The numbers are in. No. 1 in 23 countries on iTunes, the Jay-Z and Kanye West (known collectively as The Throne) collaborative album Watch the Throne has been a commercial smash. But financial windfalls notwithstanding, why would two of hip-hop’s biggest stars even bother with the project in the first place, especially when each rapper is at the top of his game? The answer might be in the project’s first video, Otis. Smiling as they trade verses and ride in a Maybach that gets the Mad Max treatment, they look like they are having fun with no rules.
“That’s the beauty in it. They didn’t need to do it for money. Not worried about radio singles or marketing campaigns, they just went in and produced what they thought was a dope album,” explains Geespin, assistant program director of New York’s Power 105 FM.
The presentation of the album was unprecedented. It was for sale exclusively through iTunes, while streaming online for free from Aug. 8 to 11. Then it hit all digital and physical retailers on Aug. 12. This allowed the Throne to dodge that most treacherous of artistic enemies in this digital age: the Internet leak.
The set also broke the U.S. iTunes Store’s one-week sales record last week when it sold nearly 290,000 downloads.
With the physical sales added to the digital, Watch the Throne is a lock for the top spot when Billboard updates its charts today.
In the music business, success usually breeds imitation. Are we on the brink of seeing more special projects like this? Will there be an heir to the Throne, so to speak? Geespin thinks so.
“I wish that more artists in the position would be more conceptual instead of thinking radio spins,” he says. “It’s good for the culture.”