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Breaking down the Lyrics on ‘Watch The Throne’ by ‘Kanye West’

Released: 2011

Label: Roc Nation/RocAFella/IDJ

Featuring: JAY-Z, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, Beyoncé, Otis Redding, Mr Hudson, Curtis Mayfield

“Watch The Throne,” a collaborative magnum opus by Kanye West and Jay Z, stands as a testament of hip-hop unity and lyrical supremacy. Dropped in 2011, this joint album marked a high point in both artists’ careers, blending the raw creativity of Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” era with the sage wisdom of Jay’s “The Blueprint 3” phase.

The lyrical landscape traversed in “Watch The Throne” showcases the duo’s knack for storytelling and cultural commentary. From the hard-hitting bars of ‘Ni**as In Paris’ to the sampling genius of ‘Otis,’ Kanye employs his trademark wordplay, delivering verses that resonate with the broader socio-political context. On the flip side, Jay Z, with his street-savy linguistics and entrepreneurial insights, offers a lens into his journey from Brooklyn to boardrooms. Together, their lyrics paint a vivid portrait of power, fame, black excellence, and the struggle of maintaining authenticity amidst it all.

Each song from this masterpiece album carries a unique narrative, sonically tied together but lyrically distinct. So let’s get into it. From ‘No Church in the Wild’ to ‘The Joy’, here we go, breaking down the lyrics on ‘Watch The Throne’ by Kanye West.

1 No Church In The Wild

Features: JAY-Z, Frank Ocean, The-Dream

Drawing on religious themes alongside contemplations of power, loyalty, and existentialism, Kanye and Jay paint a vivid image of the maelstrom that is societal dynamics. From the audacious lines, “What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a god? What’s a god to a non-believer?/Who don’t believe in anything?” Kanye questions societal structures and their relevance in an uncomprising world. Ultimately, this track embodies rebellion against convention and the pursuit of one’s own truth, foreshadowing the rest of the album’s critical take on society. Furthermore, the song captures Kanye’s adeptness at tying in broader constructs into a succinct narrative, a skill that sets him apart in the hip-hop scene.

2 Lift Off

Features: JAY-Z, Beyoncé

Through the lens of astrospeak, Kanye, Beyoncé, and Hov spit aspirational bars like astronauts in flight, steering the spaceship through undiscovered galaxies of success. Amid the bravado, raw emotion, and resilient spirit, Ye’s verse stands out: “You don’t know what we been through to make it this far”. In these lyrics, he challenges the listeners and critics alike, they can’t fully comprehend the struggles they’ve faced to reach these astronomical heights. The celestial references weave together a narrative of tenacity and triumph over adversity. The audacity to aim for the stars, to defy gravity and lift off, acts as a metaphor for Ye’s defiance against the odds and the mundane. “Lift Off” serves as a sonic launchpad, propelling ‘Watch The Throne’ into the stratosphere of hip-hop folklore.

3 Ni**as In Paris

Features: JAY-Z

They ball just as hard in the studio as they do in life, with an unapologetic braggadocio that only kings of the game like Jay and Ye can pull off. Kanye’s line, “What’s Gucci, my nigga? What’s Louis, my killer? What’s drugs, my dealer? What’s that jacket, Margiela?” is a clever unpacking of status symbols, cementing the excess and luxury discussed throughout the song. Meanwhile, Hov’s “Doctors say I’m the illest ’cause I’m suffering from realness” is pure lyrical fire, delivering an unfiltered dose of authenticity that only further elevates the track. This is decadence and dominance delivered in the most stylish way possible. We’re truly watching the throne with this one.

4 Otis

Features: JAY-Z, Otis Redding

JAY-Z starts with “I invented swag”, reminding us of his contribution to the culture. Kanye drops the iconic line, “I made Jesus walk, so I’m never goin’ to hell”, referring back to his groundbreaking track “Jesus Walks” from his debut album. The line signifies Ye’s self-belief and his ability to redefine notions of what can be successful in hip-hop. Their confidence in their influence and their ability to stay in the game is epitomized in lyrics ‘Throw your diamonds up ’cause we in this bitch another ‘gain’. This track continues the album’s theme of opulence and luxurious living, giving listeners a bird’s eye view of the high life.

