Jay-Z & Kanye West's "Watch The Throne" Turns 12

We look back on a few highlights from the collaborative album that had everyone's attention, "Watch The Throne."

BYPaul Barnes
watch the throne

Watch The Throne celebrated its 12th anniversary on August 8. The collaborative album between rap titans Jay-Z and Kanye West was a spectacle in every sense of the word. Naturally, the duo went on a tour to promote the album with a presentation that matched their massive presence in the rap world. Even the CD for the album was noteworthy, being a collaboration between Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci and Virgil Abloh.

Behind-the-scenes videos of Jay and Ye showed them working on the album in foreign locations, adding to its prestige. The music contained several legendary collaborators ranging from Beyoncé to Frank Ocean and Kanye-affiliated multi-instrumentalist producer Mike Dean. The album is a time capsule of the year it was released due to Kanye and Jay’s closeness, their place and influence in the culture overall, and the power of the music itself.

The Power Of Collaboration

Watch The Throne showcased what could happen when two giants in the rap game came together. Before the album's release, fans were used to rapper and producer collab projects. However, this album was something completely different. Kanye already built a reputation for bringing people together for his songs, working with iconic rappers, singers, and producers to create legendary and unique tracks.

Kanye handled some of the production for this album and was joined by legendary producers Hit-Boy, The Neptunes, 88 Keys, RZA, Q-Tip, Swizz Beatz, and Mike Dean. Listeners were excited to have so many producers with contrasting sounds coming together. Meanwhile, Watch The Throne’s first single was “H•A•M,” but the second single, “Otis,” is cemented in rap history. Another massive single from the album was “N*ggas In Paris,” which has two soundbites from Will Ferrell from the movie Blades of Glory. These segments became classic moments and are still referenced to this day. The song also spawned the still-referenced meme “Who was in Paris?”

The Luxury Of Watch The Throne

(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) MIAMI - MARCH 22: Musician Kanye West performs with Jay-Z during "The Heart of the City" tour at American Airlines Arena on March 22, 2008 in Miami. **EXCLUSIVE** (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

The fact the album Watch The Throne exists in the first place is almost a flex. Multiple recording sessions were held in luxury rooms in New York's Mercer Hotel and Tribeca Grand Hotel. Other locations included Hawaii, Australia, and of course, Paris. Many of the samples within the music are creative and obscure. Riccardo Tisci, the creative director of Givenchy, designed the album’s cover and enclosed artwork. Virgil Abloh also had a hand in the process, whose brand OFF-WHITE was quite popular then and has only increased since his passing. The album’s deluxe CD cover was textured, shined, and had a fold-out component that showcased more artwork. This showed the rap world the importance of physical media and the power of executing it creatively. The luxury was reflected sonically and physically. 

Jay & Ye’s Relationship

Watch The Throne was the album that doubled down on the friendship between Kanye and Jay-Z. Many were well aware of the brotherhood between the duo. They worked together on a plethora of music across the years. However, the process of this album's creation found them butting heads. They disagreed on the direction the album should go, and Jay wanted some songs for his then-upcoming solo album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. Further, Jay-Z was recently featured on “Jail” from Kanye’s album Donda. This feature was truly the most impactful because it came after the duo seemingly had a fallout to end all fallouts. However, it was short-lived, as Kanye’s most recent behavior distanced him from almost all his previous connections.

Laying The Groundwork

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 19: Kanye West and Jay-Z perform during VEVO Presents: G.O.O.D. Music at VEVO Power Station on March 19, 2011 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for VEVO)

The collaborative project paved the way for many rap records that came in later years. Drake has recently released several joint projects, including those with 21 Savage and Future. Travis Scott and Quavo’s is an often overlooked collaboration for their discographies. Future and Juice WRLD’s found the latter making a project with one of his idols. Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka’s collab serves as a time capsule of the Atlanta rap scene. Meanwhile, Lil Baby and Gunna’s project is a time capsule of where it is now. Each of these projects capitalized on overlapping fanbases and showed where their chemistry level truly was. However, none of these projects had quite the impact of Watch The Throne globally.

The Success Of Watch

Watch The Throne’s commercial performance is a testament to the power of the collaboration of the artists. The album went No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its first week. Additionally, it broke the US iTunes Store’s one-week sales record. It stayed in the Top 5 on Billboard for four weeks, selling upward of 80,000 copies weekly. The album has sold over 1.5 million copies and has gone quintuple Platinum.

Additionally, it found similar success out of the US, charting No. 1 in several countries. The music videos for the album have amassed millions of views, with the one for “Otis” being heavily discussed. Many people have celebrated the album’s creation and showcase of skill from two closely associated artists. Its power is still discussed by listeners today, 12 years after its release.

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