Match made in hip-hop heaven: Kanye and Jay-Z in Dublin
It’s the biggest merger deal in hip-hop history. On one side there’s Jay-Z, the astute businessman from the Roc-a-Fella corporation and peerless rhymer who has been at the top of this game for yonks.
On the other side there’s Kanye West, the bright spark who has given commercial hip-hop a new creative lease of life in recent years and who is celebrating his birthday in Dublin tonight.
Put this brace of powerhouses together and you’ve got Watch the Throne, a brand that can draw the punters to big sheds such as Dublin’s O2 for two nights in a row. Of course, both acts could probably do similar ticket business under their own steam, but this canny match-up means additional excitement and anticipation.
Last year’s Watch the Throne album amply demonstrated the pair’s collaborative powers. But this spectacular, audacious live show takes things to a whole new level. It’s a show with a lot of bells and whistles – they begin the show on seperate raised podiums, which then become giant projection screens – but there are also plenty of musical fireworks to back it up.
The pair trade tracks from their large back catalogue, ripping pell-mell from Jay-Z diamonds such as Empire State of Mind and Hard Knock Life and West nuggets such as Flashing Lights and Jesus Walks.
That each rapper is happy to ride shotgun and provide cover when the other takes lead means we get one hell of a show.
What’s also apparent is the clear difference in styles. Jay-Z is the old-school showman with oodles of swagger, whose stagecraft has taken a quantum leap in recent years as he has found the bigger stages to his liking. By contrast, West’s career has been largely spent in arenas such as this and his stylish (if sweaty) showmanship has been honed with these venues in mind.
It’s when they perform tracks from the Watch the Throne album, though, that you really see the true merits of the partnership. Here are hip-hop’s most valuable tag team having a whale of a time on bespoke pop bangers such as Monster.
In the past you might have had beefs between rap peers of this ilk, but Jay-Z and West have discovered there’s far more to be earned by joining forces. The bar has indeed been raised.