Without A Net

Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Behind the scenes of Jay-Z & Kanye West’s new album 'Watch the Throne'

Following her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, Beyonce announced her pregnancy by unbuttoning her sequined blazer and rubbing her burgeoning belly. Greeted by cheers from fans and friends alike, Beyonce beamed while delighted hip-hop mogul/husband Jay-Z celebrated the announcement offstage with new best friend and collaborator Kanye West.

High-fives and congratulations flew as Beyonce and Jay-Z shared their personal news with an international crowd. Jay-Z and Kanye also had their own performance, playing "Otis," the first single off their new album "Watch the Throne." It was the first time they've performed a song from the album together live, according to MTV.

Disclosure and engagement between celebrities and their fans is becoming increasingly common, and Jay-Z seems to be embracing that intimacy. Following the August release of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album “Watch the Throne,” a documentary on the making of this grandiose, highly anticipated collaboration began circulating around the Web and streaming on music blogs.

Warning: Video contains adult language.

This 10-minute peek into the personal lives of rap’s biggest stars has the texture of a music video, but the structure of a traditional documentary.

It was shot mostly on a private estate in Sydney, Australia where the duo recorded part of their album. Antique diamond rings, crystal goblets and even Russell Crowe make appearances in the documentary; a smiling Crowe looks like he’s feeling the music and having the time of his life.

Crowe's name is even included in a song on the new album called "Illest Motherf---er Alive." “You’ve now made it into rap history, man,” West tells Crowe at a session.

Exterior shots of the castle-like compound are intercut with snippets of interviews and concert footage from the stars' earlier days, before they accomplished their biggest dreams. They put their money (and it’s a lot of money) where their mouth is.

The movie toes the line between hallucinogenic and avant-garde, including interludes of black-and-white photos accompanied by an audio collage; you hear sounds like the beep of hospital room equipment and the click of a camera flash.

The video offers a rare glimpse of West and Jay-Z’s normal, domestic lives. West says he's in awe of the fact that he’s making an album with his long-term idol after moving from Jay-Z fan to becoming a peer. He tweeted, “I was in the audience at [Jay-Z's] Hard Knock Life tour!!!” It was only about 12 years ago West watched from afar as Jay-Z performed.

The documentary shows the two, along with Jay-Z’s powerhouse singer wife Beyonce, having dinner, sharing laughs and swapping birthday gifts. Jay-Z seems goofy and natural, and Beyonce is distractingly striking as she dances enthusiastically to her husband’s new tracks.

Overall, the documentary is about the intimate, painstaking creative process of two larger-than-life artists. The enormity of Jay-Z’s image and empire falls away for a moment near the end of the film in one rare quiet scene where it’s just him, a mic and a sound technician.

While working on new lyrics, Jay-Z's voice drops to a near whisper as he tries to flesh out a rhyme. The noise fades away and all that’s audible is a background buzz as the wheels turn in Jay-Z’s brain.

“Words are just so tough. Words are tough. The meaning behind this s--- is tough,” Jay-Z says as he struggles to string together the words for “Why I Love You,” one of the album's most memorable songs, with a relentless beat. The documentary closes with Jay-Z and Kanye toasting to the album as the track finally comes together.

Photos: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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