Jay-Z may be some kind of genius, but he still tends to alternate near-perfect records with half-baked stopgaps. So, after 2002's shoddy The Blueprint 2, The Black Album predictably finds him back at the top of everyone's game. Jay remains the Henny Youngman of rap, dropping numbingly dumb couplets ("I'm from the murder capital/ Where we murder for capital") among the jewels ("My name Hov/ H-to-the-o-v/ I used to move snowflakes/ By the o-z") until you don't know what's what. The other part of his genius is that he's a trackmaster, gerrymandering the hottest beats by the hottest producers, always. (Mercenary capitalism equals aesthetics here.) Jay introduces new producers on the back of marquee names, who this time include Timbaland, the Neptunes, Eminem, and-sure to excite the older heads and baffle the kids-Rick Rubin. (If you're old hat, you're not on a Jay-Z album-just ask DJ Premier). The biggest names here turn in the weakest cuts. Timbaland's recent minimalist approach dwindles toward torpor on "Dirt Off Your Shoulders," Rubin sounds just like you'd expect (Run-DMC with a budget) and the two Neptunes tracks are just kinda there. Amazingly allotted just two tracks, Kanye West, who speeds up reggae superstar Max Romeo to vertiginous effect on "Lucifer," oedipally clowns his father figures. But in the end, criticism means squat here. Tossing invective at Jay-Z, with his street cred and sales figures, is a bit like lobbing walnuts against an oil tanker-he's as impervious to criticism as Dubya or the Yankees. Or, to quote Mr. Ric Flair: To be the man, you've got to beat the man. Amazingly, no one has yet.
Jay-Z - The Black Album CD
Regular price $13.00