Jay Z - Vol.1 - In My Lifetime LP


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In an earlier age, when the likes of Public Enemy and Gang Starr ruled the roost, Jay-Z would have garnered the same kind of serious attention and respect as, say, the Fresh Prince. But in the devalued hip-hop universe of the late 1990s--where political activism is irrelevant, and entrepreneurial mediocrities like Puff Daddy and Master P hold sway--it's tempting to hail him as a conquering hero. Tempting, but mistaken. For one thing, he lacks the pipes to be considered among the truly great MCs (Chuck D, Guru, Ice Cube, Method Man). For another, his rhymes--both structurally and in terms of subject-matter--are way too simplistic. Rather than draw any conclusions from his world, or postulate any form of action, Jay simply calls 'em like he sees 'em--a post-Biggie dialectic of thinly-veiled threats ("Friend or Foe '98", "Face Off") and dreary self-aggrandisment ("I Know What Girls Like", "City Is Mine"). Hang on, didn't this used to be known as whack? --Andrew McGuire