On this day, August 8, in hip-hop history…
2011- Ten years and an endless amount of significant hip-hop endeavors removed from their inaugural work together on Jay Z’s iconic 2001 album, The Blueprint, Kanye West and Jay Z converged their immensely imposing resumes and talents to collectively release the largely anticipated, yet minimally promoted, mega-collaboration project, Watch The Throne.
In what can be considered a remarkable triumph in the digital age where all music is rapidly accessible, Watch The Throne was kept universally private, avoiding all leakages in the impending weeks leading up to its release. Surely not an easy task when featuring a conglomeration of renowned artists within its assemblage, including production from The Neptunes, RZA, 88-Keys, Q-Tip and Swizz Beats, along with vocal features from both Beyonce and Frank Ocean, among others.
After debuting at number one on the US Billboard Top 200 chart, Watch The Throne would go on to some impressive initial numbers and accolades, amassing 436,000 first week sales in total and setting a record for opening week transactions specifically on iTunes with 290,000 downloads. The album ended up seeing six of its sixteen tracks (‘H.A.M.’, ‘Otis’, ‘Niggas In Paris’, ‘Gotta Have It’, ‘No Church In The Wild’, ‘Who Gon Stop Me’) reach the top 100 on Billboard’s singles charts, as well. Watch The Throne was nominated for seven Grammy’s, and in September of 2011, only six weeks post-release, was certified platinum by the RIAA. The subsequent “Watch The Throne Tour” ended up reaching forty-three cities spanning across twelve different countries, and grossing over seventy-five million dollars in total.
To both Hova and Kanye, the purpose of Watch The Throne wasn’t rooted in the addition of another innovative album to their specific discographies, and it certainly wasn’t embedded with intentions of solidifying their relevance, or demonstrating that their lyrical dexterity was still evolving. By the time of the album’s release, their legacies had already been long established and were in no danger of dilution.
Appropriately titled, Watch The Throne‘s essence was purely a grand commemoration, administered by the kings themselves, emphasizing their particular ongoing successes and celebrating the deserved acquisitions of their respective musical crowns, robes, and the metaphorical thrones on which they were bellowing their own praises from throughout the entirety of the album. Exceedingly rich in both character and influence, Watch The Throne was more substantial than, and unlike any collaboration that had ever come before it, simply because the opportunity of two rap legends of such stature, beholding that amount of musical pedigree, both at such extreme pinnacles of affluence, had never presented itself in this fashion before. In what was a perfect marriage of timing and cohesiveness, Watch The Throne ultimately exceeded its own eagerness, and because so, will rest easy as the most confident collaboration in the history of hip-hop to date. - Michael Blair