- The Black Album (Roc-a-Fella Records)
fades to 'Black' with early, reflective exit -- At top of game, hip-hop's
premier voice leaves game early, writes own epitaph on album with no
guest appearances, esteemed production
By Banke Awopetu Cavalier Daily Senior Writer
Okay, y'all break out the Kleenex because Jigga AKA Hova
AKA Sean Carter, or otherwise known as Jay-Z, is throwing
in the towel.
right, the Brooklyn M.C. is retiring from the rap
game, or at least that's what he claims. Whether you choose
to deny, mourn or celebrate Jay's farewell, you can't deny
the prowess of his final bow, "The Black Album," where
Jigga showcases more flows than his many aliases.
both versatile and ecceletic, The Black Album
primarily conveys Jay's character, his maturation as an
artist, and more importantly his growth as a man. Take "99
problems" for instance. Jay flows so confidently over Rick
Rubin's rudimentary electric guitar beat he makes it seems
it easy. The song explores all the problems, aside from
relationship woes, that Jay has, ranging from the
difficulties of navigating the entertainment industry to
racial profiling: "Half a mil for bail/Cause I'm African/
Or because the fool was harassing them," he raps, drawing
to question whether this is the same Jay that on 2001's
"Girls, Girls, Girls," dropped offensive and ignorant
lyrics like, "I got this African chick with Eddie Murphy on
luckily, not to be.
of Clarity" Jigga exemplifies why he will always
be known as one the illest rappers to ever touch the mic,
as he flows "If skills sold/truth be told/ I'd probably be/
Lyrically/ Talib Kweli/ Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like
Common Sense/But I did five mil/ I aint been rhyming like
Common since/ When your cents got that much in common/ And
you been hustling since/ Your inception/ F*** perception/
Go with what makes sense/Since I know what I'm up
against/We as rappers must decide what's most important/And
I can't help the poor if I'm one of them/ So I got rich and
gave back/ To me that's the win-win."
the real problem plaguing the hip-hop community
that "conscious" rappers never get enough radio play or
corporate support to sell with so much nonchalance, he
instantly pulls in listeners. This is all even done in
perfect harmony to the Eminem produced beat.
is the guy everyone loves to hate, but if you
have had any exposure to hip-hop at all, you have a
favorite Jigga verse. He is just that flexible. He
represents the different attributes we all have and our
struggles to get rid of the not so admirable ones.
this sentiment perfectly on"Interlude:" "And
I could blame my environment/ But there ain't no reason/
Why I be buyin expensive chains/Hope you don't think users
are the only abusers/ [Brothers] gettin high within the
game/ If you do then/ How would you explain?/ I'm ten years
removed/ Still the vibe is in my veins/ I got a hustler
spirit/ [Man] period."
hasn't traded in his platinum for a backpack just
yet and he vents his frustration on "Threat" to anyone who
doesn't wish him well ("I'm especially Joe Pesci with a
grin/ I will kill you/commit suicide/and kill you again").
Off Your Shoulder" features Jay recklessly flossing
over a catchy and intricate Timbaland beat.
Clothes," the lead single of the album and another
Hov/Pharell collabo, falls flat with in its obvious club
ambitions. The beat is so patently one from the Neptunes
that you're left hoping that Jigga and Pharell will never
collaborate again -- until you hear the stirring and
heartfelt "Allure" where Jay rhymes about the difficulties
of leaving a negative situation ("But every time I felt
that was that/it called me right back"). Hopefully this
applies to the rap game and Jay will not be able to hang up
his mic. The soulful Kanye West-produced "Encore" will
indeed leave you begging for an encore.
now more than ever needs Jay-Z. His latest but
hopefully not last album chronicles his influence of not
only the rap game but pop culture also. Still there is an
ominous cloud hanging over "The Black Album" because in the
past Jay set the standard too high for himself. "The Black
Album" is neither "Reasonable Doubt" nor "The Blueprint"
but it still overshadows every other release this year. And
in Jigga's words: "If you can't respect that/Your whole
perspective is wack/Maybe you'll love me/When I fade to