Baltimore Sun

Happy 'Watch the Throne' Day

Watch the Leak? Not this time.

Jay-Z and Kanye West's much anticipated collaboration, Watch the Throne, was released how they wanted it to — on iTunes this morning at 12 a.m. — without a leak. That alone is impressive (sorry Mom and Pop record shops), and now we have the actual songs to go with the incredible hype. I'm one-listen through (expect a review in Wednesday's b) but here are some of the notes I've made:

•••• These dudes spend time at the clubs so they've experienced the Euro-dance and dubstep dominance first-hand, so dubstep nods aren't surprising. But to go to that well more than once? Overkill.

•••• The "Deluxe Edition" is worth it. "Illest Motherf----- Alive" was co-produced by frequent Waka Flocka Flame producer Southside and he's a guy to keep an eye on. His beats are the trap's soundtrack in 2011. "Primetime" is a straight-foward rap song (more of those, less dub, please) with strong bars and a lonely piano. "The Joy," previously released during Kanye's "G.O.O.D. Fridays" series is one of the best songs these two have done together.

•••• "New Day" is my favorite song thus far because its the most raw lyrically. Disarmingly candid, thoughtful and honest.

•••• Overall, this is much better than I expected on first-listen. "Otis" still doesn't connect with me and that's OK because there's a lot of other good songs on here.

•••• Frank Ocean is my favorite voice right now.

•••• There's more than one clip from "Blades of Glory" (yes, the Will Ferrell comedy) used without much reason.

•••• Not sure if this is surprising or not, but the Swizz Beatz beat is my least favorite.

•••• Not only is early leak "That's My Bitch" a great call to keep on the final tracklisting, but hearing Elly Jackson (La Roux) is a welcome female presence. Beyoncé did her thing on "Lift Off," too.

•••• Kanye is a good rapper. Jay is better.

•••• Try not to get lost in the Hype: this isn't the album going to "save" hip-hop (in fact, we're talking about a culture that doesn't actually need to be saved) or rap (again, pretty good with or without WTT). This month is notably packed with rap releases (Waka Flocka and Gucci's Ferrari Boyz Aug. 9; Meek Mill's DreamChasers mixtape Aug. 11; Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV Aug. 29) and WTT is a strong contribution to it.