Originally spanning as a five-track EP, the 12 track rap opera opens with “No Church in The Wild,” creating a feature stage for Frank Ocean to deliver the question, “What’s a mob to a king, what’s a king to a god? What a god to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?” It becomes existential as the synth keys and creeping production warps around the audience like a royal python. The instrumental becomes smoothed with a verse from Jay-Z that is more about class than brawn, while West is more animalistic and off-putting.
Jay-Z describes, “Tears on a mausoleum floor, blood stains the Colosseum doors. Lies on the lips of a priest, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast…” As West marches in like a cavalry unit, he illustrates, “Coke on her black skin made it stripe like a zebra, I call that jungle fever. You will not control the threesome, just roll the weed up until I get me some.” If Jay-Z is the Rembrandt of delivery, West is the Basquiat who paints vividly but also in a fury with much of the shaping coming from the discovery of the audience.
But it is not all blurred lines, especially on “Gotta Have It” where both West and Jay-Z trade lyrical blows like two heavyweights in the ring. West describes, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, White America, assassinate my character. Money matrimony, yeah they tryna break the marriage up.” He continues on as the sample from James Brown spins in the background, “Who gon’ act phony or who gon’ try to embarrass ya? I’mma need a day off, I think I’ll call Ferris up.”
This gives Jay-Z the opening to unleash this iron fist that describes, “Bueller had a Muller but I switched it for a Mille cause I’m richer. And prior to this shit was moving freebase…,” West then jumps back in and illustrates, “Had a conference with the DJs, Puerto Rico three days.” This leaves Jay-Z ending the line with “Poly with the PD’s now they got our shit on replay.”
Instances like this are why Watch The Throne is similar to a fireball of charisma crashing into the atmosphere on Earth, both Jay-Z and West at this time were at some of the height of their popularity with modern audiences. It captured both the young of exciting production, and the classic of intricate rhyme schemes and style.
A prime example is with the final track, “Why I Love You” with the feature from Mr Hudson. The verse structure pairs with the cinema-esque production, painting a stage to dance upon. The final verse is accurate to be the house of cards falling as the world crumbles in Act III. It is the grail falling, the two kings cornered with intruders storming the castle.
It begins with Jay-Z describing “Bussin at me, b-b-b-bussin at me, but I’m bulletproof, bitch you can’t get nothing past me… What do you do when the love turns to hate?” as West illustrates, “Gotta separate from these fuckin’ fakes.” As the verse continues, Jay-Z gets the microphone and describes, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” before West battles for the speaking sections and adds, “Only if that nigga don’t creep up.” Jay-Z pops in, “Got a pistol under my pillow,” before West adds “I’ve never been a deep sleeper.” They both join together to finish Watch The Throne by saying in synchronicity, “P-p-p-paranoia, cause the nigga that said he’ll blast for ya, is now blastin’ for ya. That’s an assassin for ya. These niggas got a shot, they’ll shoot. Please Lord, forgive him, for these niggas not know what they do.”
That unbearable silence leads into the perfect loop, starting back where it all began. “No Church In The Wild” where two of the biggest stars form like a constellation on the marble walls, leaving gold upon darkened stains where history points only to the fall of Rome.