When it was purposely billed as an event last November, Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a reminder that the plateau the former Roc-A-Fella producer turned all-world rapper and tortured soul could be shared by few. Critics took aim with sniper’s precision at how overtly produced the album was, contained features from all across the board and introduced Bon Iver into a landscape which had shunned auto-tune and embodied everything by lavishness and the posturing of a defiant rioter in the streets. West was definitely angry throughout his solo effort but it’s that dichotomy that somehow makes him more relatable even as he gets absurdly richer by the second and what makes his big brother Jay-Z more comparable to Will Smith in that he took an already set method and tweaked it to his own benefit.

If there is a solid knock on Shawn Carter then it will be that he’s calculated and doesn’t take risks, at all. He’s a “business, man” for all the right reasons, says the right things and rose from the crumbs of Marcy to become a haughty figure in entertainment who could call the President (!) on a whim and change Oprah’s opinion on rap music. If Kanye is the risk taker supreme, an outlandish figure who may be one of the few unpredictable stars left in popular music then Jay is the man who reels him in, even when a Hitler comparison may draw the ire of the mortals beneath him.

Although they are two solo artists in nature, there’s a chemistry between them – evident in the fact they’ve collaborated with one another through an eleven year period in which fans were treated to “Takeover”, “Never Let Me Down” and more recently the grand macabre that was “Monster”. Seeing that fusion work for an entire album in an age where the world lives in a virtual co-op, no more evident than Miami’s Big Three and a joint partnership between the two artists and the tandem of Apple & Best Buy spells doom to the age of competition. Despite wildly paranoid listening sessions and more, Watch The Throne arrives with two rappers, one with more of a point to prove than the other attempting to live up to a standard of hype only they could imagine.

Even though album credits may dictate otherwise, Kanye’s influence on much of the production is evident on WTT.  Animalistic drums, spaced out synths, charged soul samples and more accompany he and Jay’s multifaceted jaunt. 88-Keys allows jumping drums and stately guitar chords to paint the opening picture of “No Church In The Wild” where Jay takes the first trip towards acknowledging little brother’s greatness by aligning his production with Jesus’ carpentry and Shawn Carter’s way with that imaginary pen of his. What draws most in would be the fact that Frank Ocean’s chorus starts an album billed as a co-op with two titans and Ocean riding the wave of his own creation absolutely nails it. Hit Boy’s inclusion of Blades of Glory on the earth shattering “Niggas In Paris” plays heavily towards West’s obsession with creating stadium glam-rap which has now reached its sixth year. The movie cuts coinciding with static drums and piano melody can be felt from the slums of Paris to the furthest part of Los Angeles. Chopping “crazy” into “cray” may have been a college woman’s jargon but to those who hear it from Ye’ & Hov, it’s merely another trend soon to engulf the lexicon.

The dual production flexes on numerous cuts from the aforementioned “NIP” to the dubstep heavy “Who Gon’ Stop Me” where the former portion of the beat easily trumps its counterpart touched on by Jay. Heavy synths, distorted drums and more layer “Who Gon’ Stop Me” in which West compares his actions for the next three minutes to the likes of the Holocaust. Sure to enrage a few with that statement, West decries that he isn’t a racist and if people view him as such then he’ll merely shrug it off. It’s that sort of tongue in cheek approach that make many marvel at his ability to seemingly play nihilist when he wants and then the boy who cried wolf the next. Jay on the other hand, only lets his skin soften up on “Welcome to the Jungle”. Carter questions numerous things along Swizz Beatz welcomed chaos as his voice dominates over West’s with the sort of sneer towards items many of us would actually kill for. In a way, its slight alienation rap from someone who with a Cheshire grin will blatantly tell you he just planked on a million dollars alongside the wails of James Brown and The Neptunes on “Gotta Have It”. Yet you don’t feel as bad because frankly, you knew it was going to happen because in an age where excess may seem out of reach to some, these two have achieved the American Dream and could create another one by reciting a verse or two.

Despite what critics may say about the duo, it’s not all excess and bubbly champagne with the two of them. They touch on their careers and upbringings on the Frank Ocean assisted “Made In America” and on the album’s most interesting salvo “Murder to Excellence”, they turn their attention to the duality of pain & promise. While Carter plays the role of uplift, a more flashier way of installing Steve Bilko’s “black is beautiful” rhetoric over S1’s portion that sounds like a welcomed Blueprint 2 B-side, West reports with Swizz Beatz exactly what he sees on the Southside of Chicago. The rarely told epidemic of Chicago kids being killed during the school year and statistics of death paint a damning picture.

Stated in multiple formats, “New Day” is as thoughtful as much as some of the other cuts but when it only plays prelude to the ghetto techno of “That’s My Bitch”, the message gets softened a bit. As Nina Simone’s slight distortion plays the background behind piano keys courtesy of The RZA, both Yeezy and Jay pen the letters to their sons ala Rudyard Kipling. Carter is dutiful in his own regrets letting his son know he’s the world’s most famous rapper, Kanye on the other hand stretches out the ills of his career in one chuckle worthy but meaningful sixteen bar verse. Shots towards Amber Rose, the pain from his mother’s death, breakups with Alexis Phifer & more are told to the unborn son of West, easily making West the “LeBron James” to Jay-Z’s “Dwyane Wade”.

Certain pains do happen to touch Carter as the treachery of friends and all signs point towards Beanie Sigel brush the canvas of “Why I Love You”. As Mr. Hudson re-touches the Cassius sample to his own accord, Jay sits rightly on the throne feeling as if he did everything in his power yet ultimately is seen as a failure in the eyes of a few. The back and forth rat-a-tat between he and West resembles the boardroom huddle of two execs who just saw an employee attempt to call the SEC with little to no evidence. The two man fraternity share better times on the album bonus “The Joy” where Pete Rock takes a Curtis Mayfield sample, leaves the eggs popping on the record and allows slow tempo flows inspired from West’s “holy trinity” and Hov’s childhood marinate to close.

Had it been sequenced better (see “Lift Off” weakly tossed to the wolves following the excellent opener), Watch The Throne may possibly be considered the “classic” that many yearned it would be when it was in its embryonic stage. Despite that small nitpick; it’s an album from two men who tower over everyone else and simply only have to prove to one another who is better. It’s an album that blends Jay’s straight lined believable escapism with West’s experimentation to create what most imagined it would be – a fine work. Yes, they can blend sophisticated ignorance on a chopped up Otis Redding sample and declare themselves the “illest alive” for that’s what they are. They’re rich, aren’t afraid to tell you, scare you & inspire you to join them all at once.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5