Monday, October 10, 2011

Jay-Z: The Favorites...

At this point in hip hop, longevity has become a rarity in this genre.  While country and rock artist greats are still making quality music and being praised for their trailblazing and legacy, hip hop is all about the "new" generation and whose poppin' now.  Its more about the Tyler The Creator's, the Kid Cudi's, the Kendrick Lamar's or the Freddie Gibb's...and lessa bout the pioneers and innovators of hip hop that define this rap shit.  I hear this all the time...."Nobody checkin' for Nas bruh"..."Nigga who Rakim? This new Ross that shit tho!"...."I mean yea that white boy be spittin, but aye you hear that new Kid Ink tho???"....."Kool Moe Dee???  That some nigga you know or soemthing?"  Hip hop is all about the "what have you done for me lately" mentality, and in a game that is always changing, its is not an easy to task for artists with lengthy careers to stay relevant and at a high level.  Eminem for a lot of years was out the loop, Nas well...to the younger audience (20 and younger) is just another rapper who they HAVE to think is great, but really don't understand what makes him great.  Common is accepted but never discussed in any "hot emcee" or "GOAT" categories.  Ice Cube is performing at the House of Blues, Wu Tang gets almost no respect from this young crowd, and Busta Rhymes has to feature on every hot rapper's track just to keep his name in your mouth, not having a decent album to stand on.  Like I said, longevity in this game is hard to obtain, from a decade to decade standpoint.  If one rapper, if one artist has mastered this art of staying relevant, appealing to all ages and demographics of this thing we call hip hop, its none other than who else....
Jigga has done remarkable things in hip hop.  He has given us so much music, so many memorable songs and cuts, so many sound bites and lulz.  Like all rappers, he has his haters that say from the beginning Jay has been overrated.  That is not my argument today.  Today we going to talk about what has kept him on top of this game for so long, with all generations old and new praising him as one of the best to ever hold a mic.  Not many rappers can say they have the old heads and the young fans both praising them as the "GOAT", but Hov can...and he owes most of that praise to his long and prestigious discography.  Thirteen albums yo.  Really think about that, thirteen albums.  Jay isn't the first or only rap artist to acquire a bunch of albums under his belt, but what makes his albums so special is that we have all heard them.  We all have listened to the  Blueprint trilogies, the Dynasty album, Best of Both Worlds, etc.  We all have opinions.  Hov has stayed on top of the game by giving us a long period of quality music, which seems like isn't going to slow down.  But what do you rank his albums?  What is best one?  Out of all thirteen, where do they fall in place.  I do not know your opinion on the matter, but I know mine....so lets dive into it...

JAY-Z: THE FAVORITES...

13. Best of Both Worlds (with R. Kelly)
 We all know this album some cut...we all know why....and I don't feel like depressing myself by explaining...smh.

12. In My Lifetime Vol.1
Now Vol.1 is by no means a bad album.  Honestly....outside the Best of Both Worlds collaboration, Jay-Z has given us nothing but quality albums.  Many people have this higher on their lists and I can see why.   After following his debut, Jay-Z re-entered the spotlight and gave fans a different side of him than he did in Reasonable Doubt.  His "Bad Boy" mystique really shined through over the guiding hand of Diddy.  Classic tracks are on this album, like the unforgettable intro A Million and One Questions which so effortlessly leads into the second half Rhyme No More, The City Is Mine, Imaginary Player, the hard and gritty Where I'm From, and my personal favorite, the introspective You Must Love Me.  Jay-Z stepped outside of what at the time fans new him as, and gave him Shawn Carter, the spitta from Marcy.  He had his duds, probably due to the same "guiding hand" of Combs, but this is still a quality album.  My main gripe, is that COMPARED to the rest of his catalog, it just doesn't hold weight.  This album could easily be another lesser artists' top five tho.

