Live Review

Watch The Throne, The O2, London

Their two-hour tag-team routine really does highlight just how much they have defined hip-hop over the last decade.

Watching 20,000 people throw their “diamonds” in the air without so much as an awkward pause, ala “why doesn’t everyone take a few steps forward, we don’t bite,” does rather put the idea of a bunch of scruffy looking, guitar wielding indie kids moping around on stage into perspective. But then a gig at The O2, particularly one that bears witness to the two biggest egos in hip-hop sharing the stage, was never going to be like anything else. If I had to choose just one word to surmise the evening it would be “ridiculous”: the aggressive displays of bravado manifesting themselves in separate podiums, shark projections, flames so hot you can feel them from the back seats, giant American flags and blinding laser shows.

Arriving at either end of the arena, Kanye West and Jay-Z play out the most epic rap battle, spitting the lyrics to ‘H.A.M’ in sync with what seems like a mile between them before they arrive side by side like only old friends could for Watch The Throne forerunner ‘Otis’. It is unreal. They are unreal, their unfathomable celebrity status detaching them from anything we would encounter in our everyday lives and so their appearance, together, right before our very eyes is certainly surreal.

While Kanye pulls heavily on material from 2011’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, arguably his career best, Jay-Z nails the classics while only really pulling out all the modern stops for ‘Empire State Of Mind’. A real camaraderie marks the entire performance, despite the playful rivalry and constant one-upmanship witnessed when Hova’s ‘Big Pimpin’ comes to end and Yeezy returns to the stage only to say “I tried that once, but you know what happened… she take my money,” and proceeds to knock him out of the park with ‘Gold Digger’. It’s not over though as Jay turns to Kanye and says “Ahh you having girl problems, Ye?” before launching into the iconic ‘99 Problems’.

Their two-hour tag-team routine really does highlight just how much they have defined hip-hop over the last decade and the thousands of people here tonight, with no particular musical snobbery or narrow minded genre allegiances, reflects not only the growth of the genre but the evolution of genres as a whole, and the boundaries that no longer exist.

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