Five years ago today, Jay-Z and Kanye West released their collaborative studio album, Watch the Throne. While the chart-topping record is known for its themes of opulence and materialism, it also contains lyrics addressing socioeconomic inequality. Jay-Z and Kanye West were boldly rapping about social justice issues long before they were brought to light by mainstream mass media. Several lines on the critically-acclaimed album reference cultural issues that have recently become controversial.
- “This is something like the holocaust, millions of our people lost” – On the dubstep-influenced “Who Gon’ Stop Me?”, which heavily samples “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavilion, Kanye West address the deaths of the black people. Keep in mind, this was before police brutality was making headlines. From the early beginnings of his career, West has always been vocal about his opinions on racial profiling and inequality. On his 2004 single “All Falls Down”, West exclaims “we buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom”.
- “I mean, Marilyn Monroe, she’s quite nice, but why are all the pretty icons always all white?” – On “That’s My Bitch”, Jay-Z brings to attention the fact that European features are often regarded as the standards for beauty. Earlier this year, several parties boycotted the Academy Awards due to a lack of nominees of color.
- “LOLOLOL to white America, assassinate my character. Money matrimony, yeah, they tryin’ to break the marriage up” – On “Gotta Have It”, West addresses the fact that mainstream media often paints him as pompous or obnoxious. He suggests that if a white person said and did the same things as he did, he would be referred to as bold or outspoken. Oftentimes, media outlets refer to West’s past incidents to discredit his success and accomplishments.
- “This shit weird, we ain’t even supposed to be here…if you escaped what I escaped, you’d be in Paris getting fucked up too.” – On the song otherwise known as “Paris”, Jay-Z refers to his drug dealing past and how he’s managed to escape poverty and low quality of living. Jay suggests that although he has managed to change his life for the better, he still loves to party internationally. Earlier this year, news anchor Tomi Lahren referred to Jay-Z as a “drug dealer”. Jay-Z responded by sampling the sound bite and using it to precede his verse in Pusha T’s “Drug Dealers Anonymous”. Both West and Jay-Z are known for having blatant irreverence for anyone speaking ill of them.
- “I just want him to have an easy life, not like Yeezy life. I just want him to be someone people like, don’t want him to be hated all the time.” – On “New Day”, West raps about the ideal life he wants for his future son. This song was recorded long before Saint or North were born, however, since their births, both Kim Kardashian and Kanye West manage to keep their children away from the spotlight as much as possible. This has resulted in running jokes on the internet often claiming that their son doesn’t exist.
Watch the Throne is one of the most influential rap records released this decade and is also one of my personal favorites. I listen to at least one song from it every day, either before work or at the gym. It is the perfect soundtrack designed for getting pumped for the day or for picking you up when your motivation is at a low point.