One of hip-hop’s most anticipated releases of all-time dropped on Monday, and as expected, has been the topic of the day ever since. Using Twitter as an informal surveyor, the response seemed mostly positive, but to different extents and for different reasons. At the same time, it appeared as though others were not as impressed — which, of course, was also expected, as well.

After sitting with it for a few days and giving it countless listens (at least 10 run-throughs), I’ve come to my own final verdict: this shit is dope.

I’ll start by saying that I understand why some may have disliked Watch The Throne. Two pop culture mega-stars, immense hype and 20-feet tall expectations can make for an easy letdown.

But this project was clearly not meant to be The Blueprint or The Black Album, or College Dropout or Late Registration. In fact, what it actually sounds like is a combination of each artists’ most recent album: Hov’s elite, polished flow from Blueprint 3, mixed with Kanye’s sonic and erotic production, and confident and arrogant lyricism from MBDTF.

What’s significant, though, and what makes WTT truly stick with me, is that neither of them seemed to approach this as they would a solo album. It’s not about them personally, and the audience isn’t hip-hop, in particular; it’s bigger than that. It’s bigger than them and their individual experiences, and is directed at America and Black America as wholes.

For others, I’d guess this is probably the center of their disinterest in the album — some emotional vacancy. Bomani Jones put together a great review of WTT, stating that his biggest beef was the theme — or lack thereof:

“So tell me what the theme is here. If it’s about being on top of the game, Jay already did that with The Black Album, and he was far more compelling (going so far as admitting to selling out). There are flashes of outright pro-black ideologies, but some come on a song titled “That’s My Bitch.””

No doubt.

But I think that the theme, in fact, is, those Pro-Black ideologies and Black empowerment. Throughout the project, there are numerous subtle and not-so-subtle discussions of race, racism and liberation. As someone who studied shit like this in college (Black Arts Movement, Amiri Baraka, etc.), this was right up my alley.

“Marilyn Monroe, she’s quite nice, but why all the pretty icons always all-white, put some colored girls in the MOMA, half these broads ain’t got nothing on Wylona, don’t make me bring Thelma in it, bring Halle, bring Penelope and Selma in it, back to my Beyoncés, you deserve three stacks word to Andre,” raps Hov on That’s My Bitch, an odd title for a song with such lyrics, sure, but the point is taken, nonetheless.

Most poignant and blatant, however, is Murder To Excellence. Tag-team produced by Swizz Beatz and S1, it serves as a kind of core for the entire album. These brothers got on here and talked about some real shit. Moreover, they used both sides of the coin; Blacks’ struggles, contrasted with the need to strive for excellence and continued elevation, often using themselves as examples of cats who have done so.

This is to the memory of Danroy Henry,” Hov states on the first line of the track, referring to the college student who was shot to death by a New York cop in 2010.

“The paper read murder, Black on Black murder,” sings ‘Ye on the chorus. (How ironic that the day of the album’s release, the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times was occupied by news of one of the most senseless killings I’ve ever heard of, as a 6-year-old girl was shot and killed in Englewood at her grandmother’s house.)

“It’s time for us to stop and redefine Black power, 41 souls murdered in 50 hours,” he raps.

“Black excellence, opulence, decadence,” spits Hov, later continuing that, “domino, domino, only spot a few Blacks the higher I go.”

Is this anything that a lot of brothers and sisters haven’t heard already? No. Are they Gil Scot-Heron and Brian Jackson? Hell no. But not since Pac have we had MAINSTREAM, top-selling artists discuss these issues at length — let alone two of them! Both Kanye and Jay — especially Kanye (Crack Music, Gorgeous) — have spoken in such ways before, but never to this extent, and Jay, certainly never this overtly.

People complain all the time about the lack of substance that comes from major label artists. Well here it is.

Maybachs on backs on backs on backs, who in that, oh shit, it’s just Blacks on Blacks on Blacks,” raps Kanye on Gotta Have It. Niggas In Paris, New Day, Who Gon Stop Me all hold tinges of pro-Blackness, as well, while Made In America and Why I Love You , in line with Murder To Excellence, are clear displays of it.

In this case, the artists and magnitude of the project are so big, that is easy to overlook a lot of what was said and only see the two  “planking on a million.” Admittedly, their words lose some of their luster because, as messengers, they’re so removed from the average person. But it’s not fair to hold that against them.

There are plenty of other positives about the album: Kanye’s rage juxtaposed with his playfulness, Hov’s razor-sharp flow and double and triple-entendre metaphors, high-quality production. Such is why it’s hard for anyone to truly write this album off. The songs that I haven’t mentioned, No Church In The Wild, Lift Off and Otis are fucking sick.

But what really solidifies Watch The Throne are the constant ideas of Black excellence that are riddled throughout. It may not be what we’ve heard before or what some expected, but maybe that’s a good thing.

On one of the bonus tracks, Hov, despite a lackluster verse in general, still raps: “Basquiats, Warhols serving as my muses…usually you have this much taste you European, that’s the end of that way of thinking, nigga never again.”