By Rob Markman
High-profile albums call for high-profile producers. So it should be no surprise that for Watch the Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West recruited the likes of Swizz Beatz, the Neptunes, RZA and Pete Rock to help them craft a soundbed for their eagerly anticipated joint LP.
It wasn’t all about the veterans, however. The Throne also gave some relative newcomers a chance to contribute.
“They reached out to me for the ’See Me Now’ record; I co-produced that with Kanye,” Virginia producer Lex Luger said about ’Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy bonus track. “So after that he wanted some more material, I flew to New York, and we were just vibing for a little while. He picked, like, two or three tracks, but he really liked that ’H.A.M.’ track. It’s a blessing.”
In 2010, Luger broke out of relative obscurity after producing Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in Da Paint” and Rick Ross’ street anthem “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast).” Recognized for his frantic synth keys, violent drum hits and hyped-up production style, Luger has since gone on to do beats for Wiz Khalifa, Soulja Boy and Fabolous, but raised his profile considerably with the Hov and Yeezy track.
“H.A.M.” was the first leak from Watch the Throne and will now appear as a bonus track on the deluxe version of the album, as will “Illest Mother—-er Alive,” which was produced by Luger’s buddy Southside.
Like Lex, Southside gained fame making beats on Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockaveli album. With his Southern-fried sound, Southside was surprised that the Throne chose his track to include as a bonus track on the album. “It was on some straight trap music as they call it. Like, I couldn’t believe that they did that beat,” he said. “Working with them, that was crazy. That’s a moment I’ll never forget. I hope I get a lot more of those moments.”
Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph and Verse Simmonds (collectively known as the Jugganauts) are no strangers to hitmaking. Together, along with reggae/pop group Rock City, the duo helped write and produce Rihanna’s “Man Down.” For Hov and Yeezy, they experimented with dubstep on “Who Gon Stop Me” and slowed things up for “Made in America.”
The two tracks couldn’t be more different. On “Who Gon Stop Me,” Kanye and Jay deliver chest-pounding proclamations over an electro-infused dance track. “Made in America” is much more soothing, as the two MCs reminisce on their come-up. On the hook, Frank Ocean sings passionately about the black experience in America, paying homage to Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King in his lyrics.
After getting a call from Def Jam VP of A&R Bu Thiam to submit tracks for WTT, the production pair got to work. “What we did is, we locked in a week, we just went crazy on everything Jay and Kanye,” Simmonds told MTV News of the Jugganauts’ big chance. “I remember telling Sham, I was like, ’Yo, I think this dubstep stuff is going to be the next new flavor that everybody gotta be on. It gotta have a hip-hop feel to it still.’ ”
On August 8, fans will finally be able to hear the long-awaited Throne album, which was first announced as an EP in August 2010. The project has since turned into a full-length project that has had the rap world buzzing for the first half of 2011. The recording — which took place in Paris, Australia and the Mercer Hotel in New York City — has resulted in a 12-track album with four bonus songs on the deluxe version. The wait is almost over!
Watch the Throne Week is on! 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.