.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/amg/g11609js8yd.jpg The Black Album

Jay-Z

The Black Album

Rock-A-Fella Records
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
By 
November 19, 2003

It's rare for a rapper to make a goodbye album — generally the marketplace kicks you out of the game first. But Jay-Z is a rare rapper. The dominant figure of the post-Biggie and -Tupac era, he spit cool and witty with devastating flows, dropped classic albums, influenced MCs, changed pop culture and built a tall stack of dollars in the process.

Time will tell whether or not The Black Album is Jay-Z's final release, but it certainly is a goodbye album. He's settling scores and letting us deeper into his life than ever. He talks in depth about his parents, giving his mother, Gloria Carter, time to shine on the opening song, "December 4th." On the Eminem-produced "Moment of Clarity," he invokes the memory of his father, Adnes: "Pop died/Didn't cry/Didn't know him that well/Between him doin' heroin and me doin' crack sales." But by the end of the verse, he has forgiven his late father and says to him, "Save a place in heaven till the next time we meet forever."

The Black Album has a dream team of producers, including Kanye West ("Lucifer," "Encore"), Just Blaze ("December 4th"), the Neptunes ("Change Clothes," "Allure") and Timbaland, whose obese club-banger "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" easily wins the prize for best beat, with Rick Rubin's raucous, rock-drenched "99 Problems" a close second.

Given one last chance to make an impact, Jay-Z has come up with one of the better albums of his career, though perhaps a shade lesser than his very best, Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint. Still, we've witnessed not merely a Hall of Fame career but one of the top-shelf greatest of all time, up there with Rakim, Big, Pac and Nas. And like every great rapper, Jay-Z has never been afraid to tell us he's Number One. On "What More Can I Say," he rhymes, "Pound for pound I'm the best to ever come around here/Excluding nobody." He could be right.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com