Monday, December 30, 2013

The Jay Z Project Part 8: The Black Album

After a stellar run since 1996's "Reasonable Doubt", Jay decided it was time to call it a career. After previous "retirements" in hip hop, some were skeptical, but either way, this was huge in 2003, so you know my anticipation for this album was high. I also bought it on the day of its release.

Release date- November 14, 2003 (Also released on this day was G-Unit's "Beg For Mercy".)

Featured Guests

 Behind The Boards
Just Blaze
The Buchannans
Kanye West
The Neptunes
9th Wonder
Luis Resto
Rick Rubin
DJ Quik
Joe "3H" Weinberger

 This brief interlude really does give the impression that this is the end of Jay's career.

2. December 4th

 "If you can't respect that your whole perspective is wack/Maybe you'll love me when I fade to black"

That's a true statement, in a sense, that a true artist is not going to be missed until they're retired, deceased or both. Other than that, this is classic stuff right here, with Jay taking a familiar introspective approach (past, present, and future style, even naming the song after his birth date), and his mother, Gloria Carter, adding her vocals was the icing on the cake.
*5 out of 5*

3. What More Can I Say

"I'm not a biter, I'm a writer for myself and others/I say a BIG verse, I'm only biggin up my brotha/Biggin up my borough, I'm big enough to do it/I'm that thorough, plus I know my own flow is foolish"

"And I'm back for more, New York's ambassador/Prime Minister, back to finish my business up"

After multiple albums, Jay asks, "what more can I say"? He's seen it all, done it all, what more can he possibly do? Well, I think he basically answered his own question with the remainder of this album and his career. Dope song overall.
*5 out of 5*

4. Encore

"As fate would have it, Jay status appears to be at an all time high/Perfect time to say goodbye/When I come back like Jordan, wearin the 45 it ain't to play games wit you"

This one line sums up the entire song, and trust me this was no slip of the lip either. I said then (and now), Jay was coming back at some point, it was completely inevitable. "Can I get an encore, do you want more?!" Yes indeed.
*5 out of 5*

5. Change Clothes

Most people I know were not crazy about this song, and whatever their reasons were, I can respect it though. It's only for the grown and sexy, which was Jay's purpose for this song.
*4 out of 5*

6. Dirt Off Your Shoulder

I recall watching the "Fade To Black" documentary, and during the making of this song, Jay, Timbaland and others were in the studio. Timbaland was playing some tracks, and one of them would later by used by Ludacris for his song "The Potion". As for this one, I like it a lot. Do you and do what you do best, and in the process, bypass the naysayers and "get that dirt off ya shoulder". 
*5 out of 5*

7. Threat

"Now what's duet, and you at/When you check out the technique/From the two tecs, and I don't need two lips/To blow this like a trumpet you dumb shit"

Even with the somewhat hilarious vocals by Cedric The Entertainer, Jay still comes off as a lyrical threat over this 9th Wonder produced cut.
*5 out of 5*

8. Moment Of Clarity

"I dumbed down for audience to double my dollars/They criticized me for it, yet they all yell Holla/If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically Talib Kweli/Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense (but I did 5 mil)/I ain't been rhymin like Common since"

I also thank God for giving Jay this moment of clarity, to be clear with all the listeners. The above lines highlight this excellent song. Even Jay was looked at as someone who was "too intelligent, too clever, an artist who would say things that went over the listeners head", dumbing down his lyrics (which he did, but he's STILL nice), and more success came as a result. And when there's more success, often there's critics, kind of a double edged sword. You got one section who preferred "Reasonable Doubt" Jay-Z, then another section just wanting material like "I Just Wanna Love U". So you can see where the confusion comes in. That was also a respectable nod to Talib and Common, and they were more than appreciative to Jay, especially due to the honesty.
*5 out of 5*

9. 99 Problems

"If you havin girl problems I feel bad for you son/I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one!"

"If you grew up wit holes in ya Zapatos/You'd be celebratin the minute you was havin dough/I'm like fuck critics, you can kiss my whole asshole/If you don't like my lyrics you can press fast forward/Got beef wit radio if I don't play they show/They don't play my hits, I don't give a shit, SO!"

"You crazy for this one Rick!" I cosign Jay, and the beat was perfect for Jay here. He calls out the critics, once again, in the opening verse, and I also cosign with the lyrics above. The second verse is pretty brilliant, not only calmly handling the racial profiling from a police officer, but showing he's not ignorant of the law in terms of his car being searched. Great song.
*5 out of 5*

10. Public Service Announcement (Interlude)

"Fresh out the frying pan into the fire/I be the music biz' #1 supplier"

"I check cheddar like a food inspector/My homie Strick told me dude finish ya breakfast"

"Let me tell you dudes what I do to protect this/Shoot at you actors like movie directors (this ain't a movie dog!)"

The only thing I have to say about this is, it's pretty damn dope for an interlude.
11. Justify My Thug

This apply titled, DJ Quik produced song may appear to be more of the same from Jay, but he ends up turning it into something rather interesting.
*4 out of 5*

12. Lucifer

The devil (and anyone else like him) can get the lyrical heat, and I also feel Jay was already attempting to put the "Illuminati" claims to rest. Tight right here.
*5 out of 5*

13. Allure

This Neptunes produced cut is my favorite song on the album, and I even had to play it twice while doing this project. When I watched "Fade To Black", the beat is SO nice that even Jay couldn't turn it down. At the end of the day, it probably can't be explained why the allure of most things in life keeps people coming back, and even when you think you're out, you're pulled back in. Was that a small hint of things to come from Jay? I think so.
*5 out of 5*

14. My 1st Song

"Treat everything like it's your first project...... stay hungry" -The Notorious B.I.G.

"Treat my first like my last and my last like my first"

The two lines above, especially Jay's, sum this great closer up very well. Nuff said.
*5 out of 5*

I'm going to speak on the "retirement" first. It was clear to me immediately after listening to this album the first time (in addition to rating it) that this was not going to be a full fledged retirement by any means. This was more or less a much needed hiatus for Jay, and like I said earlier, he says he's coming back in the second verse of "Encore". I also feel Jay knew what he was doing, because not only would some people believe the retirement talk, but when he announced his return (which will be covered in the next part of the project), the anticipation and success would be huge. As for this album, it still holds up very well today and if it was his true swan song, this would've been a FINE way to call it a career. My rating has been the same since I first played it and that won't change. Great job.

5 stars


*The album moved 463,000 units in its first week

*As of July 2013, it has sold 3,516,000 copies in the United States

Next. 2006 and the much anticipated return.  


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