5 Gotta Have It

Features: JAY-Z

The track is an inside look into their ambitious world, using the lavish and materialistic as metaphors for success and influence. The lyrics drip with a confident swagger, each line a bold testimonial of their stature in the industry. A standout verse has to be when JAY-Z spits, “Mummy wrap the kids, have ’em cryin’ for they mommy back / Tell me that your daddy is, tell him I just want my racks”. The verse is a hard punch, a reminder of JAY-Z’s gritty origin and his journey to the top. Contextually, it speaks to the hustler’s spirit, unapologetic ambition, and the unrelenting pursuit of success that’s been a constant theme in their careers. The song is a declaration: they’re here, they’re winning, and they’re unstoppable.

6 New Day

Features: JAY-Z

These cats weave their personal experiences and regrets into an introspective narrative, addressing their unborn sons with promises to break the generational curses and pitfalls they fell into. Kanye’s line, “I just want him to have an easy life, not like Yeezy life, Just want him to be someone people like,” hits hard, revealing his deep internal struggle with fame and judgment. Meanwhile, Jay’s closing verse brings his absentee father into the mix, vowing, “Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him,” a testament to his commitment to do better. Over RZA’s melancholic beat, the raw emotion and aspirations for a ‘new day’ in their offspring’s lives resonate throughout this joint, making it one of the most human and introspective off ‘Watch The Throne’.

7 That’s My Bitch

Features: JAY-Z

They’re not just kickin’ it with any ordinary ladies; these women are works of art, compared to the likes of Mona Lisa and Marilyn Monroe. The track is a dope mix of braggadocious rhymes and tongue-in-cheek humor, all laid over an infectious beat. As Hov spits, “Call Larry Gagosian, you belong in museums,” he’s saying they’re more than just a pretty face; they’re captivating, challenging, and worthy of celebration. Just as hip-hop has elevated from the street to the gallery, so too have their leading ladies. What’s striking about this track, though, is how JAY-Z reclaims the narrative, asserting black women’s rightful place in art and society: “Put some colored girls in the MoMA.”

8 Welcome To The Jungle

Features: JAY-Z

The lyrics are fuelled with references to personal tragedies and existential questions, set within a narrative about navigating the perilous “jungle” of real life. The cryptic line, “My tears is tatted, My rag in my pocket, I’m just looking for love, I know somebody got it” encapsulates themes of vulnerability and the relentless pursuit of happiness in face of adversity. This song goes beyond the glitz and glamour to reveal a darker, more introspective version of Hov, emphasizing the human side of a Hip-Hop Titan. It’s a sobering trek into the life of Shawn Carter, making it one of the most profound tracks on ‘Watch the Throne.’

9 Who Gon Stop Me

Features: JAY-Z

Jay and Kanye integrate historical references ranging from the Holocaust to figures like Howard Cosell, in essence interrogating oppression. The narrative insinuates overcoming adversity, paralleling their rise to power with historically marginalized groups striving for recognition and parity. A standout line, “I’m three steps removed, I know how to move. It’s looking like I don’t know how to lose,” showcases their confidence in navigating the music industry, street life, and black identity amidst a world that often defaults towards dismissal.

10 Murder To Excellence

Features: JAY-Z

The song oscillates between being a chilling elegy and a triumphant anthem. JAY-Z brings an unfiltered reality, his verse starting with a heartfelt tribute to Danroy Henry, and laying bare the chilling daily realities in communities plagued by violence – “I arrived on the day Fred Hampton died… 314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago”. Kanye, on the other hand, takes a triumphant yet provocative stance on Black excellence, weaving aspirational messages into his critique of systemic issues – “Black excellence, truly yours”. This is a testament to their deft lyrical craftsmanship as they confront reality and yearn for progress, channeling both pain and pride of a shared experience.