Standout tracks: Where I'm From, You Must Love Me, Imaginary Player

11. Watch The Throne (with Kanye West)
Once again this is by no means a bad album.  Actually, its one of my favorite albums of 2011.  Hov and Kanye gave us quality new music and took hip hop by storm this summer.  Everyone was tuned into this album and we remember the night it popped up online as we all listened together and took to twitter with our immediate opinions.  A special night in hip hop that Hov and Yeezy gave us.  The music itself received mixed reviews, but I am on the side that loved this album.  It was a celebration of both artists' long road to success, Hov especially.  Verses like his on Welcome to the Jungle and Murder to Excellence really showcase what has made him ill all these years.  Verses like the one on New Day show us how deep of a man he is behind the mystique he so carefully has crafted.  Verses like his on Otis, bringing back straight up hip hop to the radio.  How he straight up DESTROYED Who Gon Stop Me.  I loved it man.  But its still new, still his latest piece.  My heart wants me to put it higher, but my head knows I can't jump the gun because I've years to sit with his other works, and I need years with this before I say its better than the rest.  Plus it is a collaborative work, so I can't cut out all the great verses Kanye added here, as he did carry some parts of the album where Jay-Z fell back.  All in all, I love it tho.

Standout tracks:  New Day, Welcome to the Jungle, Murder to Excellence, Who Gon Stop Me

10. Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come gets a really...REALLY bad rep in the hip hop community.  Jay-Z's comeback album to the masses was deemed as a weak effort as "he lacked the heart" some would say.  I say otherwise.  I like this album.  It was a fresh, new Hov.  He was in a new place in life, and his music on this album reflected that.  Hov's music always took us on a journey on where he was in life.  At this point, he was refreshed and looking back on where he has come and where he will take us afterwards.  Tracks like Lost One, my personal favorite on the album, I Made It, the heavily praised classic Beach Chair, and Do You Wanna Ride were all great songs.  Hov did have some forgettable content, which is why I can't put it any higher than this, but Kingdom Come is still a QUALITY album.  And in 2006, it was a pleasant change of pace to the nonsense that was being released in hip hop, when "snap" music was emerging as the new trend.  Plus, like he said on the title track, "the boy is back" and he came back strong with a new swag, a new vision, and a new hunger.  It just took a while for it to come together.  Good album tho...

Standout tracks: Lost One, Beach Chair, I Made It, Do You Wanna Ride, Kingdom Come

9. Vol.2...Hard Knock Life
One of Jay's most commercially successful albums and his breakout album into the mainstream, Vol.2 (once again) gave us quality music on top of quality music.  Commercial appeal was at an all time high here, but you never feel like Jigga is sacrificing any flows or bars on this LP even if he says otherwise.  The classic Hard Knock Life by itself speaks as to how big this album was, and how innovating Hov is as a hit maker.  Reservoir Dogs featuring The LOX, Beans and Sauce Money showed how Jay still had them bars on deck and how NY spittas really wreck a track.  Nigga What, Nigga Who with Jaz featuring on it showed us how versatile Jay is with the flow.  Money, Cash, Hoes is a classic street anthem, once again showing us Hov's versatility alongside the hungry DMX.  This album was amazing in that regard, versatility.  A lot of rappers lack that.  Hov can put his mainstream hat on as well as his street hat on (during this time) and walk through both realms easily here.  Fast flow, bouncy flow, slow flow, it doesn't matter to Hov.

Standout tracks: Hard Knock Life, Nigga What, A Week Ago, Money Cash Hoes

8.  The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse
Hov did his THING on this album.  A double disc set, 25 new Hov songs, a whole feast of different styles, flows, and bars.  Hov tapped danced all over the sequel to his critically acclaimed Blueprint.  There are so many great songs on here, Hovi Baby, the commercially explosive Excuse Me Miss, A Dream which was an ode to Biggie, All Around the World, I Did It My Way, Bitches & Sisters, Some How Some Way (my personal favorite), Meet The Parents, the epic Blueprint track (sorry Nas), Show You How...I mean look and listen back to all these songs.  They all are hot, you can turn any of these songs on in your playlist and bump it easily.  That's its strength and weakness tho, as Blueprint 2 felt more like a compilation piece rather than a cohesive album in my opinion.  I can never make it through the actual album, rather I just play the songs from it individually, rarely playing any songs in an any real order.  As an album...it didn't tell you anything, didn't give off anything.  No real journey, just Hov stuntin' on the competition through two discs.  I've said this before, The Blueprint 2 in my opinion was Hov's crack at two hot mixtapes that could be albums.  If this was a mixtape, it would be epic.  But albums have to have a different feel and tone, a different type of crafting.  Great work tho Hov.

