Friday, January 2, 2009

Jay-Z "Kingdom Come"

I know, I know I've been off an on with these Jay features but I only got two left and I'm determined to knock 'em out! Of course The Black Album didn't end up being Jay's parting shot to the game and form the looks of things we might be many years and several more albums away from Shawn Carters departure from the mic.

With Kingdom Come Jay-Z proved once and for all that his talk of laying down the mic was just that, talk. But was it bad? Most took it as less than top form Jay that we all expected from his return effort but time is a funny thing and listening today it stands in his discography as a different record. From less street talk to an elevated level of reflection and introspection this is grown man rap for the older heads to vibe with – but even if you are in your twenties, or teens for that matter, you should be able to find songs here to rock with.

While Hov has always blessed us with impressive rhymes if you listen throughout the album you will be treated to some of the most serious flows he has ever given us. From the beginning he is here to educate, continuing on from his comments on “Moment of Clarity” about what sells “The Prelude sees him open the album with:
The game's fucked up
Nigga's beats is bangin, nigga your hooks did it
Your lyrics did and your gangster look did it
So I would write it if y'all could get it
Bein intricate'll get you wood, critic
On the internet, they like you should spit it
I'm like you should buy it, nigga that's good business
Hehe, forget this rap shit I need a new hustle
A little bit of everything, the new improved Russell
But before he raps up this beautiful intro, courtesy of B-Money on the beat flipping an amazing Mel & Tim sample (Stax!), he has to give us a hint at what it is that drives this album:
Ten year veteran, I've been set
I've been through with this bullshit game but I never quit
I used to think rappin at 38 was ill
But last year alone I grossed 38 mill'
I know I ain't quite 38 but still
The flow so +Special+ got a +38+ feel
The real is back, hehehehe
Between those checks and that every ticking clock that is age, Jay-Z isn't who he was ten years ago and he knew it. With Kindom Come he is trying to demonstrate how a thirty eight plus year old rapper can still spit and not look like a fool.

Just Blaze is here holding down the next three cuts and they all knock with great drums and sample choices from Rick James (“Kingdom Come”) to Johnny Pate and Lafayette Rock Band (“Show Me What You Got”). On the later we see Blaze bringing in a number of musicians to replay the samples giving the song a distinct sound for Jay to party with. Being the lead single, “Show Me” is a braggadocios ride (“I am the Mike Jordan of recording”) through Jay's psyche but should get even the stiffest of heads nodding along with great flow and an overall fun feel. It may have been the winter's turn but this is summer music if I've ever heard it.

When the Black Album was in it's early hype stages it was said that Dr. Dre would be contributing a beat – that of course didn't happen, but his omission form those production credits is more than made up for with four beats from the good doctor here. Dre is one of the older members of this culture and even if his beats have a very distinct “Dr. Dre” sound he does it to perfection and proves why his name can't ever be forgotten.

Before Chrisette Michelle laced that great Nas hook she got down on “Lost One” over a great piano line and classic Dre drums with Jay for what may be the most open song Jay has ever dropped. From the first verse about his roll in the industry to the second about his and Beyonce's relationship (I guess y'all could make it back to “we”) the song is perfect. Add to this a final verse about his nephews death:
My nephew died in the car I bought
So under the belief it's partly my fault
Close my eyes and squeeze, try to block that thought
Place any burden on me, but please, not that lord
But time don't go back, it goes forward
Can't run from the pain, go towards it
Some things can't be explained, what caused it?
Such a beautiful soul, so pure, shit!
Gonna see you again, I'm sure of it
'Til that time, little man I'm nauseous
Your girlfriend's pregnant, the lord's gift
Almost lost my faith, that restored it
It's like having your life restarted
Can't wait for your child's life, to be a part of it
So now I'm child-like, waiting for a gift
To return, when I lost you, I lost it
Place this in a list of the greatest songs recorded (Check most of the video below, watch the whole thing here).

“30 Something” is a demonstration of Dre's sound sometimes coming across as too identifiable, but just as he did on the last one, Jigga flows with great ease changing his style up here and their along with adding some great adlibs. Even if you aren't grown up, this might just make you wish you were.

DJ Khalil laces a soul filled banger for the celebratory “I Made It” before the Neptunes and Usher assitsted “Anything.” While it's another consistent track in the flow of the album, the Neptunes come across as too commercial (pretty much all of their tracks scream single don't they?) and the Usher hook doesn't add anything to keep this from being club fodder.

Beyonce is featured on the boring “Hollywood” a track that serves more as an oppurtunity for these two lovers to get on wax together and talk about fame. Again it's an example of the grown man life Shawn Carter leads, however probably an example the public doesn't need to hear.

Even if this is grown up rap, Jay can't let beef escape him. Swizz Beatz cooks up one of his weaker compositions for Jay to spit some venom towards a former friend on “Dig A Hole.” While not completely a waste of time I'm too much of a fan of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty to get excited about it's two founders exchanging words – especially when one of them doesn't even spit, just lets lames try to talk shit.

From this frivolous exercise we slide into what may be the first outright political record of Jay-Z's career. “Minority Report” features Ne-Yo singing some haunting vocals over an equally chilling slow burner of a beat from Dre. Over those trademark ominous Dre chords and the steady sound of rainfall Jay gets serious:
People was poor before the hurricane came
When the downpour poured it was like when Mary J. sang
Everyday it rained, so everyday the pain
But ignored 'em, and showed 'em the risk was to blame
But life is chain, cause and effected
Niggaz off the chain, because they affected
It's a dirty game, it's whatever is effective
From weed to sellin' 'caine, gotta put that in effect
Wouldn't you loot? If you didn't have the loot
Baby needed food and you was stuck on the roof
And helicopters swoop down just to get a scoop
Through his telescopic lens, but he didn't scoop you
For the next five days, no help ensued
They called you a refugee because you seek refuge
And the Commander-in-Chief, just flew by
Didn't stop, 'though he had a couple seats
Just proved Jet blue, he's not, jet flew by the spot
But if he ran outta jet fuel and just dropped
Huh, that'd've been somethin' to watch
Helicopters doin' fly-bys to take a couple shots
Couple portraits, then ignored him
He'd be just another Bush surrounded by a couple orchards
Poor kids, just 'cause they was poor kids
Left them on they porches, same old story in New Orleans -
Silly rappers, 'cause we got a couple Porsches
MTV stopped by to film our fortresses
We forget the unfortunate
Sure, I ponied up a mil' but I didn't give my time
So in reality I didn't give a dime
or a damn, I just put my monies in the hands
of the same people that left my people stranded
Nothin' but a bandit, left my folks abandonned
Damn, money we gave just a band aid
Can't say we better on than we was before
In synopsis, this is my Minority Report
Can't say we better on than we was before
In synopsis, this is my Minority Report
And in what has to be the only way this album could end, Jay-Z calls in a favor enlisting Chris Martin of Coldplay to cook up a spooky beat and sing the hook on “Beach Chair.” This song has always left me scratching my head and even today after all this time I still can't say for certain what he is trying to speak on, but it comes across as an interesting dissection of life and what it means to lead one. Jay has lead one of special significance and Kingdom Come like no other album in his catalog will exemplify exactly what it is he should be remembered for.

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