Yes, it’s finally here. ‘Watch the Throne’, the hotly anticipated new album from hip-hop heavyweights Kanye West and Jay-Z, is released today. Working with an impressive list of top producers, Kanye and Jay made sure they work on the album together in the same room as they recorded it in various locations around the world. The album is already shaping up as a well-received classic, and certainly doesn’t disappoint on the sampling front, with nearly every track containing at least one BIG sample. From tried and tested sample sources such as James Brown to more obscure sources from across the Atlantic, this album is loaded with the good stuff. Let’s look at the details.
The album kicks off with the brooding ‘No Church in the Wild‘ featuring Frank Ocean. Produced by Kanye West and 88-Keys, the beat has a dark and steady energy, with stripped down drums from Spooky Tooth‘s ‘Sunshine Help Me‘ providing the backbeat for an inspired guitar sample from ‘K-Scope‘, a 1978 track by Roxy Music‘s lead guitarist Phil Manzanera, pitched down and looped. You may also recognise a vocal flourish from the godfather of soul in there too (the track ‘Don’t Tell A Lie About Me and I Won’t Tell the Truth On You’ from his 1974 album ‘Hell’), again pitched down to add to the melancholic atmosphere.
Next up is ‘N****s in Paris‘, a tough club track with a driving drum machine rhythm and synth riff. A vocal loop from Reverend W.A. Donaldson’s ‘Baptizing Scene‘ from 1959 adds to the tension, reminiscent of the vocal cries from Mountain‘s ‘Long Red (Live)‘ break, a hip-hop staple and a favorite of the late, great J Dilla.
On ‘Otis‘, the lead single from the album, Kanye chops up Otis Redding‘s ‘Try A Little Tenderness‘ to devastating effect. The combination of Redding’s dusty hard soul and West’s trademark loopy slices is a real winner. Also in the mix is another sample from James Brown’s ‘Don’t Tell a Lie…‘ and an interpolation from Audio Two‘s hip-hop classic ‘Top Billin’‘. This is a feel-good party jam that marries the cutting edge hip-hop sound with an old school sensitivity – a reminder of just why Kanye West is where he is today.
Things slow down again on ‘Gotta Have It‘. A hypnotic, Eastern-sounding vocal loop sets the tone whilst tight vocal chops lifted from James Brown’s ‘People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul (Remix)‘ (1988) and ‘Don’t Tell a Lie…‘ (it’s third appearance on the album) are dropped over the top, making way for a huge beat and some synths backing Jay-Z and Kanye’s hard-hitting verses.
For ‘New Day‘, produced by West alongside Mike Dean and the almighty RZA, autotune makes a return (from beyond the grave, Jay?) with a vocal interpolation of Nina Simone‘s timeless classic ‘Feeling Good‘ from her 1965 album ‘I Put a Spell on You’.
Kanye and Jay then join forces with Elly Jackson of La Roux on ‘That’s My B****‘ with co-production from legendary rapper and producer Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. You may be surprised to see such a classic break on here but Kanye and Q-Tip definitely don’t disappoint, coupling the familiar b-boy break from Incredible Bongo Band‘s ‘Apache‘ with a lofi psychy synth line making it sound as fresh as ever. Also sampled is the break from Assagai’s ‘Telephone Girl‘, and you may recognise the scratches from Public Enemy‘s ‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out‘ coming into the mix.
No breaker anthems to be found on ‘Who Gon Stop Me‘, however. This time its British dustup producer Flux Pavilion‘s ‘I Can’t Stop‘ from last year which goes under the knife, flipped into a tough rap beat.
On ‘Murder to Excellence‘ Swizz Beatz and S1 provide the beats, lifting elements from Romanian folk song ’La, La, La‘ and Quincy Jones‘s ‘Katutoka Corrine‘ from the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s 1985 drama ‘The Color Purple’.
To finish the album off West teams up with No I.D. to get to work on another electronic track from across the pond. ‘I <3 U So‘ by French outfit Cassius provides the backbone for ‘Why I Love You‘, with additional vocals from Mr. Hudson. This is a sample chain – Cassius’s track is a stunningly produced sample of Sandra Richardson‘s 1971 song ‘I Feel a Song (In My Heart)‘.
If you manage to get your hands on the deluxe edition of ‘Watch the Throne’, you’ll get four bonus tracks.
Included is the single ‘H.A.M.‘, which came out in January. Kanye opens his verse by interpolating a line from Jay-Z’s ‘A Week Ago‘ from 1998, kicking off a dark and heavy track with menacing opera samples and frantic Dipset-style beat courtesy of Lex Luger.
On ‘Primetime‘, No I.D. is back on the boards, chopping up the drums from Orange Krush‘s ‘Action‘, a classic early 80s funk break which, along with ‘Apache’ was included in the seminal Ultimate Breaks and Beats series.
The same can be said about Syl Johnson‘s ‘Different Strokes‘ – Johnson’s grunts and crisp drum break are the foundation of ‘The Joy‘ featuring Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi, with none other than MPC wizard and revered beatmaker Pete Rock on production detail. And last but not least, a sizeable sample from Curtis Mayfield‘s ‘The Makings of You‘ from his live album ‘Curtis/Live!’ completes the beat with a touch of sweet soul.
Big thanks to all WhoSampled contributors and moderators who were so quick to submit all those samples!