NEW YORK — On Monday night, a long line formed outside the West 81st Street entrance of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. And there was definitely some stargazing going on as fans, music-industry mainstays and famous friends gathered for a special listening of [artist id=”1269″]Jay-Z[/artist] and [artist id=”1230523″]Kanye West[/artist]’s upcoming Watch the Throne LP.
There were plenty of photo ops as Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, actor Idris Elba and, of course, Hov and Yeezy, were in attendance, but there would be no picture-taking, tweeting or sound-recording as all entrants had to turn over their phones, iPods and other electronic devices at the door. After drinks and hors d’oeuvres, three separate groups were herded into the planetarium, which was much too small to accommodate all of the invited guests simultaneously. Once inside, the music played to a light show consisting of orbiting planets, shooting stars and dizzying black holes.
The listening session opened in grand fashion with the regal-sounding “No Church in the Wild.” On it, Jay raps about tears that drop on a mausoleum floor and blood-stained coliseum doors, over a beat fit for two hip-hop kings. And the starlit setting couldn’t have been more fitting for the Beyoncé -assisted “Lift Off.” As the bouncy beat ushered its way in, celestial images danced across the planetarium’s overhead screen. On the song, B belts out the song’s hook, singing, “We gonna take you to the moon, take it to the stars, how many people you know can take it this far?” (Judging from the roll-out for Watch the Throne, the answer to B’s rhetorical question is: no one.)
The RZA-produced “New Day” seemed to be a favorite among the energetic crowd, who danced to it in the aisles of the space theater. The song finds ’Ye talking to his unborn child, pledging to never let his son have an ego or to denounce an American president during a live telethon or relocate his mother to Hollywood — all personal details from Yeezy’s life. It’s not that ’Ye can’t live with the regret, but rather that he’s learned from his own mistakes and wants to keep his future children from repeating them.
“That’s My Bitch” and “Who Gon Stop Me” are both kinetic affairs that will surely rock the clubs, though the latter, with its electronic feel, doesn’t really sound like anything in hip-hop today.
“Made in America” features Odd Future singer Frank Ocean and finds the Throne contemplating their come-up. Kanye famously started out as a hit producer who had to prove himself worthy of rocking the mic. So, in the song’s lyrics, ’Ye evokes a drug lord breaking the number one rule, as he rhymes, “I’m rappin’ off of beats they supposed to buy/ I guess I’m gettin’ high off my own supply.”
The album closes with what could be another fan-favorite, judging by the reaction from the crowd: “Why I Love You.” On the final track, the accomplished duo are feeling a bit underappreciated. “Wasn’t I a good king?” Hov asks before rattling off the highlights of his rap reign, as if it were drawing to a close. Of course, when it comes to Jay-Z and retirement , fans should know better. Perhaps, Jay and Kanye would have been better off leaving the song open-ended because, based on the presentation of Monday night’s event, it doesn’t seem that either MC will relinquish the throne anytime soon.
Watch the Throne Week begins! Check in with MTV News every day until Wednesday, August 10, for exclusive content surrounding the release of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s eagerly anticipated LP.