It is rare for an artist to have the opportunity to retire while at the top of his profession. Jay-Z has managed to do this. In the past eight years Jay-Z has made nine albums and cemented his place in rap history as one of the best to ever rap. In “The Black Album,” one of his finest efforts, he chronicles his career and praises what it has done for music, attempting to write the final chapter of his life as a musician. For this effort Jay-Z brings together an all-star team of producers including Timbaland, Kanye West, Eminem, Rick Rubin, the Neptunes, and Just Blaze. The result is an album where each track has its own personality and potential for radio play.
Jay-Z is much more than a successful rapper — he is a successful businessman. He is co-CEO of Roc-a-fella Records, he has his own clothing line, Roca-wear, he has a shoe endorsement with Reebok, and he has endorsements with Heineken and his own Armadale Vodka. And while it is feasible that he would want to focus on these parts of his life, many doubt his retirement. They consider the success of his past three albums enough to motivate Jay-Z to make another one in the future. He reassures those people that he is serious when he says “I’m supposed to be number one on everybody’s list/We’ll see what happens when I no longer exist.”
On “What More Can I Say?” produced by the Buchanans, Jay-Z sums up his success in the first line when he raps, “There’s never been a nigga this good for this long/This hood, or this pop, this hot, or this strong.” He also has some things to say regarding the current state of hip hop: “These fucks, too lazy to make up shit, they crazy/They don’t paint pictures, they just trace me.” This song provides us with one possible motive for Jay-Z’s early retirement: he has nothing more to say. With a career that has produced countless number-one singles he feels that he has already said it all.
Jay-Z calls on Eminem to produce the song “Moment of Clarity,” which tells us the story of his career. He manages to include all nine of his album titles in the chorus. He reflects back on the successes he attained by creating a formula that enabled him to crossover from street to pop while maintaining his street-wise image.
The song “Public Service Announcement,” produced by Just Blaze, serves as a way for Jay-Z to say that in spite of the incredible amount of sales he has been responsible for he still has political respectability. In this song he even refers to himself as “Che Guevara with bling on.”
The album is not a somber album but rather a celebration of Jay-Z’s career. Jay-Z has shown his maturity by going from “Money, Cash, Hoes” to “Excuse Me, Miss,” to “Change Clothes.” Only time will tell whether Jay-Z will remain retired or whether he will pull a Michael Jordan. But regardless, this is the top hip-hop album of the year, and if you “can’t respect that, your whole perspective is whack/maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black.”
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