The discussion we had in class about “Niggas in Paris” reminded me very strongly about an article by Alex Pappademas that I read in GQ magazine about the great Jay-Z. The article is extremely entertaining and relates directly to our class; I encourage everyone to check it out (Link provided below).
The article boasts that Watch the Throne is an album with many deeper meanings, and having listened to the entirety of WTT, I feel like I have two possibilities for WTT.
(1) One viewpoint is that the album is just about “two grandiose motherfuckers explor[ing] the theme of grandiose-motherfuckerdom,” which many people would consider accurate. I mean, come on, even the cover of the album is a solid plate of gold. To strengthen this view, the “Niggas in Paris” song is the unofficial anthem of this album and has been played numerous times during the latter leg of the concert to close. With this view though, it seems Jay-Z and Kanye (Jay-Z especially, coming from the projects) are creating a gap between them and the lower class. And without this lower class, their music wouldn’t sell as much or mean as much to many, so this view doesn’t make much sense to me.
(2) The article also boasts another thought, that “Watch the Throne is an honest record about trying to find your moral compass when insane wealth and success have knocked down every boundary that once gave shape to your world.” Many tracks on Watch the Throne have this theme at heart, such as “New Day.” “New Day” explores the feelings and goals that Kanye and Jay-Z have towards their unborn sons (at the time) after living their lavish lives of glamour. Watch the Throne is about ornate extravagance, but the root of the album is self-discovery and self-analysis rather than braggadocio. In class, we also talked about the luck and chance that had to be a part of Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s skyrocketing careers, and they themselves even say that much of the album is about being shocked that they’re here at the top, partying hard. They question themselves, “What are we doing here? How did we get here?” Now this explanation is more humble and humane than any political affiliation of the album. Perhaps Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s blatant ostentatious behavior on the album is really an expression of the inconceivable nature of how blatant ostentatious behavior comes about. The two top hip-hop artists today can’t even believe that they can afford Gucci, Louis, Fendi, and Prada.
Ultimately, Watch the Throne is a multi-faceted album, and despite efforts, I don’t think WTT can be labeled with just one theme.
What do you all think?