Crowning achievement: Jay-Z, Kanye’s ‘The Throne’

By// Quinn Peterson

After months of speculation, The Throne — the name Jay-Z and Kanye West have ascribed to their imposing pairing — has officially delivered with today’s release of Watch The Throne. The album could just make the rest of the world “tuck their whole summer in,” to borrow a West rhyme from Otis, one of three songs that leaked before the album’s release.

WTT definitely has been a long time coming. (It’s available digitally today and in stores on Friday, Aug. 12.)

“We finished this album three times,” Jay-Z admitted recently to Hot 97’s Angie Martinez.

Anticipation first began to build late last year, when West announced that a handful of the songs he had released as part of his G.O.O.D. Friday collection were, in fact, for a joint project he was working on with Jay-Z. While many were immediately excited to hear of such a powerful collaboration, some doubted it would ever actually come to fruition.

Thankfully, Hov and Yeezy held up their end of the bargain.

Since West’s initial disclosure, small bits of unconfirmed information have floated around on the Web, fueled by vague revelations from the artists themselves. (At various times, the album was said to be coming out in December, January, March and July.)

Concrete facts began to manifest in July, however. Slowly but surely, cover art, track lists, production credits, and album release and tour dates followed.

The pressure that accompanied discreet actions and massive expectations was handled cooly. “I guess [there was] a bit after we started it,” said Jay-Z during a Hot 97 interview, “but I don’t look at it like that. When you make music, you’re against history, you’re against what’s current and you’re against your past work. But as far as pressure of what it’s gonna sound like, you try not to really let that affect you.”

Jay and ‘Ye are two of hip hop’s biggest hit-makers, no doubt, but this time, their true mastery came in the promotion arena. They built buzz through word of mouth and ambiguity, proving themselves to be the best of marketing tools.

Saying and admitting little regarding WTT resulted in the project taking on a life of its own. When The Throne released H.A.M. in January, no advance warning was necessary. As soon as it hit the Web, Twitter and blogs went into a frenzy. While reception was mixed, the track remained nonetheless in heavy demand.

Seven months later, Otis followed the same pattern. The Otis Redding-sampling cut again got fans talking nonstop, and garnered immediate radio play. Receiving a much stronger reception than H.A.M., it was the major piece of evidence needed to qualm any WTT doubters.

With the album finally in stores, The Throne has proven to be the perfect mix of talent, stardom and arrogance; the hype was justified and the wait was worth it.

Watch the Throne (***** out of 5) starts solidly with No Church In The Wild — but things really take flight on Lift Off, which features Beyonce, who is one of five guests on the album. Frank Ocean, Mr. Hudson, and Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield (posthumously) are the others. Gotta Have It, where the two stars trade bars, is home to some of Kanye’s best raps, while Who Gon Stop Me is one of Jay’s highlights of the album.

The “best track” title is certainly to be disputed, but the Swizz Beatz-and S1-produced Murder to Excellence may have the most convincing case, as The Throne speaks on Black Americans’ struggles and the quest for liberation, urging people to literally move from murdering each other to striving for excellence.

Watch The Throne is progressive and it’s heavy; each track is a detailed, multi-layered journey, and though it’s going to be classified as a hip-hop album, WTT pulls from all genres, setting the stage for Hov and Yeezy to discuss their lavish lifestyles, being the best, beating the odds and their continued mission of world dominance.//