"I heard muthaf****** sayin they made HOV. / Made HOV say, 'Ok so, make another HOV.'"
"Lost One" - Jay-Z; Kingdom Come
The Jay-Z biography reads more like something suited for CNBC than E! True Hollywood Story. HOVA the God has gone from street hustler to co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records to part owner of the New Jersey Nets and President of the most storied record label in Hip Hop history; Def Jam Records. He's the first rapper to have his own sneaker deal (Reebok) and is now the face of Hewlett Packard, Budweiser, and Coca-Cola. His impressive discography contains 9 number 1 albums, 3 certified classic LPs, 18 Grammy nominations, 5 Grammy wins, and 12 number 1 singles.....all without ever (allegedly) WRITING a rhyme (his uncanny ability to create verse after verse without the aid of a pen and a pad has become a part of Hip Hop lore over the years). Oh yeah, and he has the baddest chick in the game wearing his chain. Whats left for the Jiggaman to accomplish?
Since his 2003 "retirement" from the rap game, Jay-Z has had to deal with his share of adversity. After 12 years of building Roc-A-Fella records together, El Presidente severed business ties with co-founders Dame Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke, causing a rift in the Hip Hop dynasty. Since then, he's tolerated numerous attacks from former Roc-A-Fella artist Cam'ron and his Dipset compadres, as well as from disgruntled Def Jam artists LL Cool J, DMX, The Roots, and Method Man; frustrated about a lack of promotion for their recent album releases. On top of all that, Jay-Z's nephew, Colleek, was tragically killed in an automobile accident while driving the 2005 Chrysler 300 he bought the18 year-old as a graduation present. Its these events, both good and bad, that provide the bulk of the inspiration behind Hov's unretirement album Kingdom Come. How does it sound? Well....the reveiws are mixed...
"The game's f***** up, n****s beats is bangin. /
N**** your hooks did it. / Your lyrics didn't. /
Your gangsta look did it. "
"The Prelude" - Jay-Z; Kingdom Come
From the first bar on the first track, Kingdom Come showcases the "the maturation of Jay-Z-zee." At 37 years-old with a resume as illustrious as his, the cliche hustler tales and stale gangsta posturing that saturates today's commercial rap music (partly the fault of Hova himself) just wouldn't be believeable. So not only does he stay away from that trap....he drafts the blueprint for grown-up commercial Hip Hop albums. The album opener, "The Prelude," highlights Iceberg Slim's intricate, effortless conversational flow while reminding us that "he's just a hustler disguised as a rapper." The tracks whispy whistles and light violins fit perfectly in-line with some of the best wordplay on the album (while simultaneously sending subliminal shots at his Dipset detractors):
"Back when rappers wouldn't dare play lyricaly roulette /
with an auto matic weapon I was reppin with a tech. /
Fresh like Mannie be. / Chain like anti-freeze. /
Shoebox full of cash. / Dealer man hand me keys. /
Pantries full of Arm & Hammer. / [It] don't take Nancy Drew to see /
What it do. I'm a damn, G."
"The Prelude" - Jay-Z; Kingdom Come
Jay continues the street hustler turned corporate mogul theme throughout the majority of the LP, but never more convincingly than on the album's title track, "Kingdom Come." Here Hov addresses his unretirment from Hip Hop, his recent boycott of Cristal champagne (I thought dude's remark was rude ok. / So I moved on to Dom and Krug Rose), and his rise up the corporate ladder all while masterfully using super hero metaphors to close out each verse (Peter Parker, Spiderman / all I do is climb the charts). Expect this Just-Blaze produced cut to bang in cars and clubs throughout the Winter.
In fact, "Kingdom Come" sets up the best track sequence on Kingdom Come. "Show Me What You Got" shows Jay-Z is in full swag, declaring "he's the Michael Jordan of recording" over another Just-Blazed produced anthem. "Lost One" features an introspective Hovie reflecting on the breakup of Roc-A-Fella records, his relationship with Beyonce, and the death of his nephew Colleek; all over a minimalist Dr. Dre beat (light synth horns minus the heavy keys he's known for). The Kanye West produced (no sped-up soul samples on this one) "Do U Wanna Ride" showcases more masterful wordplay depicting his rise to the top:
"You know why they call a Project a Project? / Cause its a project. /
An experiment, we're in it / only as objects. /
And the object for us is to explore our prospects. /
Side step cops on the way to the top, yes. /
As kids we would daydream, sittin on our steps /
Pointin at cars like, 'yeah thats our 6.'
Hustlers profits made our eyes stretch. /
So on some Dr. Spock, we started our trek."
"Do U Wanna Ride" - Jay-Z; Kingdom Come
John Legend nails the hook as well!
