Producer: Pete Album: The Dynasty: ROC La Familiar (2000) You can hear the disappointed young kid in his voice here, always making me grateful that my father was around.
Recall that HOV and his family were either in South Africa or on their way when he recorded this verse, and that opening hits even harder. Wikipedia tells me some guy named B-Money produced this gorgeous beat; it sounds like something Bernard Hermann scored for Hitchcock, or the lobby music in an Italian hotel.
This was a snow tale long in the making, and Push and Jay didn't let Escobar down. Naturally, Nova steals the show with an extra-long verse that begins with niche Italian auteur shutouts and (maybe) one too many references to Google, but ends with ingeniously dark spins on both Uber and one of 2016's most popular memes.
So hearing Time supply him with a gritty beat change worthy of “Come and Get Me” so he can admit “even my own fans like 'Old man, just stop,'” “No sympathy for the king huh? Niggas even talk about ya baby crazy,” and snarl rebuttals to both White America and detractors in the rap community with “Don't forget, America: that's how you made me,” is an unpredictable thrill strong enough to carry the entire album around it.
Good Lord, he got Made out the paint with these bars, and sent him straight to hell. Stop talking greasy on them R&B records is still good advice for rappers in 2017.
That goes for Jay, as the already certified living legend still rapping, and us as the listeners now hundreds of verses deep. Jay's best latter-career material shines brightest when he either has something new to say, or feels like going out of his way to give everyone a reminder in case the respect was waning.
“Prime time” is the latter, a dazzling display of technical proficiency in which Nigga locks himself in a numbers theme for the majority of the verse, and completely bodies it. The old man's in the booth playing puzzle games in his bars, wow.
The Kanye-bars get the most shine naturally, but I'm haunted by the casual disdain in his voice when he says “you all like to troll, do you? This verse is exciting, primarily because Boi-1da, Nav, and Seen Thomas made the beat.
Jay locked in with Ski Beat and went full Reasonable Doubt -level blackout mode. How this didn't make The Blueprint's final cut I'll never understand, but it deserves a shinier home than being the bonus on Unplugged.
At least they left us with a couple dangers and one very memorable XXL cover. Producer: Darrell “Nigga” Branch, Lance “UN” Rivera, DJ Clue Album: Vol.
Producer: DJ Clark Kent Album: Reasonable Doubt (1996) Jay was a rookie, spitting' flow like a veteran whose been in the game for decades.
Producer: Kanye West Album: The Dynasty: ROC La Familiar (2000) This is the first time Jay mentions his bad luck becoming a father as he raps about having a stillborn, while also watching his peers pop in the rap game as he struggles to leave the streets alone.
“My therapist said I relapsed/I said perhaps, I, Freudian slipped in European whips.” Cc: All ye blasphemers who thought Jay Nova lost it.
“Me and My Bitch” and Bonnie and Clyde both lack happy endings. But they dissolve time for Jay, allowing him to reminisce about being happy broke, and how money messed that up.
There's no way the retirement wasn't in earnest at the moment, not with a dénouement as perfect as this, so resolute it sounds like a celebratory eulogy. Jay comes to terms with his decision in real-time, finding comfort in remembering he's done the one-door-closes-as-another-opens dance before.
HOV got the fuck off on this shit right here and taught a young buck such as myself to always stick to the script. The William H. era was something else as Nigga continued to remind people he was gutter still even after all the success.
“You lose your job, your pop rich, you all don't care/So I don't care, you all acting like you all don't hear/The screams from the ghetto or the teens ducking metal here/So they steam like a kettle here.” Live reporting from the block, a dressing down of the vultures and fans-as-tourists who don't pay due respect, what could be grim is flipped into inspiration thanks to his OG's glorious instrumental.
Having a mastered version of this is great and all, but I do miss having Kay Slay exclaiming “Damn!” Almost went with the last verse, but the second one has the ever-so memorable “Nigga Man, you rich, take the drag off” line that's still being rapped by Jays tans in the Year of our Lord 2017.
I apologized, of course, but only after I explained the situation: Jay was fresh off vacation and talking to Hot 97’s Angie Martinez about the events that transpired while he was away. Summer Jam had just happened and Na's tried to hang a doll of Jay during his performance.
When the station heads wouldn’t allow it, he cancelled his appearance and went to rival Power 105.1 to air his grievances. The way Jay and Angie chuckle as he mocks Na's makes this that much better.
Rather, he'll hit you over the head with bars and make anyone disparaging him look stupid and sound foolish. The first few bars of this verse are all setup, then once he mentions PAC and Big being the only rappers who can be mentioned in the same breath as him, he unlocks an extraterrestrial level of breath control to go on a dizzying flow pattern as factually boastful as it is technically, that should effectively end all arguments about whom the God of this shit is.
But before they had a falling out that would send him back to Brooklyn to haunt the halls of Marcy Projects for the rest of his years, Jay's mentor Jazz gave him what is, arguably, a top 5 beat in his catalog. “In My Lifetime (Remix)” is superior in every way to Jay's seminal first single; the beat is ethereal and spacey, shimmering like sun rays dancing across the ocean surface.
