Say what you will about Watch the Throne - and people, including several members of Team Rocks Off, have said a lot - but it's all anyone in music seems to be talking about these days. Which makes sense; it's not every day that two megastars (the very biggest) are able to shove their egos aside and drop an album that not only does not leak to the Internet, but sells more than half a million copies in its first week.
Not too shabby. Rocks Off is a little tardy in
downloading the album for free buying Watch the Throne on iTunes, but we have given its lead single "Otis" a few spins. Besides becoming the Internet's leading audio meme over about the past week and a half - Houston rappers Propain, Eskabel and J-Willamahn have each released their own version - "Otis" reaffirms something fans of Mr. Redding (Jay and 'Ye chief among them) have always known: "Try a Little Tenderness" is a hit song in any decade.
Kanye and Hova have raised Redding's Q rating to an all-time high nearly 45 years after the singer's death. In fact, since Redding receives featured billing on "Otis" (as he should), he just set a new record for the longest span between appearances on Billboard's R&B chart. ("Otis" debuts this week at No. 15.) But it doesn't stop there.
Soul is gold on the pop charts all over again. Bruno Mars is like a one-man Motown revue, Beyonce's 4 is a decided shift toward old-school R&B, and Adele is introducing a whole new generation to the wonders of Dusty Springfield (or she should be). Questlove produced Booker T's brand-new album The Road From Memphis after the "Green Onions" legend sat in with the Roots on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Those in the know swear Raphael Saadiq and Janelle Monae can take 'em all.
Watch the Throne's success will no doubt have both fans and Def Jam shareholders clamoring for a sequel as soon as humanly possible. Luckily, there are plenty of other worthy '60s soul artists out there ripe for the pickin'. Rocks Off picked out five of our favorites as possible starting points for the inevitable Watch the Throne Part II.
5. Junior Walker & the All-Stars: To the best of Rocks Off's knowledge - which we admit is far from encyclopedic - no rap artist has ever lifted the iconic saxophone introduction to Walker's 1965 hit "Shotgun." What a crime. (Weekly Ghostbusters reference: Check.) If Hova and Kanye get their hands on it, it could be bigger than the tenor solo that teases Wrecks-N-Effect's "Rump Shaker."
4. Bobby "Blue" Bland: Unlike Redding and the other artists on this list (save Sam Moore), Bland has the advantage of still being alive, and could probably be talked into coming into the studio for some guest vocals. As a couple of our more astute readers have pointed out, Hova and Kanye have already dipped into Bland's catalog, sampling "Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City" on the West-produced "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" from 2001's The Blueprint. This time Rocks Offs suggests The Throne leave ballads like Texas Johnny Brown's "Two Steps From the Blues" alone and focus on uptempo songs such as "Further On Up the Road" and (especially) "Turn On Your Love Light." Hey, it worked well enough for Eric Clapton - who, come to think of it, would make a suitably A-list classic rocker for a demo-busting cameo.
3. Sam & Dave: If Jay-Z and Kanye really want to sell themselves as 21st-century Soul Men, they've got to at least dip a toe into the Stax catalog riches of the duo who got there first (ably assisted by the pens of Isaac Hayes and David Porter), the one and only "Sultans of Sweat." Think about it: "Hold On (I'm Comin')," "You Don't Know Like I Know," "Soul Sister, Brown Sugar" or one of the '60s' best ballads, "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby." Ooh baby. Bonus points for drafting Billy F. Gibbons for guitar on "I Thank You" and/or the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson to add some harmonica to "Wrap It Up."
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2. Marvin Gaye: Kind of a no-brainer, since Kanye especially is starting to show several parallels to the troubled Motown genius in both his music and his career path. (We just hope there's a happier ending.) Rocks Off suggests the duo leave the obvious stuff like "Let's Get It On" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" alone and tackle either uptempo toe-tappers like "Can I Get a Witness" and "Ain't That Peculiar" - both of which are custom-made for some limber rhyming - or go to town on some of Marvin's funkier moments, like anything from his underrated 1972 soundtrack Trouble Man. And if they want to throw in a remix or two of "Sexual Healing," that would be fine too.
1. Wilson Pickett: Any wedding band may tell you they never, ever, ever want to hear "Mustang Sally" again as long as they live, but Rocks Off is kind of salivating over what Jay and Kanye might do over that steadily shuffling bass line and a guitar lick that's cooler than the other side of the pillow. (Cover-band butchery aside, "Sally" really is an awesome song.) Besides, Pickett's wicked catalog has so much more to offer, from to the lethal hornplay of "In the Midnight Hour" to his paisley remake of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" (with Duane Allman on guitar, which we totally forgot about until just now).