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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 kenn on 12/03/2003 07:25:00 AM

Jay-Z’s new album fails to live up to potential

Less than a week after the proposed release of Jay-Z's new black album, (the release date was moved up due to a leak that led to the album's bootlegging) his supposed best and last compact disc, the hype is at an all time high. Jay-Z, a mastermind of marketing has put together a more formidable merchandising scheme than even the combined forces of Eminem, Dre, and 50 Cent, when they began to pimp Get Rich or Die Trying last year. The wealth of talented producers on The Black Album, from Rick Rubin to the Neptunes to Timberland, has been coupled with Jay's own self proclaimed retirement talks and the cross promotional Mercedes Benz give away that accompanies the CD, to create a hype monster bigger than Godzilla and as black as "The Matrix."

However, does the CD live up to its hype? Is Jay-Z, as Dr. Boyd asserted last Thursday in class when prompted by an audience member's question, one of the best, if not the greatest living MC? Erhhh, Ummm. (Let me clear my throat.) Being quite familiar with the world of hip-hop, let me answer your questions. NO!

Simply put, The Black Album is what it is, an attempt to go out with a bang as the unquestioned "king of New York" and hip-hop. However, he fails miserably. Don't get me wrong, the album is solid; Jay's flow on some songs is undeniable. For instance, the track "May 4'Th" is possibly one of Jay-Z's best outings ever. Produced by Just Blaze, the track uses samples from Jay's mom to coincide with Jay's self described trip from rags to riches. Although, as opposed to the over-glamorized tails of Tupac and other contemporaries, May 4 makes the process sound realistic, un-desirable at best, detestable at worst. The Black Album also features staples of Jay's flow, over and over he displays his particularly clever use of word-play that gained him fame on "Reasonable Doubt" and "The Blueprint." For example, "I'm flyer than a piece of paper with my name on it."

Even though "My First Song" by Aqua and 3H and "Moment of Clarity" by Eminem are guaranteed to enlighten the ears, there is still something vital missing from the album that immediately distinguishes it from other classically revered New York albums, "Ready to Die" by Biggie and "Illmatic" by Nas. Granted in terms of sheer lyrical ability Jay is clearly the lesser of the three, it just seems that The Black Album, with all its gloss and glamour, mirrors Jay-Z a bit too much, its personality is drowned out by all the hype. At the end of a session with Nas or Biggie you feel as though the artist is speaking to you. With Jay-Z, you can't help but hear him "talking," however you get the impression that he isn't speaking to anyone.

He just boasts and brags as if attempting to create the respect for his craft that Biggie and Nas earned. Illmatic and Ready to Die are remembered because of realism, their listenability, and their personality, not because the artist's repetition of lines such as "You should love me because I'm about to leave," as is the case with Jay-Z.

For this reason, Jay probably shouldn't retire if he wants to go out on top, because he has a long way to go before he reaches the critical accolades of either one of his betters. He should learn to slow his prided fast-pace production that has resulted in more than eight decent albums in just as many years.

As an entrepreneur, Jay-Z, almost solely responsible for the huge success of Rock-a-Fella label, is untouchable. However, demonstrated by simple comparisons, a listen to his discography, or a venture into hip-hop's past that might uncover older Jay-Z material (check it out Big L/ Jay-Z on Harlem's Fines: A Freestyle History), Jay-Z and his Black Album are not all they are cracked up to be. Hmm ... Well ... Now that fallacy of the "Amazing New Jay-Z album" has been dismissed, let me spend my last couple paragraphs introducing you to the better side of New York, also known as Nas. With the lyrical ability of 20 Jay-Zs and the smooth fluid voice that is poinently used to describe life in New York and beyond, the always-politicized Nas transcribes his vision as clear as TV plasma-screen monitor.

Since I believe that is all the hype Nas need, I suggest any one interested should check him out first in Illmatic, one of Rolling Stone's top 500 albums of all time, which was created at the age of 20. His album "The Lost Tapes" also provides a number of memorable songs to introduce Nas as well, including ,"Doo Rags," "Purple," "My Way," and "Nothing Last Forever."

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