Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Jay Z Project Part 2: In My Lifetime, Vol. 1

To begin, the hip hop world was in total shock and disbelief when we received the news that The Notorious B.I.G. was killed on March 9, 1997, 6 months after 2Pac met the same unfortunate fate (hip hop hasn't been the same since). This had a profound effect on Jay, especially from a personal and professional perspective. Not only did Jay lose a close friend and collaborator, but it also directly or indirectly, based on how you see it, placed the "King of N.Y." title up for grabs in a highly competitive genre. It goes without saying that Jay attempts to assume that title (and more) on his 2nd album, "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1", his first on Def Jam. Before I begin talking about the album, allow me to share a few things.

In addition to buying this album 3 times over the years, I remember my long time friend Shaun copped this before I did, in either late 97 or early 98. He knew I really couldn't wait to hear it, so the day he bought it, I was at his crib and he asked me did I want to listen it to it with him. I was like, "nah, I'll wait till I buy it" (which I did a few weeks later). He was like, "ight cool". In the other room, I could hear "A Million And One Questions" bangin, so I stepped in. He started laughing, "you wanna hear this joint don't you?!", he said. "I'll wait man", I replied, laughing a little bit also. Ah, the memories.

Release date- November 4, 1997 (Also released on this day was Rakim's first solo album, "The 18th Letter".)

Featured Guests
Puff Daddy
Lil Kim
Foxy Brown
Sauce Money
Too Short

Behind The Boards
DJ Premier
Teddy Riley 
Puff Daddy & The Hitmen
Poke & Tone (Trackmasters)
Anthony Dent
Big Jaz


1. Intro/A Million And One Questions/Rhyme No More

 After a "Carlito's Way" influenced intro by Pain In Da Ass, we immediately head into TWO STRAIGHT DJ Premier produced bangers. Jay does answer one question, and it would prove to be VERY true: "Is he gon ever fall off? No." Simple yet effective. He also did a remix to "A Million And One Questions" and it was almost as dope as this one.
*5 out of 5*
2. The City Is Mine

"I'm takin this rap shit serious, till my demise/Jay's shit like cake mix, watch me rise"

   Jay starts this with a letter/verse to B.I.G., and the notable thing about it is that in this same verse, he essentially tells B.I.G. he's assuming the role, if you will, of the "King of N.Y" ("you held it down long enough, let me take those reigns"), rendering the "City Is Mine" title effective, considering where his career was heading.
*5 out of 5*

3. I Know What Girls Like

Wow, here we go, lol. I may be the only person I know who likes this song, which is interesting because at first I didn't, lol. 97 was also the year of Bad Boy, so a few major releases that year had some type of Bad Boy presence on them. Either way, this Boogie Boys sampled song (Fly Girl) is not as bad as you may have been led to believe.
*2.5 out of 5*

4. Imaginary Player

"And y'all wanna take my flow and run wit it/That's cool, I was the first one wit it"

Three things about this excellent song:

1) It almost comes across as an expanded version of "Cashmere Thoughts"

2) On one end you can see Jay, but then again, you can't, especially as far as money is concerned.

3) He makes it clear that he can do what you can do (and likely already done so), but he can do it better.

  *5 out of 5*

5. Streets Is Watching

To this day, I have NO idea why this classic was edited, but that doesn't ruin it at all. This is one of my favorite Jay-Z songs, and I recall in an issue of Vibe magazine (late 97 or early 98), when discussing this album, he mentioned that he would put this song up against any rapper's best song, and I can see why. It's THAT good. Long analysis short, it's simple, all elements of the streets are watching, heed the alert, and Jay tells this story in the most charismatic form possible.
*5 out of 5*

6. Friend Or Foe 98

"Time to pay now, he try to rise, I wave the gun, lay down/This time you gonna really listen to Jay now"

  This DJ Premier produced banger is the fitting sequel to the original "Friend Or Foe". Gone is the humor, replaced with a more serious tone.
*5 out of 5*

