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Jay-Z & Timbaland »

What do you get when you take the greatest living rapper and the greatest hip hip producer. You get one hot album. Sign the petition and lets make it happen.

by rocafan on 11/24/2003 12:21:00 AM

rAll Eyes On Jay-Z

I recieved this through the clubjayz mailing list, it gives the whole special in words:

Jay-Z's career is about to slip away. The world will never know Shawn Corey Carter as Jay, Hov, Jigga, Iceberg Slim, S. Dot or any of his other aliases. There will be no Roc-A-Fella, no platinum jewels to match the slew of platinum plaques, no Beyoncé by his side, no Mayback Benz, no Bentley coup, no spitting a myriad of flows on wax and no laying stake to the title of greatest to ever get on the mic. Instead of big pimpin', it's about to be big time — as in a stiff prison sentence. It's 1994, two years before Shawn makes himself known to the masses with his classic debut, Reasonable Doubt. Back in '94 the lanky Brooklynite was a coke dealer, and on this day, S.C. is a little more comfortable cruising the pavement than he should be, considering his cargo. All of a sudden, his car gets stopped by police.

It doesn't matter why the "Jakes," as Shawn refers to them, pulled him over. What's racing though his mind is what will happen if the officers find out what's in the car.

"They were waiting for a K-9 to come," the now-reformed hustler, nine years removed from his run-in with law, remembers while sitting in his main recording home, New York's Baseline Studios. "But police can't search your glove compartment or your trunk if it's locked. You need a warrant for that. They can just search where your eyes can see, and I knew that. That, I think, got me out of it, that intelligence. But they were waiting for a dog to come. If the dog smells [drugs], then they have the right to impound the car. I think the dog was on another job or really far and the officer was just like, 'Get out of here!' "

Close call, but Jay survives, and goes on to record his instant classic Reasonable Doubt. His ability to flip metaphors and intricately weave stories on the LP pushes the project into the realm of the other classics of the day, like Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, Nas' Illmatic and Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. The album vaults Jay-Z onto hip-hop's main stage.

Almost a decade later, Shawn Carter is preparing to step down from that stage. But not before one last hurrah, The Black Album.

"I just felt like, 'What more can I say,' " Jay, sitting in a swivel chair in front of the boards of the studio, rationalizes about his stepping away from the mic. "I'm in the comfort zone as far as making the music. I know how to structure a song. I know how to construct a verse. I know all the little tricks. I know when people are going to sing along. I've been doing that 10 albums straight. I'm a young guy, and I still have to challenge myself in life. I have to step outside my comfort zone. That's just part of being alive."

There will be no quietly fading into oblivion when Jay bows out of life as a rapper. Just as his pride won't let him stay in the game until his skills diminish, it also won't let him leave the game without the fanfare befitting a living legend. There's no question in his mind: Girls will scream for him, men will roar with approval, all will be misty-eyed with nostalgia and the proverbial trumpets will blare as he stomps out on his own terms. There will be a victory lap consisting of a monumental concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, an autobiography called "The Black Book," another version of his S. Carter Collection Reebok sneaker and a second Rock the Mic tour, all to come in the weeks and months after The Black Album

I don't really think Jay-Z should retire," P. Diddy says. "I can't really digest that."

"Jay-Z ain't going nowhere, man," Ludacris laughs. "He might be able to tell y'all that. I don't think Jay is going nowhere."

You can't blame his peers and fans for being a little skeptical. After all, in 1996 Jay said that Reasonable Doubt would be his first and only album. He also threatened to call it quits when he was releasing Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. This is the same guy who, just a couple of years ago, said, "I can't leave rap alone, the game needs me." Still, Hov says this time he's not selling wolf tickets.

"Some people are in denial," Hov continues about his career termination. "Some people are like, 'I never seen it happen before.' I never seen it happen before either. No one has ever left at the top of the game and really, truly left. A lot of people get addicted to fame. That's been the good thing about me, I've never been that person that really wanted to be in the spotlight. My love has really been for the music. I'd rather be able to eat my spaghetti without a camera over here [in my face]."

