Jay-Z officially returned from retirement on November 21, 2006, which, coincidentally, was the first day of Thanksgiving Break for yours truly. So I woke up at 9 AM on the 21st and made my first purchase ever at the Best Buy in Manhattan, Kansas: Shawn Carter's latest work, "Kingdom Come". I had a 2 hour drive home to KC to allow Jay's new work sink in (an amount of time i have discovered is necessary to allot if you are ever to truly appreciate and understand an artist. if you want to tackle a cd - drive to Manhattan - you'll have nothing else to do but dwell on the tunes and make fun of Topeka.)
upon my first listen, i wasn't terribly impressed. i think i came into it expecting "The Black Album" and that isn't exactly what i got. "TBA" is clearly one of the best rap albums put out in recent years, and, lets be honest, is hard to top. Jay-Z doesn't top it in this album, however, this turned out to be exceptional. its not wrong. just different.
1. The Prelude - this first track was shocking. strings and horns and not a lot of groove...on the first track! not gonna lie Jay, but this was a weak album opening. maybe he wanted to start it off on a slow note and work into track 2, but by the 1:15 mark i'm ready to move on to track 2, and about 95% of the time i don't even listen to The Prelude anymore. i mean, its not a bad track, but it isn't what i expect and love out of S. Carter.
2. Oh My God - this is more like the Jay i expect. lots of noise and lots of movement out of yours truly. i thought i was going to bust a hole in the dashboard the first time i heard this track. the cymbals go off and it pretty much forces me to do the same. Good Lord. some of the lyrics are weak, i think at least. He actually throws down some Kanye West rhyme early in the track. "if this is your first time hearing this, you're 'bout to experience some(one) so cold" is the first phrase of the song "We Don't Care" off "College Dropout". fun fact for the moment. i like this song, for sure, one of my favorites on the album.
3. Kingdom Come - Jay throws down some serious Hammertime on this song. the keyboard during the verses is straight out of MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This", it's just spiced up a bit. okay, actually a lot. I'm a fan of this song too. Again, not the same as "TBA", it's a different Jay-Z but i do like it. i think he just puts down more beats and puts less emphasis on the lyrics. The chorus in this song leaves a bit to be desired as fas as i'm concerned, but the keyboard chords during the verses more than makes up for it - plus at 1:39ish he actually says "can't touch this". big fan. i did an audio doubletake the first time i heard it - i knew i could place the beat, but i couldn't figure it out until then, but once i heard it i immediately rewound it 30 seconds and did it again.
4. Show Me What You Got - the single. this song probably got more media than any other this year. between the Budweiser commercials for it and the 9 million internet ads i've seen for it i'd say Jay's gotten this track out to the public rather effectively. though i like the song, i'm not sure how i feel about the video. the video opens and features Danica Patrick racing Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jay-Z through Monaco (which is the second smallest nation on earth after the Vatican). the rest of the video is tight, but i'm not gonna lie, when i think about Jay-Z saying "show me what you got lil mama" i did not picture Danica Patrick (not that she isn't beautiful, she is, i just more expected...i dunno...Beyonce) nor did i picture Dale Earnhardt Jr. anywhere in the mix (he and his lame-o Wrangler tight jeans commercials. not a huge fan.) but anyway speaking of tight, this song is. a terrific song for Jay-Z to announce his comeback with. love the "and wave" parts. the rest of the video is awesome. here it is: http://youtube.com/watch?v=qopwiGItevI
5. Lost One (feat. Chrisette Michele) - there are a couple songs on this album that are surprisingly low key and are flirting with rhythm and blues. the next two tracks are both examples of this. i especially like the end of the first verse - Shawn starts talking about how "fame is the worst drug known to man". it is encouraging to hear things like that from a wealthy entrepreneur like Jay-Z. if i were Jay-Z i'd be so full of myself, thats for sure. This song is a winner though.
