Exactly 12 years ago today, Jay-Z and Kanye West released their monumental rap masterpiece, "Watch The Throne." The album etched its name in history as one of the most exceptional collaborative rap creations ever made, achieving both commercial triumph and critical acclaim.
The impact was immediate; during its debut week, the album sold an impressive 436,000 copies, and shattered the iTunes first-week sales record. From there, Kanye and Jay-Z went on a massive Watch The Throne tour that would go on to become the best-selling rap tour in history at the time.
Despite all the record-breaking the album did, its crowing jewel—over a decade later—is the gold standard it set and became for collaborative albums.
In 2011, both rappers were at the pinnacle of their artistic abilities. West, riding high from the success of his magnum opus, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," had his label G.O.O.D. Music making waves. The label was full of emerging talents like Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, and the newcomer Big Sean, who Kanye gifted with one of the year's most memorable guest features on 'Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay.' In this era, Kanye's supremacy remained unchallenged and nobody could hold a candle to him.
Except for his counterpart, Jay-Z, whose legacy was equally robust if not bigger. A towering figure with numerous accomplishments, he had released his eleventh number-one album, "The Blueprint 3," just two years prior. The album's monumental triumph broke his tie with Elvis Presley and set him on a historic trajectory. Garnering a remarkable six Grammy Awards over a span of two years, the Brooklyn emcee was carving his path as a mogul, sowing the seeds for his future billionaire status.
"Watch The Throne" lived up to every expectation one would have from a collaborative album between these two hip hop powerhouses. It resonated with incredible verses touching on themes of wealth, family, the Black community, and success—experiences uniquely relatable to them. A standout track, "Murder To Excellence," candidly addressed the tragedies occurring in Black neighborhoods while advocating for the rise of more Black billionaires beyond figures like Oprah and Will. "New Day" served as a heartfelt tribute to their future offspring, and in hindsight, the wisdom embedded in the lyrics is truly priceless now that both artists have sons of their own.
And then there's the timeless hit "N****s In Paris," a song that remains incredibly quotable and perpetually played, even twelve years later. The enduring allure of these tracks is a testament to their remarkable replay value, and even the most staunch Kanye West and Jay-Z fans acknowledge that this album ranks among their finest projects. However, what made this project truly iconic was the fact they did it together.
While collaborative albums had been done in the past, none quite matched the caliber of two top-tier artists at the zenith of their careers. The album was so influential that it prompted discussions about which two artists could potentially match its greatness. At that juncture, only Drake and Lil Wayne were considered contenders.
As we commemorate its anniversary today, a fresh listen to the album unveils the intricacy of its lyrics. Unforgettable tracks like 'No Church In The Wild,' 'Primetime,' 'Otis,' and 'Lift Off' featuring Beyoncé exemplify the timeless brilliance of this opus.
And 12 years later, Watch The Throne is still the chef d'oeuvre, or much easier said, the greatest collaborative album ever.