Hov started talking about his last LP before he even started recording his last LP, 2002's The Blueprint 2. Jigga said his game plan would be to spread his gift of gab mainly through word of mouth. Yes, he intended to sell millions of records, but a little differently this time. No heavy promotion by Roc-A-Fella/ Def Jam, no videos, no singles. He was going to drop the album and let the music speak for itself.

Thematically, The Black Album would be a prequel to Reasonable Doubt. Hovi would talk about his life from birth to the release of his first album. Imagine, an entire album filled with graphically honest and poetic first-person accounts of his pre-fame existence. More classics in the vein of records like "You Must Love Me," "Song Cry" and "Soon You'll Understand," where Jay is devoid of arrogance and swagger, showing a little vulnerability and disclosing his insecurities and missteps.

Obviously, given the fact that Jay decided to put out a single and make a video for the party record "Change Clothes," where he rhymes about the latest fashion trends and rides around in the new Phantom Rolls Royce, Hova hasn't stuck to the original script.

"I think some people wanted 'Star Wars Episode IV,' " Jay's longtime friend and album engineer Kimel "Young Guru" Keaton assesses. "That's not exactly where the album is. It still has to be current to sell records. 'Change Clothes' is the type of song where you know exactly what it is and how it's going to be perceived. It's an ' '03 Bonnie & Clyde,' another big radio record."

"In a way," Jay answers about whether the project turned out the way he initially envisioned it. "I mean, just as far as the attack of it, what I'm saying. The approach of it is introspective — this is probably my most introspective album — but it has a lot of current things in it. A lot of things that I wanted to happen really didn't happen with the album, but then again, it's music. I didn't want to overthink it and make it boxy. I didn't want to make it programmed — it should just flow the way it flows. I just got to go with what feels good."

Listening to his records, there is no indication that Hov needs to be put out to pasture. He doesn't sound like he wants to leave, either. This isn't a 33-year-old man who's bored with the hip-hop game as a whole and is now only competing with his own established greatness — this dude's fire is burning.

"I don't know if Jay-Z's going to retire," Wyclef Jean opines. "Every time I see Jay-Z, it's like he keeps getting better and better at his craft. I think Jay-Z is probably going to put out The Black Album and he's probably going to sit back, run the company, and then the Jones is gonna hit him. The art is his passion, you can see it when he grabs the mic."

What felt good for Jay while recording the LP was reliving some hairy moments from his past as a hustler, like on "Allure" and "99 Problems" ("The year is '94 and my trunk is raw," Jay raps with bluster, "In my rearview mirror is the mutha----in' law"), his place as the "best rapper alive" on "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" and "What More Can I Say," and expounding on his most personal issue, his relationship with his father, on "December 4th" and "Moment of Clarity."

"Pop died, didn't cry, didn't know him that well/ Between him doing heroin and me doing crack sells," Jay's recorded voice seethes out of the speakers at Baseline during a listening session for The Black Album hosted by Hov.

While the Eminem-produced track, "Moment of Clarity," plays on, catching the ears of his guests, including Pharrell Williams, DJ Clue and President of Def Jam Kevin Liles, Hov sits stoically bobbing to the beat.

"It just came from me being real about those feelings," he explains later in the night about the seemingly callous lyrics about his dad, Adnis Reeves, who passed away on June 18 due to liver problems. "When I went to the church [for his funeral] and I seen him, my first thought, it was a smirk. I was smiling a little bit, like, 'Yo, this guy looks so much like me. We look just alike.' "

Jay and his father had been estranged until earlier this year. Reeves left the household and his family's life (Jay has an older brother and two sisters) when Shawn was just 12 years old. The separation had served as a major "block" for Jay over the years. He struggled with being hurt and harbored resentment, yet deep down, he still yearned for that connection with his pops.

His most vocal tongue-lashing toward his dad was on the Dynasty: Roc La Familia cut "Where Have You Been," where he rapped "F--- you very much/ You showed me the worst kind of pain." A few months later on Beanie Sigel's "Still Got Love For You," a more remorseful Jay rapped about still feeling neglected, but being ready to forgive: "N---a you did me wrong/ But the love is strong, let's move on."

