too.
Speaking of songs, Kanye originally wanted every song on the album to have the n-word in it; he said this on the matter, “We’re gonna put the n-word in every single title on this album so everyone has to say it and they have to confront it.”
The only track to keep his theme was “N*ggas In Paris” after Jay-Z refused to comply with the titling. As we touched on earlier, Jay and Ye aren’t the closest now-a-days (maybe they are privately), so chances we see a Watch The Throne Volume 2 in the near future is doubtful. “There will never be a Watch the Throne 2,” West told a Seattle crowd while on the ’16 St. Pablo Tour. “You know why? Because that’s the reason I wasn’t on [Drake’s “Pop Style”]. I wasn’t on the song because of Hov, because of some Tidal/Apple bullshit.” That was years ago, so all we can do is dream.
From a clothing/ fashion perspective Watch The Throne raised the bar to new heights. Riccardo Tisci designed both the album art and tour merch; more specifically the animal inspired tees Ye and Hov commonly wore on-stage. Kanye’s later merch, Travis’s Scott’s Astroworld merch, Justin Beiber’s Jerry Lorenzo merch and Cudi’s offerings would’ve never popped off if WTT didn’t lay the groundwork for designer tour merchandise.
On-foot kicks during the Watch The Throne Tour were legendary. Of course Jay would show his NYC roots with black Timbs, but we also saw the fabled Nike Air Yeezy II routinely rocked by both rappers. Nike also commemorated the tour with a special edition Nike LeBron 9 “Watch The Throne” which was available to friends & family only (and on the resell market, but that’s neither here nor there).
What’s a king to a god? Kanye West and Jay-Z (more specifically Frank Ocean) asked this question on the first track of WTT. West and Jay truly are gods of the Rap/ Hip-Hop game, and their Watch The Throne album set one helluva benchmark, people. Recognize greatness.