On Monday night, Jay-Z & Kanye West hosted a listening session for their new album at The American Museum of Natural History’s Planetarium. It was all the news yesterday, but in case you missed it: they basically played the album at outrageously high volumes while projecting a light show on the dome-shaped ceiling inside the Planetarium’s amphitheater. It was ill, and I was pleasantly surprised with the album. As someone who grew up on The Blueprint, movies like Fade To Black and who still listens to all 12 minutes of “Last Call”, I wanted to walk in there with little to no expectations – which is probably how we should be treating everything that gets tainted with this much “hype” these days. The worst part is I think that’s what they were going for by not addressing the media (at all) until they were ready and able to put out a full project that they were finally comfortable with. I liked what I heard though: Watch The Throne has a couple bangers, some experimentation to it (they had to) and the album even comes with an overall message. Like I said on twitter yesterday, Kanye’s verses sounded like he was back in rare form but Jay was definitely the one delivering the aformentioned message.
There is a short breakdown of each song after the jump, at least from what I remember (no they weren’t serving drinks at the first session.)
“No Church In the Wild” is nuts, if for nothing more than the slow-building tempo of the beat, but Jay and Ye definitely both got off on the song too. Especially blended in with the surroundings we were sitting in, it really set the tone for the rest of the album. It left me with a scrunched up face for the duration of the track. Same with “Lift Off”, it was initially rumored to be sounding like a “single” early on, but it was sounding good to me (and instantly too, which is rare). When it comes to “Ni**as In Paris”, be warned: this isn’t your typical Hit-Boy type of beat… there’s dubstep on it. Actually one of at least two tracks that have that sort of beat to it. Towards the end of the song however, Kanye starts talking about or to somebody and threatening them to not to let him get in “his zone” and how the summer is definitely his.
“Otis” sounded much better with the added feeling of being catapulted through space. “Gotta Have It” was produced by The Neptunes, has a KiD CuDi feature from what I understood, and it knocks. RZA fucking snapped on “New Day”, which is a song where both MCs address their unborn sons. There are some lines in there that make it, to me at least, a future classic Jay & Ye track. People mainly walked away from the session discussing the lines Kanye said about not being able to find love in a stripclub (paraphrasing here), but Jay’s verse could give any rap fan goosebumps with lines like “it took me 26 years to find my path”, which I thought was the kind of Jay-Z line that won’t be going away any time soon.
“That’s My Bitch” sounds relatively similar to the leak. Yes, Kanye isn’t speaking gibberish on the intro anymore, the beat sounds like it might have been changed (the volume at which it was being played at honestly made it pretty hard to tell) and Jay added a few bars to his verse. However, Kanye doesn’t finish the song off anymore, it’s been cut down to two verses now. On “Welcome To The Jungle”, Jay pays homage to Guns ‘N Roses on the first few lines but I can’t remember if that was what I remember as being one of the best beats Swizz Beatz has ever done or if it was “Murder To Excellence”, which was only two songs away. (It’s probably the latter.)
In between the two there’s “Who’s Gon Stop Me” which is the second Dubstep song listeners should know about before listening to the album. After that there was “Made In America” which was cool (I’m Canadian). It had a few good lines, but Kanye really stole the show with his verse referencing being from “the murder capital where we murder for capital”. “Why I Love You” (featuring Mr Hudson) is the last song, and to me was sounding like one of the best on the album (along with the intro, actually). It’s the track Jay is recording in the Watch The Throne documentary that leaked last week. From what I can remember, Jay’s the only one rapping on that.
There was a lot to retain, especially since we weren’t allowed to have our phones with us and I didn’t think to bring anything to write on, so there might be a few details about the songs that got mixed up, but that’s pretty much it. Either way, everyone will be able to form an opinion and write it on Twitter when the album drops in 5 days.
Video spotted @ Ibn’s tumblr.
Related: Rap-Up did a pretty good job at writing down the most of what they could catch so head over there to read a pretty thorough break down of the album, including production credits and some memorable lines.
Also: Thanks to the people who wrestled to get me a wristband to get in. To Kanye: Sorry for wearing a FADER t-shirt.
 My understanding of it was that they scrapped the project several times before coming up with this last and final version.