Hovito Cements His Legacy. RTH breaks down his thoughts on Jay-Z.
It’s summer 1996. I’m talking to my friend Cindy about random 16 year old nonsense. She’s singing a song that goes, “Ain’t no ___ like the one I got…”. She says she doesn’t know who sings it, but she likes it. I say, okay, Ill try to find out.
I do some research and tell her, “It’s some guy named ‘Jay-Z’, but I don’t know who the heck that is.”
It’s fall 1998. My friend Tiffany hands me a copy of Jay-Z’s “Volume 2: Hard Knock Life”. I listen to “Money ain’t a thing”, “Hard Knock Life”, “A week ago”, and “Can I get A”. I ignore the rest.
I say to myself, “This guy can’t rap to the beat.” and disregard the album. Too much Swizz Beats crap. I don’t get it. That’s enough.
It’s fall 1999. I hear this song called “Do it again”. The beat is atrocious. To me, it goes: BOOM! Ticky Ticky Ticky.. It’s that Jay-Z guy again, and he’s getting worse. “You gotta little flow, that’s cool wit’ me…” Ughhh..
This guy is terrible.
It’s fall 2001. Jay-Z has a new album out, “The Blueprint.” The lead single, “H to the Izzo” is dope, and it looks like Jay-Z has finall done a song I like. I have the song burned to a CD and I’m diggin’ it.
Then “Takeover” surfaces past the mixtapes and late nite radio shows and explodes onto my Top 40 Radar. Jay-Z is dissing Nas, who hasn’t done a song I’ve liked since “Hate Me Know” two or 3 years prior. I decide Jay’s kicking a man when he’s down, so now it’s to heck with Shawn Carter and Viva Nasir Jones.
It’s early 2003. I’ve started writing songs in earnest and I decide to expand my horizons and listen to stuff I normally wouldn’t. I cop “The Blueprint 2”. Expectations are low.
About 60 seconds into “Hovi Baby” I am hooked. Jay-Z is the real deal.
It’s late 2003. “The Black Album” is copped the first pay day I have after it drops. It’s bananas. But! Jay-Z is retiring.
It’s now Fall 2006. Jay-Z has been “retired” for almost 3 years, but he’s coming back with a new CD, “Kingdom Come”. The internet is in full on hater mode. Bol leads a campaign of rap snob hatred eager to shit on Mr. Carter after being unable to legitimately do so for his whole reign.
I’ve copped “Volume 1: In My Lifetime”, “Reasonable Doubt”, and “Best of Both Worlds (part 1)”, and “The Blueprint” and I can’t wait to hear the new one, haters be danged.
“Kingdom Come” drops, and I am disappointed. Jay-Z is rusty. His choruses are cliche. He’s not riding the beat as cleverly and as nimbly as he used to. The album isn’t bad at all, it’s just disappointing. However, glimpses of “Classic” Jay are found in “Kingdom Come”, “Trouble”, “Dig A Hole”, and my favorite, “Beach Chair”. I think Hov is holding back, trying to school a whole generation of Curtis Jackson-infected fuckers who don’t know good rap anymore than they know where Iraq is on a map.
It’s one year later, and Jay-Z has announced he’s doing a concept album called “American Gangster”, inspired by the film of the same name. Jay-Z is creating a saga from beginning to end of a Hustler that doesn’t get out when getting is good.
The internet is in full on Jaded Cynic Mode. Praise ranges from “Wack” to “I’m not saying it’s a classic, but it’s good.” Of course. We all know that saying anything is good is a huge faux pas on the internet, where every blog is “The Cool Table” of the cafeteria.
I see the movie and love it.
I wait until the album is available from a retail outlet, and I cop–weeks after everyone else has stolen it. “He doesn’t need the money.” Dr. Beardhussein doesn’t give a shit. Congrats on working out that RAR link, gents. I’ll spend the $11 dollars on the album. Ya’ll can go back to spending $200 on lime green Nikes, pound-foolish bastards.
It’s time to review Jay-Z’s 10th Solo Album (not including Unplugged or Streets is Watching).
Let’s Start With The Beats- Wow. I’m sure you’ve heard about the “soul-sample infused” production. Lemme tell ya, it’s awesome. I dig the 70’s sound. I dig the horns and the strings. I dig the singing. I dig the fact that it recreates the cinematic feel of the movie. It’s a credit to Just Blaze, The Neptunes, No ID, Big D, Jermaine Dupri, LV & Sean C, Diddy, Mario Winans, and DJ Toomp that underneath the bombastic brass and the scintillating strings that there is a sense of melancholy foreboding throughout. Tracks like “Roc Boys (And the winner is)” are infectious and celebratory, but you just know that the good times are not going to last. This might be the best production of any Jay-Z album, even with “Hello Brooklyn 2.0” being kinda misplaced, and “Sweet” kinda dragging.
