Jay Z and Kanye West are the co-rulers of the hip-hop nation this week, as their Roc-a-Fella/Roc Nation album, Watch the Throne, debuts at #1 with 426k in sales, including a record 290k digital downThe album sold nearly 290,000 downloads through Sunday night, breaking the previous record-holder set by Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" in 2008.
Sources say Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne broke the U.S. iTunes Store's one-week sales record last week when it sold nearly 290,000 downloads via the retailer through Sunday night.
loads at iTunes. What they didn't realize was the months of near-military-scale planning required to keep the album under wraps.
Taking C.I.A.-like precautions to ensure that the album was released on their own terms, the duo successfully staved off hackers with a leak-proof strategy -- an anomaly for an industry consistently brought to its knees by web-savvy individuals eager to share unreleased material with the world.
"It was really important to [Jay] that people experienced this album in its entirety when they first listened to it," says a Roc Nation executive, who asked to remain anonymous. "That was really the driving force of it, to create that nostalgic moment of unwrapping the CD and listening to it for the first time."
Conceived during three iterations in Australia, New York City and Paris, Watch the Throne was kept secure by three core engineers -- Mike Dean, Anthony Kilhoffer and Noah Goldstein -- who disabled their computers' Wi-Fi at pop-up studios constructed in hotel rooms. Due to compromising hacker attempts for West's 2010 release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, outside producers such as the RZA and Swizz Beatz were asked to appear in-person for works-in-progress -- no emailed song drafts were allowed.
To combat pre-release piracy, Kilhoffer, Grammy Award-winner for West's Graduation and John Legend's Get Lifted, claims that all sessions were saved offsite to hard drives in Goldstein's locked Pelican briefcase over the course of nine months. "Everywhere we went in hotels, we were locking hard drives and Noah took them with him," says Kilhoffer, who now travels with external memory units that can only be accessed by biometric fingerprints.
The technology, which Kilhoffer implements while traveling on West's current European tour, takes a live scan of one's finger to serve as key to access protected material. For less than $100, devices such as the Eikon Digital Privacy Manager and Zvetco Fingerprint Reader measure the finger's ridges and valleys with conductor plates, transmitting imprints through a USB cord to safeguard hard drive contents. While on the road, Kilhoffer and Dean are the sole gatekeepers to unlock the digital safes.
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Sent to a manufacturing plant days ahead of its digital unveiling on August 8, Watch the Throne was later shipped to major retail outlets like Best Buy, serviced with exclusive deluxe edition, in time for the album's physical release today. Only two New York City listening sessions -- one at the Mercer Hotel, the other at Hayden Planetarium -- invited the outside world to hear the completed work.
While Jay-Z and Kanye West managed to record one of hip-hop's most hotly anticipated albums without compromise, some label executives agree that the method could set an example for an industry still struggling to adapt to the digital renaissance.
"I think there are a lot of people looking at this and saying, 'Wow, maybe these guys are onto something. That might be the way to go,'" says the Roc Nation executive. "I'd be surprised if many other artists don't use this strategy as well."
The album, a collaboration between hip-hop superstars Jay-Z and Kanye West, shot to No. 1 on iTunes album sales charts on its first day of release Monday.
The project took Apple's digital music store crown in the U.S. and 22 other countries including Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, the U.K. and multiple European territories.
Watch the Throne bowed exclusively on iTunes at midnight in standard and deluxe forms, and will be released in stores Aug. 12. The deluxe version is exclusive to Best Buy for a limited time. The Apple/Best Buy release was criticized by a number of independent retailers who said the duo was employing a "short sighted strategy" by leaving them out of the equation.
Beyonce, RZA, and Q-Tip are among the contributors to the project, which the rappers will support on tour beginning in Atlanta on Oct. 29.
Watch the Throne has received generally positive reviews thus far: All Hip Hop’s JP DelaCuesta and Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur wrote, “Most people tend to love or loathe Mr. West and Mr. Carter with very few gradients of gray. Watch the Throne is the most ambitious effort the pair have joined forces on and the world awaits to hear it. The dynamic duo do not disappoint.” Billboard’s The Juice described the sound as “filthy rhymes over sumptuous soundscapes” in a track-by-track review.
1. "No Church in the Wild:" The Throne give a taste of sex, drugs & hip-hop. "Last night was mad real," Kanye raps. The-Dream sneaks in mid-way with auto-tuned vocals.
2. "Lift Off:" Although it feels misplaced in between tracks 1 and 3, the "stadium status" track is one to look forward to in seeing performed on the WTT tour.
3. "Ni**gas in Paris:" Kanye steals the show on the Hit-Boy produced club anthem. A snippet of Will Ferrell's line from "Blades of Glory" is tucked in between.
4. "Otis:" Jay-Z & Kanye West spit dirty rhymes on champagne living, a theme through out the album ("Ni**as in Paris"), over an Otis Redding classic.
5. "Gotta Have It:" The Neptunes revamp James Brown's "People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul" for Throne to brag on and shout out hometowns. "Racks" reference.
6. "New Day:" The Throne rhyme what they will and will not do to better raise their unborn sons. Ye recalls his doings and Jay won't let history repeat itself.
7. "That's My B**ch:" Similar to the leaked version, only Jay adds brown skinned actresses into the mix. Ye: "About to go dumb, how come? yeah, that's my b**ch."
8. "Welcome to the Jungle:" Kanye and Jay-Z shed light to the darkness of their lifestyle. Swizz Beatz production reminds me of Diddy's "All About the Benjamins."
9. "Who Gon Stop Me:" The Throne throw the middle finger to haters and hardships of the past. "Til I die/ I'mma f***in ball," West raps. Perfect song for wildin'.
10. "Murder to Excellence:" The Throne speak on black on black murder. Ye' compares Chi-town's murder rate to Iraq's. "Cause ain't nothin on the news but the blues."
11. "Made in America:" Frank Ocean's soulful vocals that soothe start and close the cut. Jay and Kanye rhyme on their "come up" over Shame "Sak Pase" Joseph beat.
12. "Why I Love You:" Jay-Z goes off on those who, though once close, turned away or against him. "But I'm bullet proof, b**ch you can't get nothin' past me." #shots
Street-Wize Unkutt Gives The Album 4****Out Of Five Stars....A superior release definetely one of the best complete projects this year.......