As Kanye West upped the ante on his and Jay-Z's joint project (as if the title Watch the Throne weren't enough) from an EP to an LP, the Chicago star also ratcheted up expectations for the album.
Fresh off feeding bloggers, critics and fans a full plate with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 'Ye now faces the challenge of doing it again, mere months later. The collaboration is already one of the biggest events of the year, whether or not it arrives next week, as Kanye announced on New Year's Eve.
But given the challenge, will the two icons be able to pull it off? "A lot of cats always talk about doing something together. It's a cool idea at 3 in the morning, but it never pans out," Rap Radar's Elliott Wilson told MTV News, referring to grounded efforts by Nas and AZ, Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim and countless other superstar duos. "But the fact that they're really doing something is a smart move."
Creatively, the project gives Jay-Z, arguably the most decorated MC in history, new ground to cover. And for 'Ye, it gives him the opportunity to ascend to a pedestal (albeit it briefly) next to Hov in the hip-hop landscape. As a result of their friendship, it's easy to see why they came together in the first place. But perhaps the results ('Ye quickly concocting beats and Jay putting rhymes to them just as fast) made the effort expand into a full album.
"They have a very interesting and dynamic relationship. They love each other, and they also have a very competitive relationship," Complex Editor in Chief Noah Callahan-Bever explained. "But I think it brings out the best in both of them."
There's no arguing the Kanye West-powered Blueprint remains one of Hov's most revered projects.
"Some of Jay-Z's best work has been on Kanye's beats," New York Times critic Jon Caramanica said. "Even on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you hear Jay stepping his game up. You hear Jay trying. 'Cause he's not just tossing out this verse and it's gonna be on Joe Blow's record. He's like, 'This is the verse for the Kanye record, so I'm gonna do this there where I really try to fit the mood and really go in.' And I think Kanye is bringing that out of him, whether it's implicitly or explicitly."
Their union may not be groundbreaking, since they have a track record, including tracks on West's most recent record ("Monster" and "So Appalled") that were originally slated for the EP.
Instead of an end result dripped in mystery, though, like most experimental projects, the beauty of this one is that we've sampled it before. It's just a matter of meeting the potential of so many of their past hits.
"It's gonna be like a band that's worked together for a long time that's maturing into a new sound," Caramanica said.
What are you expecting from the 'Ye and Jay joint album? Let us know in the comments!