Standout tracks: All Around the World, Meet The Parents, Blueprint, Some How Some Way, Guns & Roses.

7. Vol.3...Life and Times of S. Carter
Hova the God emerged here on this album.  Vol.2 was Hov's breakout album to the mainstream, but this album was Hov's rise to super stardom.  One of his most debatable albums, many people say that this was a dud.  It doesn't have enough classic tracks, nothing that we can relate back to on this album like his other albums did.  I disagree.  This was Hov at his rawest form, meaning he stripped himself down and gave hip hop fans that gritty hungry Hov they knew earlier in his career, even before Reasonable Doubt.  Jay got back to his hustler roots, and cluttered his bars up with street shit on tracks like So Ghetto, Come and Get Me, Dopeman, and NYMP.  This was a great album and one of my favorites by him, because it was Hov's ode to the streets that made him which attracted my ears to this album.  He also had the HUGE record Big Pimpin here, and the club anthem Do It Again.  It was short, sweet, and to the point.  It had some not so stellar material, like all albums do, but this album is one of Hov's best, and don't you miss Hov on a Premo beat? No? Ok...

Standout tracks: So Ghetto, Dopeman, Big Pimpin, Do It Again, NYMP

6. The Blueprint 3
Once again, a quality album.  Yet Hov can't seem to escape the hate.  Many bashed this album and even went as far to say it was a disgrace to The Blueprint.  Once again I disagree.  Hov has never given us music that wasn't of good or great quality and I personally feel like this album was one of his best.  Not just cuz of the actual songs, but also because of the chances he took and during the time this album dropped.  Hov single handily rid the world of the auto-tune sensation with DOA, teamed up with Alicia Keys to make one of the biggest records of his career and of our generation with Empire State of Mind, kept the "illuminati" spectators guessing with his On To The Next One and Run This Town videos, and took chances on tracks like Hate, Venus vs Mars, and Forever Young.  Not to mention, he still had lyrical showcases on What We Talkin Bout, Already Home, Reminder, and introduced the masses to the heir to the Roc J. Cole on a A Star Is Born while also reflecting on his own path and those of his peers.  In all honesty, there is not a single track I don't like on this album.  I will admit Forever Young and Venus vs Mars are probably the weakest songs, but this entire album can be played the whole way through.  Did I mention how Hov destroyed that Thank You track?  Oh I didn't? Ok.  Also, the production and just flow of the album...let me chill..

Standout tracks: (Damn near the whole album, but Ima chill for yall) What We Talkin Bout, Thank You, A Star is Born, Already Home, Empire State of Mind.

5. American Gangster
Now I know what you guys are thinking.....how can a "conceptual" album based on the movie "American Gangster" starring Denzel Washington portraying notorious drug king pin Frank Lucas be ranked so high on my list...especially after Hov's "prime?"  Did you HEAR this album tho?  This album was a masterpiece to me.    In 2007, during a rap game where everyone started following the same old trends, copying the same old style, a few artists actually decided to put together a unique blend of music to make it standout from all the clutter in hip hop.  The Cool, Graduation, Below The Heavens for example.  American Gangster is no exception.  From the very first track on Pray, you already know shit is about to get real.  Hov not only dove back into his drug story telling that made him so famous, painting the picture of the highs and lows of street life, he also invited the realities of what that life did for him and how he is fairing today in the business world, applying his own hustle to business.  What really makes this album standout, is the soulful production.  We all can agree Hov sounds his best on soulful tracks, and Pray, American Dreamin, Roc Boys, Sweet, Ignorant Shit, Say Hello, Success with his formal rival Nas, Fallin, and American Gangster track prove that not only does Hov still have it...but when he wants to, he make a classic album easily.  The "guiding hand" of Diddy struck diamond here in my opinion.  Hov plus soulfful beats equals EPIC.

Standout tracks:  Pray, Ignorant Shit, Say Hello, Success, American Dreamin, I Know.

