Giving this album an accurate review turned out to be nearly impossible. First of all, my goal of attempting to dodge the endless barrage of songs that were leaked onto the web turned out to be hopelessly unattainable. I did avoid hearing the entire album but I was exposed to many of the beats, and lyrics from a number of the tracks. I also was “forced” to read every snap judgement of various songs written by bloggers big and small.
Another thing I should point out is that I had extremely high hopes for this album. In fact about two months ago, after listening to a few freestyles and various peices from Jigger’s catalougue, I declared, to nobody in particular, that Jay-Z was the best rapper ever. It had been a long time coming, but that is beside the point. About the album. Overall I thought it was incredible, not classic, but close. For me it sits properly below The Black Album and above In My Lifetime Vol. 1. For the record… Reasonable Doubt > The Blueprint > The Black Album > American Gangster > IML Vol. 1 > IML Vol. 3 > Kingdom Come > Blueprint 2 > IML Vol. 2
Lets start at the beggining. No I don’t mean the shitty Intro track. Lets skip to Pray. This beat was a little jarring the first time I heard it. It was not at all what I was expecting, after hearing everything about how soulful the music on the album was going to be I was thoroughly dissapointed. After watching Jay on Charlie Rose, though I see that this was the obligatory beginning of the story. I just wish he could have selected better music. There are no exciting phrases either. Which is fine, he is just setting the scene. American Dreaming is more what I was hoping for. Starting off with an absolutely delicious vocal sample from Marvin, this song has more of the Jay lines that I am used to (we need a place to pitch, we need a mound). The sample could have been flipped a little better, but who am I to judge. Overall the sound is what i was lookig for from Jay and would ultimately be a teaser to what the second half of the album sounds like.
Lil Wayne makes an appearence on Hello Brooklyn. A good song but Wayne comes WEAK. If Jay wanted cheesy punchlines about Brooklyn from an outsiders perspective he would have been better off getting his little brother. No Hook has a few memorable lines, but for the most part its just Jay-Z moving his story along. The beat is forgettable. Now the fun begins. Roc Boys is pure joy for me. Beautifuuly arranged horns. Spot on percussion. And some excellent rhyme couplets delivered by Jay. Sweet is delicious but, like some of the other songs on the album, it doesn’t come completely together. There is nothing wrong with I Know except that the concept is a bit played. Party Life would probably have been be my favorite song on the album if Jay wasn’t forced by the beat into an extremely annoying rhyme cadence. The concept is great though. The lyrics too. Ignorant Shit is perfect. Say Hello is as well (Toomp killed that shit). Success makes it three in a row. I think Success is the best song on this album. Jay is at his absolute best on this track. The only problem is Nas’ phoned in, half-ass verse. I don’t like Fallin’. This goes along with my feelings about Pray. It had to be on the album. But I think it ultimately takes away from the overall feel of the record. A pretty boring sample, with an inherent message that had to be used.
Overall I think Jay was a bit over ambitious, a bit under-produced, and a lot rushed. The good songs were amazing and the bad songs were boring. Maybe these songs will grow on me, but for now I will just have to wait for Jay’s next project, with my expectations raised once again
3 out of 5