7. Lucky Me
Additional Vocals by: Karen Anderson

"Hate the price of fame cause it cost too much/Can I live without y'all niggas sayin I floss too much"

I'll admit, I didn't care for this song at first, that was until I sat down and took my time with it. I see Jay's point here, that even after leaving a life where would've ended up either dead or in prison had he continued it in, he's made something of himself, but there are those who still aren't happy, and when you listen to his words, this is far beyond the usual "song about the haters". He once asked, "can I live", and that very question applies here.
*5 out of 5*

8. [Always Be My] Sunshine

Well, this was not one of Jay's best moments to be sure, plus this was one of his worst videos ever. It's not great, it's not wack, just MERELY ok. This was also considered by many to be a fairly blatant attempt at a more mainstream/commercial sound, even moreso than "I Know What Girls Like". More on this later.
*2.5 out of 5*

9. Who You Wit II

"Jay-Z rated AG, baby that's all good/I'll sink this ball in ya hole, I'm Tiger Woods"

My mom even likes this song to this day, which shows how dope it is. The original version was on the "Sprung" soundtrack (seen the movie once, don't ever want to see it again, lol), but the sequel was better of course.
*5 out of 5*

10. Face Off

More dopeness, and I really like how Jay and Sauce Money went back and forth on this one, tag team style throughout, however, I'm deducting some points. Why?? In an unnecessary bit, the constant whispering of "Trackmasters" in the background was present from beginning to end. I'm like, "damn, enough already, we know who made the beat". That should be minor, but still. 
*4.5 out of 5*

11. Real Niggaz

"On the road to riches and diamond rings, real niggaz do real things"

This is another song on the album that I didn't initially care for, but over time it grew on me. I really could've pictured Biggie on this one with Jay and Too Short. Rugged yet smooth.
*5 out of 5*

 12. Rap Crack/Crack Game

This apply titled song finds Jay equating "the rap game to the crack game" in an effective, easy to understand form. It doesn't come off complicated at all, all you have to do is listen.
*5 out of 5*

13. Where I'm From

"I'm from where niggas pull ya card/And argue all day about who's the best MCs, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas"

Quite the legendary line right there for obvious reasons. This is another one of my favorite songs from Jay, one of his best, and arguably the best song on this album. The way he talks about where he's from is pretty brilliant.
*5 out of 5*

14. You Must Love Me
Additional Vocals by: Kelly Price

We close this album with one of the most personal songs from Jay. This is a dedication, a letter of apology of sorts to members of his family that he had wronged in the past, most notably the shooting of his brother. As Jay said, they must love him, because no matter what they're still there with him. Something to make you think as you listen to it.
*5 out of 5*

Wow, I have a good amount of commentary on this album. I have to break it down a bit.

Sound ---> Compared to "Reasonable Doubt" before it, the production on a good portion of the album is more commercial, having a "pop like" sound, but make no mistake about it, that doesn't hold this back from greatness in my opinion. It was said at the time of its release that Jay was "selling out" by adopting this new sound, and I respectively disagreed then and I do today, which brings me to the next point.

Lyrics/Subject Matter ---> If the death of Biggie had any effect on Jay (and I know it did), you wouldn't be able to tell by listening to this album. It seemed as if Jay was still inspired coming off of his debut, and this would've been the case even if Biggie was still alive I think. Lyrically he was still at the top of his game and most of the elements that were present on "Reasonable Doubt" were found on this album, even if it was presented in a more refined/polished form.

Overall, I still stand by my rating for this album, and even with songs like "Sunshine" and "I Know What Girls Like", they don't put a blemish on an excellent album. I've said this about other albums, in that if the material surrounding the "lesser songs" is strong all around (along with other factors), I have no problem awarding it the coveted 5 star rating. We get that on "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1" and Jay has/had nothing to be ashamed of. Lukewarm?? Absolutely not, and I would say it's his most underrated album.

5 stars
 Sales- Platinum

Next, the dawning of a new era in 1998.

No comments:

Post a Comment