The album's pinnacle comes one track later on "30 Something." Here, Hov straight SONS everyone who thinks that 30+ is too old to still be rapping (The Game, Remy Ma, Jim Jones...take note):
"I'm from the era where n****s don't snitch. / You're from the era where snitchin is the shit. /
I'm afraid of the future (why?). / Yall respect the one that got shot. I respect the shooter. /
Yall go to parties to ice grill. / I go to parties to party with nice girls. /
Young boys gotta chill. / 30's the new 20, n****. I'm so hot still"
"30 Something" - Jay-Z; Kingdom Come
Jay's delivery is perfect over more minimalist Dr. Dre production.
Sadly the rest of Kingdom Come is sporadic at best. I mean, its hard to critique "I love my momma" songs, so we'll just say that "I Made It" falls flat (especially when compared to "December 4th," Jay-Z's 'I love my momma' track on the The Black Album). Plus, ever since Shannon said it sounds like a 2Pac flow...thats all I hear when I listen to it (Momma I Made It!). "Anything" is the obligatory bouncy-club track which sounds like Justin Timberlake over a Timbaland beat....too bad its Usher over a Neptunes beat (which doesn't bode well for my argument that the difference between Usher and Mr. Sexy Back is that Usher is R&B while Timberlake is Pop). "Trouble" is dope, but far from memorable. Jay whines about the pains of fame for 4 minutes and 17 seconds on "Hollywood" (I hate when artists complain about fame, especially since only other famous people can relate) without coming to any sort of conclusion. Moreover, Outkast already smashed it with "Hollywood Divorce" earlier this year, so this version feels like a generic re-tread; defintely not fresh....definitely not new (his flows still tight though).
"Dig A Hole" is the diss track that just doesn't get job done (and the Sterling Sims hook screams of RKelly. He should send Kels a Christmas card for beefing with Jay and opening the door for this guest appearance). If you're gonna speak on Dame Dash, and 2nd rate rappers Cam'ron and Jim Jones, knock them out the box! Make sure they lose all credibility. This track leaves the door cracked for a rebuttle (but at least he doesn't mention them by name).
Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that Jay took the time to address the Hurricane Katrina debacle because scandals of that magnitude should never be forgotten; never be pushed to the back of people's minds, but Lil' Wayne already made "Georgia" (see From the Vault: Hurricane Katrina) and he did a better job of conveying the emotions behind it. And if you're in Jay's inner circle I'm sure its tough to provide criticism, but someone needs to tell Big Homie that that whisper flow's gotta go! I hate the whisper flow! I hated it when Flesh N Bone started doing that junk on Bone Thugs N Harmony albums back in 1997 and I still hate it now! Speak up muttaskutta! Speak up! He sounds like a constipated senior citizen.
Lastly, the Chris Martin (of Cold Play) produced track, "Beach Chair" is nice, but fails to impress. It does, however, provide one of the most notable Quotables on the album:
"I got demons in my past / So I got daughters on the way. /
If the prophecy's correct then the child will have to pay /
For the sins of the father. So I barter my tommorrow's against my yesterdays /
In hopes she'll be OK. /
And when I'm no longer here to shade her face from the glare /
I'll giver her my share of Carol's Daughter and a new Beach."
"Beach Chair" - Jay-Z; Kingdom Come
Most artist need at least 2 to 3 years to craft a good album. Jay-Z's God given ability to create hit records off of the top of his head immediately puts him in a league of his own; but ultimately becomes Kingdome Come's achillies heel. From the sound of it, Hov created the majority of this LP within in the last 2 months -which certainly speaks volumes for how talented he is and stands as a measuring stick for other MCs reaching for that chip (hell, he even completed a 7 city, nation-wide tour in 1 Day!). But at the same time the album's second half feels rushed, so maybe more time is what was needed stamp this comeback with an exclamation point! (at least he didn't cut corners on the insert book - finally including the song lyrics!....this should be a requirement for all albums).
Even with its flaws, Kingdom Come will likely be one of the top 8 albums released in 2006 (which is saying a lot in year where Ghostface, T.I., Lupe Fiasco, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Rick Ross, Rhymefest, Lil' Wayne, Method Man, The Roots, Outkast, Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube, Gnarls Barkely all released critically respected albums...and The Clipse, Eminem, and Nas will all drop before year-end! Seriously, when was the last time this many top-tier, career-proven MCs released albums in the same year?? 2001? 1998? I'm just guessing right now, but this is definitely worth looking into. Say what you will, but 2006 was a good year for quality Hip Hop albums; even if Soundscan numbers contradict that statement....anyone who disagrees only listens to the radio - another tangent...read on) but when compared to his own catalog, it falls short of his sky high standards. I guess thats the pattern with Hov though...each classic album is followed by a 'Ho Hum' release; Reasonable Doubt = Classic...The Life and Times of Sean Carter Vol. 1 = 'Ho Hum'....The Blueprint = Classic...The Blueprint 2 = 'Ho Hum'...The Black Album = Classic...Kindgom Come...well, you get my drift.
Either way, the album is a good listen overall (something to clean your house to rather than bump before hitting the club)...just don't be suprised when you find yourself hitting the skip button when rockin' it on 'Random.'
The Company Man