Jay-Z — “The Black Album”

Once upon a time, there was a very tall, very pale girl who loved hip hop. She would dream of being an old school MC and of sharing bling with Jay-Z himself. She had heard for months about how he was performing at the opening night of House of Blues Houston. Tickets cost so much, she knew she could never attend herself….but then, 24hrs before the show, she got an email discounting the final tickets by 70%. It would take sacrifice, but she knew that if she ate nothing but cereal for a month, she could swing it. And swing it, she did. Because of the last minute nature of the ticket sales, she ended up attending the concert alone…but that did not diminish the joy in her heart. Some stared and some commented at the strange tall girl who looked like she was glowing in the dark. When asked why she liked Jay-Z, she enthusiastically blurted “Um….’cause he SPEAKS to me!” The show started, she was 10ft away from Jay, and the rest of the evening sparkled and crip-walked away like a dream. Upon leaving the show, she had an interaction with a fellow concert-goer that has forever defined her street cred…

Guy: Hey…you! Hey! You! 6-foota! Hey, 6-foota!

Me: *omg….I think he’s talking to me*

Guy: Hey, 6-foota…holla atcha boy, 6-footaaaa!

Me: *turning* Uh…yeah. right. *walks off*

Guy: What!? No, come back 6-foota!! Why you gotta be soo cooold!!!! Come BACK, 6-foota! COME BACK!!!!!!

Yes, reader, I am that girl. I am 6-foota. And as such, I would like to blog first, not about a current new release, but about an old passion. Jay-Z – “The Black Album”. In a year of SARS, Saddam, the start of the Iraq war, and Martha Stewart’s prison sentence…not much in life was certain, but then Jay came along and delivered his answer for all of it. He may have 99 problems…but a bitch sure ain’t one.

As a whole, The Black Album really represents a milestone in Jay-Z’s style as an artist. Up until this album, Jay was known for his 90’s/Biggie Smalls/harder thug feel…but in this album, he manages to juxtapose his old school roots with a much more modern edge. His lyrical content also shows a maturation; yes, he still talks about ho’s and money and how great he is (who doesn’t?), but this album really delves into his past, his struggles, and presents a more honest take on where he is and who he is becoming. I love the way he paints the paradoxes of life in a way we can all relate to—most of us aren’t a millionaire rapper who grew up in Brooklyn, but we all know the feeling that comes with trying to reconcile the crap of the past with where you are and who you want to be. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Jay and Warren Buffet were interviewed together about what they think is the key to success and Jay-Z commented “Ultimately, no matter what hooks you use, people will know when you’re speaking the truth and when you’re not. You’ve got to find your truth, and if you share it, other people will recognize it too”….and sometimes that truth speaks to middle class white girls who love a good beat.

Many of the tracks on this album are the big tracks often mentioned when referencing Jay-Z. Timbaland produced the biggest single off the album “Dirt off Your Shoulder” (I got some dirt on my shoulder, could you brush it off for me?) and Pharrell adds a little extra swank to “Change Clothes” (who’s feelin sexy? If you weren’t before, you sure will once that song comes on). I can barely even speak about “99 Problems”, it’s so great. No matter how many times I listen to it, the break in the final verse gets me. Every. Single. Time. While the singles from this album are beyond legit, a few of the less publicized songs are some of my favorite Jay-Z tracks of all time. Produced by Eminem, “Moment of Clarity” hits hard and speaks the truth. “Lucifer” (producer – Kanye) has a latin vibe and garnered the strongest live performance I witnessed at his House of Blues performance. The album rides out on a track featuring an interview with the Notorious B.I.G. While it’s a smoother track, it still punctuates the message of the entire album perfectly—the message that has been proclaimed by every dictator, dynasty, and jr higher that has ever existed, “I. Am. Awesome.”



Categories: Music Review

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