Fave Beat- Tie between the trapped-in-my-head track from Sean C. and LV, “Roc Boys (and the winner is)”, and (I never thought I’d say this about Skateboard P) The Neptunes’ bouncy backdrop to Hova’s ode to addiction, “I Know”
But How is Dem Rhymes, Uncle The Hussein?– Good lord. Jay-Z is in rare form. This isn’t “Reasonable Doubt” Jay-Z. This isn’t “Blueprint” Jay-Z. This is a whole new incarnation. He rides beats like “I Know” with an agility he was missing on Kingdom Come. His double entendre game is impeccably hard on “Roc Boys” and “Party Life”. He absolutely destroys a flip of an Eminem verse (“Slim Shady” off of The Marshall Mather’s LP) on “Success”, and I defy even the most ardent of haters to find something truly wrong with “No Hook” and “Ignorant Shit”. Plus! The bonus track, “American Gangster” is a clever nod to “Show Me What You Got”, Jay-Z’s most maligned single ever. The beat is almost identical to SMWYG, but Jay-Z is in tip-top lyrical shape.
Fave Verse- “Ignorant Shit”. It’s ridiculous final salvo from Jay gives it the nod over “No Hook”.
Who he got on the album? They aight?– Vocal Guest Stars are limited to Nas, Lil’ Wayne, Pharrell, and Beanie Sigel. Nas complements Hov’s sick verses on “Success” like nobody’s business. I cosign the blogger from Hip-Hop DX who said they need to put out an EP. Lil’ Wayne is okay. Very respectful verse considering the amount of hype/drama the internet and print media have put into the Jay-Z vs Lil’ Wayne “beef”. Pharrell does another hook that his voice will never be able to recreate live, but it’s a good hook indeed. Sigel really only shows up for a second and basically to give a breather to Jay [||] on “Ignorant Shit”. From what I remember, Beans did okay. Nothing too extraordinary one way or the other.
Cool, Cool. Anything Else?- Jay does a bunch of subtle little slick things to take shots at his critics and his contemporaries. Jay’s punchlines are similar in style–at times–to Lil’ Wayne, who is overrated severely, but still the “consensus” pick for Best Rapper right now. Yes, Jay’s are stylistically similar, but his wit and intelligence shows that what Weezy can do, Hov can–and for the last 11 years, has–done/do better.
Some tracks kiiinda interrupt the narrative ala “No Hook” and “Ignorant Shit”, but the storytelling is incredible. Seeing the movie helped a great deal to visualize it all. Also, the fact that one of the album’s Bonus Tracks, “Blue Magic”, takes us into the next phase in the drug czar life–the 80’s crack epidemic, Nino Brown ish–is awesome. Kind of a “Coming Soon” after all the 70’s mafioso stuff.
Overall Rating– Here at It Ain’t That Serious, we’ve given a lot of thought about what kind of rating we would use on our reviews. I can’t do mics, t-shirt sizes are just silly, and stars are boring. I’ve chosen to use: Boobs.
A Cup = Terrible. Aural Herpes.
B Cup = Ehh, has it’s moments.
C Cup = Just over the line into “Good territory”.
D Cup = Enjoyment has been attained. Brag to your buddies.
DD Cup = Perfection. Line up for High 5s, you lucky bastard.
I’m quite confident that this is Jay-Z’s best work to date. That’s right. I think it’s better than “The Blueprint” and better than “Reasonable Doubt”. Both are classics, but they are from Jay-Z at his primative stages. It’d be like saying High School Michael Jordan was better than College Jordan, or that Tarheel MJ was better than NBA Mike. This is Jay combining the eager narratives of “Reasonable Doubt” with the wit and wisdom of “The Blueprint”. Put them together and you have a Classic.
This album is a homerun, and it’s earning the DD Cup rating. I know you will disagree with me and say, “Oh, Kanye got a Perfect Score too.. You give everything a high score.” No, No. The rating is because this album is incredible, not because “everything else sucks”, or because I’m a Stan. The rating is because the beats are cohesive and excellent. The rating is because the rhymes, punchlines, narration…are all top notch.
Call Reynolds, cuz it’s a wrap.
Lastly, For everyone that wants to say that 2007 Jay-Z is “Jordan with the Wizards”, I say this:
Michael Jordan retired in Summer 1993. He came back in late winter 1995. He lead the Bulls to a middle-of-the-pack playoff spot. They defeated the Charlotte Hornets (of Muggsy, LJ, and ‘Zo) in 4 games and went on to the next round. Their opponent, The Orlando Magic, beat the Bulls in 6 games.
Kingdom Come is the 1995 Michael Jordan losing to the Magic.
The next year, the Bulls went 72-10, beat my Knicks 4-1 in the Second Round, went on to sweep the Magic in the next round, then defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals to win MJ’s fourth championship.
Jay-Z’s American Gangster = 1995-1996 Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls. Ya’ll can cut the “Wizards” shit right now, cuz you just look silly.
Remember: It ain’t that serious.
Thanks for checking in and reading all that.
Nice review, even if you got the Eminem song wrong (it’s I’m Back).
Dangit. Props to S of G for correcting me.