6. Do You Wanna Ride (feat. John Legend) - John Legend can give any song some serious soul, and this song is no exception. This is a song, much like track 5, that rides the rap/r&b fence for sure. Man. John Legend is just so great. thats all i have to say about this song. just sit back and enjoy the ride cause it is smooooth.
7. 30 Something - this song makes me laugh. Jay-Z is trying to convince everyone that he's still awesome even though he's in his 30's. I find this funny for a number of reasons: first, what is it with rappers and having to explain themselves? eminem is the worst about it. i think he's great, but half his songs are all about the fact that he's controversial and why. i dont get it, but Jay-Z decided to do that here. I'm thirty and a millionaire and grown up and mature, basically. he goes on and on about how he used to be versus how he is now. he's still Shawn. he's got "good credit and such." oh, and secondly, i just think its funny that Jay-Z has to let people know he's awesome. i mean c'mon. Jay-Z will be awesome til he dies, he doesn't need to prove himself.
8. I Made It - just in case we weren't aware, Jay-Z made it big. his mom should be proud of him because he's from Brooklyn and he made something great of himself. it's a decent song, but it's got the same message as a bunch of his songs: even a poor kid from NYC can make it big - a good message, but seriously Jay, get some more material. that harsh, but i kinda feel that way. a typical number 8 track - weak and unconnected to the beginning or the end. the mid/late tracks fall off sharply.
9. Anything (feat. Usher & Pharrell) - this is just too much usher and pharrell - this is not the Shawn Carter of old. this song is more like "Usher and Pharrell featuring Jay-Z. Again though, these aren't necessarily bad tracks, just not what i expected.
10. Hollywood (feat. Beyonce Knowles) - i must admit, i really like this song. probably because i honestly like Beyonce's sound, but i really like the beat too. There's this part at the beginning when Beyonce sings something and then Jay-Z repeats it in his own tighter-sounding words: "come to my place (come to the crib) and we'll discuss it (lets chop it up)". haha. lovin it. the chorus makes me feel like i just hopped out of a limo onto the red carpet. lights. camera. hollywood. i'm a fan of this track.
11. Trouble - what a club beat this little diddy is. grind on folks.
12. Dig a Hole (feat. Sterling Simms) - go 'head, bury yourself. this song and the one preceding it land in the roll-up-in-an-escalade-with-spinners category.
13. Minority Report (feat. Ne-Yo) - this song is devastating. it's about Hurricane Katrina's effect on the slums in the Gulf Area. it is a cry out from Jay-Z regarding how poorly the situation was handled in New Orleans, it is critical of the government and leaves off with Kanye West's rather controversial comment to the press saying that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." hopefully and most likely that is not the case, however, the argument is sung beautifully and forcefully: it seems like no one even cares about the many people (predominantly black) in our very own country left homeless in the aftermath of Katrina. many audio clips of the refugees are used and it really hurts to hear. our government ought to be able to help save those in need in the South. this song tugs at my heartstrings terribly and it is one of the best songs on the album and possibly my favorite.
14. Beach Chair (feat. Chris Martin) - the album closes with this harpsichord track. it's a slow song about life and how S.C. lives his. "life is but a beach chair." from what i've gathered, Jay-Z is playing off the "life's a beach" phrase and turning it around to a positive and optimistic view. life is but a relaxing day in the sun. fulfill your dreams and do what you want. life isn't a beach - its a beach chair. its a nice closing song, i think. kinda eerie in parts even, i like it.
a large portion of the cd doesnt excite me too terribly much, but there are a handful of songs that get me going bigtime. tracks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, and 13, are all terrific - and thats more than half the album. "Kingdom Come" isn't as great as his past works, but i have trouble comparing cause it is a completely different Jay-Z from his past albums. i do like it though, and overall i think it's pretty great. scale from 1 to 10...probably a 6.5. but still. there are a handful of songs that make this cd worth it. (plus it comes with a DVD. sizzler.)
PS. i realize my track summaries got worse and worse as the album progressed, that is largely due to the fact that i dont really have any motivation to do things i dont really care about. i tried on the tracks i like and i didn't try on the rest. so phooey.