The August 28 announcement almost resembled a flippant afterthought. For the usually bombastic Kanye West this was indeed a rarity given that the news would leave music fans salivating. “Me and Jay bout to drop a 5 song album called “Watch the Throne,” stated a matter-of-fact West on Twitter of his upcoming project with hip-hop’s unstoppable gargantuan Jay-Z. As far as event records go, this one screamed can’t miss! ‘Ye, pop culture’s current supreme arbiter, a cocksure and at times controversial rapper/producer whose boundless vision is only matched by his sizable hubris. J-Hova, the self made God MC who not only ended up with the hottest chick in the game (hi there, B), but the most chips at the table, amassing an entertainment empire worth over $500 million.
Yet this is all about the music, right? When West dropped his acclaimed opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy late last year, the buzz had elevated to hysterical levels. So what would a collaboration between Jay and his former Roc-A-Fella protégé sound like following one of 2010’s most ballyhooed works? Various hints of their future seismic union were mixed. Jay-Z came off quite pedestrian on Ye’s relentless “Power Remix,” as the student outshined the master. The Twisted Fantasy tracks “So Appalled” (‘Ye was amazingly defiant while Jigga’s cool handed wit was on full display) and “Monster” (It could be argued that the usually regal Jay was third best following West and the song-stealing Nicki Minaj) gave fans more commingled results. And on West’s leaked G.O.O.D. Friday track, the solid Pete Rock fueled “The Joy,” a revived, introspective and hungry Jay hit it out of the park.
But with the recent Monday unveiling of the power duo’s first single “H.A.M.,” the final product is anything but prodigious. What went wrong and how could it have been salvaged? Read on.—Keith Murphy