Wednesday, November 22

Album Review: Jay-Z (Part 2)

“Kingdom Come”
Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam; 2006

To counter the unspecific nature of Part 1, we’re taking “Kingdom Come” and combing it over track by track:

1. The Prelude (prod. B-Money)
This track could’ve actually acted as a decent warm up to a better album, but in this case all it really does is toy with our hopes. The beat is all smooth strings and spaghetti bass groove. Jigga even lays down some decent verses, spitting at the end, “I used think rappin’ at 38 was ill / but last year alone I grossed 38 mill / I know I ain’t quite 38, but still / the flow’s so special, got a .38 feel.”

2. Oh My God (prod. Just Blaze) [Download]
One of the album’s better tracks. Uses the verse beat a bit too much as a crutch in light of uninteresting chorus breaks, but Jay-Z keeps up well enough. It could’ve been shorter.

3. Kingdom Come (prod. Just Blaze) [Download]
At this point in the album, you’re thinking it’s actually pretty good. “Kingdom Come” is actually pretty bangin’; the beat is a little cheesy 80’s at points, but for the most part its energy makes up for it. Jay-Z’s “I’m CEO and goin’ God” verses aren’t standout, but he never falters. It’s also got a decent chorus of “I will be king of New York / I will be New York / not only NYC, I’m hip-hop’s savior / so after this flow you might owe me a favor.” An apt title track, I’d say.

4. Show Me What You Got (prod. Just Blaze)
And so the downhill slope begins. The beat’s got interesting moments for sure, but a lot of it feels cut-and-paste and the drums are overly ambitious and rob the song of momentum. There are a couple hot moments in Jigga’s verses, especially the “Mike Jordan of recording” part, but most of it’s sub-par. Unfortunately, the chorus gets annoying pretty quick (as does the Public Enemy sample), unless you’re interested in how many different ways there are to refer to a pretty girl. Which I’m not.

5. Lost Ones (feat. Chrissette Michelle, prod. Dr. Dre)
Oh god, a ballad. Boring piano. Boring flow. Michelle’s chorus is cute enough, I guess, but it just feels out of place. The message is okay.

6. Do U Wanna Ride (feat. John Legend, prod. Kanye West) [Download]
This song is five and a half minutes long. Four of which consists of John Legend singing the same thing over and over. I know he’s got a warm, classic voice, but it’s a bit much. Jigga’s verses aren’t bad either and by the end, you wish it’d been a little more Hov, a little less John Legend. But it’s all part of the power play: you gotta let the listeners know that Legend is working for you. And what better way than making him sing way more than necessary?

7. 30 Something (prod. Dr. Dre)
Sounds like he stole the beat from Justin Timberlake. Sounds like he’s recycling rhymes. Sounds like he’s rapping “30’s the new 20” and forgetting that he’s actually 37. And 37’s clearly not the new 27, since 27-year-old Hov would be beating the shit out of whatever Hov is rappin’ on this song.

8. I Made It (prod. DJ Khalil)
It’s a touching tribute to Jay’s momma, but the vintage porn beat just makes it uncomfortable. And other than tear-jerking words, Jigga’s role is totally forgettable.

9. Anything (feat. Usher & Pharrell, prod. The Neptunes)
Usher (feat. Jay-Z & Pharrell). That’s all I need to say, really. Or better yet, Akon (feat. Jay-Z & Pharrell). The kid’s doing his best to rip off Usher anyway.

10. Hollywood (feat. Beyoncé, prod. Scyience)
We’re all very happy that Jay-Z and Beyoncé are able to overcome their past and work together, but we’d be happier if the track was a little better. Beyoncé sounds perfect, as usual, and pretty much steals the song from her ex. Maybe she’s finally learned to keep her friends close and her enemies closer. The few seconds Jay gets in the spotlight are halfway decent, but the beat and spotlight are both Beyoncé’s.

11. Trouble (prod. Dr. Dre)
Come on Dre, what is this Friday-night-out-clubbing bullshit? If Jigga gets on a club’s playlist, it’s not because he’s tailored for it, but because he’s good enough to make resistance totally futile. Sounds like Alice Deejay masturbating on three decks of gold-plated synths. Which, obviously, makes it hard to focus in Jay’s verses. And that wouldn’t be so bad if Jay’s verses weren’t some of the best on the album.

12. Dig A Hole (feat. Sterling Simms, prod. Swiss Beatz)
Jay’s imported Swiss Beat is as amateur as his production gets. And, as far as I’m concerned, Sterling Simms can go fuck himself. The chorus is ridiculous, and the verses aren’t much of a break, seeing as Jay never gets any sort of momentum going. Quite possibly the worst track on the album.

13. Minority Report (feat. Ne-Yo, prod. Dr. Dre)
This track’s probably the most memorable on the album, if only because of the emotional immediacy and the ménage of devastating Katrina clips (including, thankfully, Kanye’s “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”). It’s not hokey enough to be considered a ballad, but the beat is still delicate and sad, consisting of little more than a drum track, a strummed guitar, and quiet synths. Still, it’s lacking musically, but at present it’s an important song and, for that, Jay should be applauded.

14. Beach Chair (feat. Chris Martin, prod. Chris Martin)
It makes me sick, thinking of alt rock’s lamb and hip-hop’s lion shaking hands, chatting in the studio, sharing Starbuck’s and chatting about the clothes they wear and the lives of mainstream music celebrities. The beat’s not half bad, but the idea of Mr. Nice Guy doing some work for a rapper with “street cred” totally annihilates anything that could have been. Martin’s choruses are as generic as any of his work with Coldplay, all falsetto and lackluster absurdity. This, as the album’s last song, is Jay-Z’s sorry statement, trying to persuade us that he deserves our respect because he’s working with Chris Martin, but really just making us want Chris Martin was dead and wish Jay-Z wasn’t so concerned with being a legend that he’s willing to give up everything that made him what he is today to convince us.

- Dominick Duhamel -

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At 5:02 PM , Blogger Dave said...

Bro did you seriously just write a two-part review of the new Jay-Z album

Because you listen to freak-folk and stuff. Just sayin'.

Propz for the thoroughness, though. Nice to see some branching out.


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