11 Made In America

Features: JAY-Z, Frank Ocean

Driven by the smooth melodies of Frank Ocean and the gritty verses from Ye and Hov, the song becomes a narrative of not just their personal journeys, but of an entire community’s quest for identity and recognition. The lyrics draw upon historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and their respective wives, as symbols of resistance and fortitude, while also acknowledging the divine blessing that has allowed them to rise from obscurity. Kanye’s verse is particularly poignant as he reflects on his mother’s faith in his potential: “I

12 Why I Love You

Features: JAY-Z, Mr Hudson

They bemoan the bitterness of betrayal, drawing on historical figures like Julius Caesar as a stark reminder of how the mighty fall. JAY-Z’s delivery is chillingly sharp, as he questions, “Am I my brother’s keeper? Only if that nigga don’t creep up. Got a pistol under my pillow, I’ve never been a deep sleeper.” Kanye matches this intensity, setting up a haunting atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust. Their emotional vulnerability is laid bare, unsettling the throne they’ve built. The triumphant chorus by Mr. Hudson clashes with the somber verses, reflecting the dichotomy of success and isolation in the limelight.

13 Illest Motherf***** Alive

Features: JAY-Z

The lines referenced with A-listers like Naomi Russell and Russell Brand, as well as sport figures like Bill Russell and Michael Jordan, depict Jay-Z’s rise to fame and his distinct triumph in juxtaposition with others who’ve tasted success. Jay-Z’s audacious claim, “I got a 5 more rings than Michael Jordan had” underscores his unmatched achievements in the rap game. The song serves as an exhibition of power, wealth, and influence – a testament to his stature in the hip-hop landscape. With inferences to Scarface and Robert De Niro, this track sees Jay-Z feeding listeners with an unfiltered glimpse into his erstwhile struggles and his eventual ascension to legendary status. An identifiable standout line: “This is what the ending of Scarface should feel like.”

14 H•A•M

Features: JAY-Z

The track, dripping with bravado and unapologetic arrogance, employs metaphoric language to assert the rappers’ superiority. Kanye’s lines, “Historically, I’m kickin’ bitches out like pam, nigga / Goin’ H.A.M. nigga, me and Jigga,” alludes to Martin Lawrence’s 90’s sitcom character kicking his girlfriend, Pam out, equating it to Kanye’s dismissal of competition. Jay-Z’s verse comes in like a heavyweight champ; he vouches for his authenticity and shrugs off critics with “Y’all don’t even know what I’ve been through.” His verse plays with the metaphor of dangerous waters, asserting his strength by surviving the ‘Great Whites’ of the rap industry. “H•A•M” is bristling with confidence and swagger, demanding respect and recognition for the throne-sitting duo’s unmatched prowess.

15 Primetime

Features: JAY-Z

Over a sleek Dion-produced beat, HOV smartly decodes his evolution, referencing significant years in his career, 1988, 1992, 1996, demonstrating his extraordinary lyrical genius. Kanye’s verse, though shorter, packs a punch too with the line “Damn Yeezy, they all gotta be dimes? Well, Adam gave up a rib so mine better be prime.” Here, Ye brings biblical allusions to his romantic relationships, merging the sacred and the profane in a single bar, truly emblematic of his audacious style. This dynamic duo presents a lyrical critique of the industry while reveling in their success with an unapologetic swagger. “Primetime” stands as a dedication to their legacy, cementing their status as supreme in the rap realm.

16 The Joy

Features: JAY-Z, Curtis Mayfield

JAY-Z weaves a narrative about his personal victories and generational struggles, markin’ some standout lines like, “I never understood planned parenthood, ‘Cause I never met nobody plan to be a parent in the hood”. Yeezy goes introspective tackling themes of race and self-image, droppin’ gyms like, “In the mirror, where I see my only enemy, Your life’s cursed, well mine’s an obscenity”. This, one of the bonus tracks on the ‘Watch the Throne’ album, serves as a reflective pause, where both emcees flex lyrical dexterity over a smooth, sample-laden beat. It’s a testament to the introspective and socially conscious strand of their collaborative genius.

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