Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jay-Z "Unplugged"

It's that time once again...

So I took a little break from the Jigga man but what better way to return than with his Unplugged project which found him backed by The Roots band for the MTV show. Turning out as a pretty good greatest hits package was probably just an added bonus, but over the course of the fourteen tracks here you will be treated to the biggest songs of Jay’s career plus those classics even the Reasonable Doubt heads respect.

Coming out on the heels of The Blueprint (I know, I messed up the chronology) the disc is a little heavy on songs from there, but it’s all good – you all know what I thought about that joint! While it’s easy to get nervous about a band backing a Hip Hop artist The Roots aren’t just any band and ?uest and company do a great job of giving these tracks the live treatment, it’s only on originally synth heavy songs that things sound a little unfortunate – but these are few and far between.

For the most part you are treated to a selection of beats that come from the grooves of old wax out of Kanye and Just Blaze, among others, collections. Things kick off with a live rendition of “H to the Izzo” seeing the band break into the Jackson 5 classic sampled here along with some stunning vocals from Jaguar Wright – she is the hidden gem throughout this performance.


Jay keeps the energy up, or if you pay attention to his interaction with the crowd brings the energy up with some more BP material seeing “Takeover” get a monster makeover with the band dropping in a number of classic cuts interspersed with them playing the original beat, none of the changes ever throw Hov off as he keeps flowing with ease taking it to Nas and Prodigy just like he did on stage at Summer Jam a year or so prior.

After a nice, if mellow, rendition of “Girls, Girls, Girls” ?uest gives us that great percussion work we expect from him for “Jigga What, Jigga Who” with the crowd chanting the hook and then they segue right into “Big Pimpin” playing the Indian sample Timbo chopped up like they were the ones to originally lay it down.

“Heart of the City”

I mentioned Jaguar Wright earlier, and while she is present on the whole disc she gets her shine ruling the hook on “Heart of the City” coming across with all the pain and heartfelt sincerity a song like this deserves. Jay isn’t one to turn away the singers bringing Mary J. Blige in for their classic “Can’t Knock The Hustle” where he lets her flex her vocal chops a bit even breaking into her hit of the moment “Family Affair” – even if for only a moment, it still sounds fresh and gets the energy level up one more notch.

The hits keep coming, as do the guests and the band stays humming always rocking these tracks to perfection. Live Hip Hop albums are a rare occurrence for a number of reasons (I don’t know, maybe because rappers can’t perform for shit?) but this is a great demonstration of how it can and should be done. I guess Jay can add that to his list of accolades, and you should add this to your music collection.

And, even if live recordings aren’t your thing (I don’t really blame you) this is worth it alone for the last song here “People Talkin” produced by Just Blaze, listen:

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