4. The Dynasty: Roc La Familia
Seriously guys, this is not a compilation album. I know this was supposed to be the album that introduced us into the era of the Roc, and I know Jay-Z's label mates did a "meh" job on most of the tracks, but seriously...
this is HOV's album.  In my opinion, this probably Hov's best lyrical showing to date.  We all know about the huge record I Just Wanna Love You and how Jay "borrowed" a lot of Biggie's lines (as he does a lot in his career) but Hov blacked out on the inspiring Kanye and Just Blaze beats that popped up on here.  This Can't Be Life featuring Scarface and Beanie Sigel produced by Kanye West is one of my favorite Jay-Z songs period.  Hov and Just Blaze formed the perfect marriage on this album, and words can't describe how much Jigga went in on arguably one of the greastes intros of all time on the Dynasty Intro.  Soon You'll Understand, Streets is Talking, Stick to the Script, 1-900-Hustler, Hov lyrically dismantled every beat.  What more do you want?

Standout tracks: DYNASTY INTRO, This Can't Be Life, Soon You'll Understand, I Just Wanna Love You, Streets is Talking.

3. The Black Album
It is no easy task to put this album at number three, as on any given day you ask me, I may tell you this is my favorite Jay-Z album.  Everything felt complete.  The album was probably Hov's most cohesive work ever, and it would have been the perfect way to end a career.  Hov also acquired some of his best production here and gave fans some sure fire classics that we all love today.  Encore, What More Can I Say, the epic PSA, Moment of Clarity, My 1st Song, Lucifer, all these songs and more.  Hov was honest, reflective, and during a time when it was supposed to be his last album, he was both joyful and humble.  At some point, you actually began to feel who Shawn Carter the man was creep out on this album.  I listen to is to this day, and still takes me back to '03 and thats an achievement in its own right.  A masterpiece.

Standout tracks: Encore, What More Can I Say, 99 Problems, PSA, Allure, Lucifer, Moment of Clarity.

2. Reasonable Doubt
 Many people claim that if you do not think that Reasonable Doubt is Jay-Z's best album, you are either a young person that does that know the impact it had on rap, or you do not know listen to music and just scim through it (lulz).  While I am only 21 years of age, making me six years old when this album released in 1996, I still listened and appreciate the music on this album.  And it was great all the way throughout.  Jay's quick tongued delivery is a gift and it flares through this album. The jazzy undertone, the brutal honesty of the pit falls of street hustling, the timeless material is almost unmatched by anything else ever released in hip hop.  Many people hold this up to the Illmatics, Paid in Fulls, 36 Chambers of hip hop and some say its even better than those.  That is not my case to argue.  With classic tracks like Can I Live, Dead Presidents, Can't Knock the Hustle, Politics As Usual, D'evils (my personal fav), the lyrical bombardment of Brooklyn's Finest with the late great Biggie, Coming Of Age....I really can name this whole album in all honesty.  There are not many timeless albums in hip hop, but this is definitely one of them.  One of the most timeless and classic hip hop albums ever in my opinion.....

Standout tracks: the whole album, get mad.

but I say that to say this...

1. The Blueprint
Blueprint is my hands down favorite.  On any give day, depending on how I'm feeling, I may say either Black Album, Reasonable Doubt, or The Blueprint is my favorite Hov LP, interchangeably.  However, The Blueprint usually wins.  Words can't describe how much this album changed the game.  It layed out the "blueprint" of what albums should during a time where no one was tapping into the sound Hov did.  Enlisting Kanye, Just Blaze and Bink to help make this masterpiece with him, giving us the dream collab on Renegade with Eminem, the hard hitting and classic diss track Takeover taking shots at Prodigy and Nas, the classic trakcs, from the Ruler's Back all the way to Lyrical Exercise.  This album had an impact on the game, rappers, fans, myself included.  Changed the way I saw and would hear music.  My favorite Jay-Z album.

Standout tracks: the whole album, fuck it.

But how do you rank all of Jay-Z's album?  Did I get it wrong?  What's too low, what's too high?  What points did I miss?  What do YOU think?  Let me know and please continue to support my blog and be on the look out for more posts.  And sorry, no videos this time.  Do your own research.

Whurlin...

2 comments:

  1. there's NO WAY vol. 3 is better than vol. 2...not by any stretch of the imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Vol 3 better than two? Kingdom come not last with only two decent songs? This post aint whurlin cuh.

    ReplyDelete