This weekend I visited the Watch the Throne Retail Experience in the trendy section of Manhattan known as SoHo. To celebrate the release of their collaborative album, Jay-Z and Kanye West decorated Openhouse Gallery (201 Mulberry Street) with all sorts of Throne memorabilia. The outside of the store is dressed in the Riccardo Tisci-designed gold album art; it really pops. Friendly security holds the door open for you and keeps count of the number of people inside the store. When you walk inside the store is organized in two sections: the Maybach and the album listening experience. Jay and ‘Ye thought it’d be neat to show off the über-expensive Maybach they stripped, chopped up, and drove in the laid back “Otis” music video. The luxury car, which will be auctioned with the proceeds going to the East African drought disaster, looks really awesome up close. The doors are torn off, the trunk is home to the grill that’s normally installed on the front of the car, suicide doors stick out in the back and give the car wings, the seats have monitors inside of them, the engine looks mean, and there’s sticker on the bumper that reads “What Would Hova Do.” When I was there the security man allowed salivating attendees to snap as many pictures they could within a six second time frame. What I was able to capture sits in the gallery below.
Beyond the Maybach section of the store and down a very short flight of stairs the “Otis” music video plays on a giant wall in silence; a sound system loops the album throughout the store at a comfortable level. The listening experience section is very big; just a handful of people and I stood in the center of the large space and watched “Otis” on a loop. All around the space hefty projectors beam images from the album on the surrounding walls; the album art, the “Otis” American flag artwork, and other imagery that’s stuffed inside the deluxe version of the album are displayed. To the right an attractive woman sells the deluxe copies at $15 a pop. The small retail section consists of a table with the Riccardo Tisci artwork folded open to reveal the aforementioned album imagery. There is also a listing of the album’s tracks and production credits for attendees to glance at. On my way out I noticed DJ equipment set up in the left corner. This must have been used opening night when the pop up store was packed with celebrities like Swizz Beatz, Memphis Bleek, Beyonce, and Jay-Z himself. The store is scheduled to close its doors today at 6PM. I highly recommend you check it out before the limited run is over. On a more general note, I have to say that I love the idea of a pop up store. Openhouse Gallery is a great space in a prime location; hopefully more artists and companies choose to use it when they plan to release anticipated products.
Underneath the pop up store gallery you’ll find a collection of pictures I took while unwrapping the Watch the Throne deluxe album. The duo did a great job putting it together, and it’s no secret that Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy had a big hand in the creative direction. The packaging folds open in a cross-like shape; four of the five panels feature the same embossed pattern and the center one is unique. On the reverse side there are five unique images on each panel: the American flag image of the “Otis” single artwork, dark images of Jay and Kanye with giant fangs, an image of a winged angel with a star pasted on her face, and in the center (the sleeve that holds the CD) is a shiny visual that evokes a slab of wood. The CD is a special edition black colored disc and its face matches the wooden pattern that it’s stored within. Under the angelic imagery lives an 18-panel poster; on one side is colorful artwork that takes design cues from the H.A.M single artwork, and the reverse side spells out the production credits and lyrics for every track. What’s neat is that the lyrics specify when Jay-Z and Kanye rap in each song with the markings JZ and KW. Overall, the packaging manages to elicit what Jay and ‘Ye were originally going for with Watch the Throne: grandiose rap. Tisci successfully channel his aesthetic touch that consists of symmetry, lightness, darkness, sharpness, and 3D. If you’re going to buy a physical copy of the album (and you should!) it’s definitely worth the extra pennies to go deluxe.