The original had the video with the speedboat party, but you hear this and just picture HOV puffing cigars at sea on a lower key, laid back and reflecting. The protagonist of the song falls for the game's bait and lands in jail, but when Jay says “the Medusa's head on Versace turned me to stone,” he isn't just narrating.
Demonstrating patience, he waits until nearly the last bar to tell you straight: “I'm one of the best niggas that done it.” And by now you believe him, because of how he hopscotches from the flurry of syllables and internal rhymes in “I'm leaning on any nigga intervening with the sound of my money machining” to the stutter-step that breaks up “My cup runner over with hundreds.” This is rap at the highest level. The Black Album is the third act in a crime saga, and Pharrell, scoring movies well before Despicable Me, provided HOV with the gorgeous soundtrack to every crime film's necessity: the reckoning.
Jay recites the Hustler's Prayer on the chorus like the mantra of someone desperately trying to change despite knowing damn well they won't. The final verse doubles down on this reflection: Jay can plot his exit all he wants, but he already knows he'll never feel more alive.
Like every De Niro who turns back, he knows he's facing almost certain death. “We all gotta live with it,” Jay told writer dream Hampton during a Vibe interview in 1998, after she asked how he deals with the harm he’s likely caused hustling.
He has the instinctive ability to stretch and contort his delivery to marry any beat he encounters. On the first verse of “Politics As Usual” his opening line “You can catch me skating through you town, putting' it down, you all relating'” actually feels like he's creeping across the beat in a white Lexus GS.
Blueprint -era Jay wasn't about leaving *any* room for those who would dispute his claim to the throne. Nigga hit us with the machine gun flow and rapped the Batman theme song in that last verse.
It's scary how much a verse tailor-made to this very specific moment, The Retirement, is still so applicable today. Whenever Jay retires for real, the last song should just be a reprise.
You’ll probably hop on my dick right there, right in front of your bitch, a SK me some stupid shit like 'Yo, to dog, what’s the difference between a 4.0 and a 4.6?' May the good Lord curse the man who denied us a Commission album for all eternity.
Who knew a couple of white guys that went to school in Connecticut had something in common with drug dealer from Brooklyn? Honestly I was hoping for the 4:44 visuals to be sort of a long music video instead of all these separate AIDS.
This version is way better than “Dear Summer,” it’s raw, natural, and it didn’t intro a subpar Bleak album that I wish I hadn’t spent money on. I had mad Rockier in high school, and I still scour eBay for a leather, or this black-and-gray hoodie I used to have that the cops in my hometown ruined by making me take out the string after I just bought it.
This freestyle has aged like some expensive wine that I don't have the lifestyle to accurately reference. Jay and Limbo have done extraordinary work across multiple albums.
Honestly I kinda wanted to name the Sleepers sample the best verse on “Streets Is Watching” but that would've been too confusing for some and would've seemed like I wasn't taking this list seriously. The last verse on this track is life changing, giving you a glimpse into the mind of a kingpin.
Producer : Just Blaze Album : The Dynasty: ROC La Familiar (2000) This beat sounds like the intro music for Thunder dome, and Jay saunters into the ring with the absurdness of someone who already knows he's the victor.
Who would dare question his squad when the general is rapping this foolishly, extolling the daily mindset of his hustlers spirit preface with such intensity. A mission statement packed with his most evergreen bars, the track that has become his uncontested flagship song.
Part of its eternal concert appeal rests on Just Blaze's thunderously urgent beat, but David Chase lines like “You could try to change, but that's just the top layer, man, you are who you was 'fore you got here” are the reason why “PSA” will stick to your ribs forever. 1 is probably the most underrated album in Jay's vast catalog and the intro track is one of the best songs he's ever recorded, especially it's second verse.
Which became more challenging when Jay nodded in my direction, capped me up, and started speaking to me about a piece published on Complex, as well as some others. It hits like a freshly rolled blunt, eliciting the related medley of after effects: euphoria, awe, hyper-awareness, an insatiable hunger, and the longing look popularized in the 'hits blunt' meme.
A young man, with a gift of expressing his wisdom with accessible, charming lyrics. An observant poet, as aware of himself as he is environment and the figures who inhabit it.
If this is how he was thinking at this point in his life, and it earned him the success and status that he had, then I'd be fine. It's by far one of the most important theses offered in rap, and frankly one of the fliest things ever uttered by anyone.
The original “Dead Presidents” was a street single used to promote Jay's debut Reasonable Doubt. He recorded the album with the intention of retiring soon after to focus on building a rap empire.
Instead, he decided to continue rapping while also forging one of the most recognizable brands in music history because he was better than everybody else on both sides of the ball. And for those that have been listening to Nova from the very beginning know that he’s been giving us game way before the jewelry he dropped on 4:44.
Overt lyrical dazzlers versus mainstream-ready “dubbed down for double dollars.” We settled on 80, and believe me we'll be losing sleep over the other classics we could've added for weeks to come.