In January Jay got his wish when his mother, Gloria Carter, orchestrated a meeting between her son and her ex-husband. The heart-to-heart would kick off a six-month-long reconciliation process until Reeves' death. She served as the Don King," Jay laughs about his mother's intervention and mediation. "She Don Kinged that whole situation when he came to my house. I just really got the chance to air it out. Tell him everything that I felt. Yo, my pop is stubborn. I see where I get it from. When I was talking to him I was like, I understand why I am the way I am. I got the chance to tell him how I was affected by him leaving and things like that. Then I was cool with it. That's what that verse [on 'Moment of Clarity'] was about. I'm like, 'Yo, it wasn't your fault.' All the things that I was blaming him for through my career and through the albums, as I grew I realized it wasn't all his fault."

The reunion provided one of the most sought-after resolutions in Jay's life. He cleaned out his closet and was ready for a new beginning. But Reeves was suffering and knew he didn't have much longer to live.

Aware of his father's condition, Jay bought his father an apartment and furnishings so he could live out his last days in comfort. Reeves died on June 18, the same night pro athletes, rappers, singers and actors were helping Jay celebrate the grand opening of his 40/40 Club in New York.

"I was just really glad that we got the chance to talk," Jay says of his loss. " I knew it was coming. It's almost like somebody is ready to punch you in the face and you know it and it's coming really slow. It's almost frustrating. I wish you'd punched me in the face already. I don't want you to think that I was happy that he passed away, but it was almost a relief."

The relationship between Jay and his father serves as a blueprint of how he does not want to end up with his children in the future. He literally wants to be a hands-on dad. "I don't know, a big boat somewhere, throwing a couple kids in the air," Jigga said about where he wants to be in six years.

Flashes of his new desires appear in his music, like in "Excuse Me Miss." He's lived the life, indulged in the women, and now he's ready to settle down and have a few young, Young Hovas.

"I carry my nephews like my sons, always have and they have filled that void for me. But it has definitely come a time where I want to have my own family. Absolutely."

"I will be back."End Floating Table -->Jay's paternal instincts are making it easier for him to step out of the limelight. Instead of being in a club surrounded by models, he'd rather be at home, with his family. People close to him say this is the happiest they've ever seen him and that his relationship with Beyoncé has had the heaviest impact on that. Jay, however, won't talk about his relationship with the singer.

He'll speak about retirement, though, his definition of which doesn't match that of the average working-class Joe. Jay's left the door open for us to yell "Welcome back, Carter," saying that he won't make any albums or guest appearances for at least "a year, maybe two," unless somebody disses him on wax. Then he may decide to "have a little fun."

And he of course has other work he wants to do. He has his eyes set on acting. He wants to open his own movie house. An S.C. clothing line is coming down the pike to go along with his S. Carter Collection tennis shoe. And don't think he'll be giving up any of his interest in his already thriving companies Roc-A-Fella Records, Roc-A-Wear and Armadale vodka.

Despite his unwillingness to commit to a real retirement, per se, we've probably heard the last Jay-Z album. With The Black Album's debut at #1 on the Billboard albums chart (more than 463,000 copies sold), it doesn't seem like Jay has any unturned stones to bring him back for another full-length. The victory lap has begun and he's successfully passed the first leg in his run.

Besides, he's already seen what happened to the man he calls his sports equivalent, Michael Jordan, when the basketball legend made his most recent re-entrance into the game as only a shell of his former self.

"He's still the greatest basketball player ever, but he could have left it on such a perfect note," Jay laments. "He could have left it with 'Six [championships]. My second time I three-peated. It's done.' I'm not here to judge him, I guess he wasn't fulfilled within himself. Mike didn't have a prototype [before him to show] how bad it could be. I do, I have him. So it's going to take that much more for me to come back now. I already know how that movie ends. I don't know if I want to do that."

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