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This album was released on 9/11. I think Reasonable Doubt is Jay’s most critically acclaimed album, but this is probably his most popular one. A lot of people consider it his second best album. I think I’m gonna really enjoy it. From what I’ve heard, the production is stellar. Kanye West fucked this album. In a good way tho. Do people say that? Whatever it doesn’t matter. I don’t really have anything to say about this shit before listening. I’m looking forward to it.
Track 1: The Ruler’s Back (Prod. Bink!)
Oh shit. This beat is amazing. Goddamn. The first verse was cool. Good lord. The horns that come in after the first verse sound so fucking good. Bink! fucked this song. lmao. I’m gonna start saying that more. If a producer did a really good job with a beat or album, I’m gonna start saying they “fucked” it. The second verse was cool. I’m gonna love this album. Jay may not be the most interesting MC as a lyricist, but goddamn he has a good ear for beats. He stole that line about leprechauns from Biggie almost word for word. Lmao. I guess you could defend it by saying it’s just an allusion. I don’t know. It didn’t really bother me that much personally. I thought it was kinda funny how he just shamelessly jacked that shit. Anyway, I enjoyed the fuck outta this track. This shit is dope af.
Track 2: Takeover (Prod. Kanye West)
Okay… For any readers who aren’t very familiar with my taste, it should be noted that I’m a borderline Nas stan, so this is gonna be hella biased. Believe it or not, I’ve actually never heard this song before. I just never had the interest. Mostly because I’m not really much of a JAY-Z fan in the first place. Now that I think about it, I think this is pretty much the only classic diss song I’ve never heard before in my life. What are the classics people always mention? No Vaseline, Ether, Real Muthaphuckin’ Gs, Kick in the Door, Hit ‘Em Up… Well I never heard the shit from that LL Cool J & Canibus beef. Wait a minute… What the fuck am I talkin’ about? There’s a shit ton of classic stuff I haven’t heard. I never heard Em’s disses to Benzino, or 50 Cent’s disses to Ja Rule, or Common’s Ice Cube diss. Takeover should be basic knowledge tho. Like, there’s never a conversation about the best diss tracks of all time in which this song isn’t mentioned. Lemme stop dickin’ around and listen to this shit already. It’s starting now. This beat is cool. The first verse was really dope. It was really aggressive, but he didn’t really seem to be targeting any specific rappers. The hook is nothing special. Okay, the second verse is where shit really gets poppin’. He’s shittin’ on Prodigy.
Don’t let ’em gas you, like, “Jigga is ass and won’t clap you” / Trust me on this one; I’ll detach you / Mind from spirit, body from soul / They’ll have to hold a mass, put your body in a hole.
Got. DAMN. That was hard as fuck. The second verse was great. Okay, now he’s gonna go at Nas in the final verse. Ugh… Lmao. Okay, that line where he called Nas lame… I thought it was a little lame. I mean… The way the line was delivered. I just didn’t like the David Bowie sample he flipped. It’s not really bad tho. I’m just indifferent towards it honestly. Also, the F bomb was unnecessary. I don’t think I’m gonna penalize rappers when they use F bombs in diss tracks. Political correctness and rap battles aren’t a very good combination. Politically correct diss songs are like the softcore porn of battle Rap. I’d have more respect for rappers if they didn’t use words like that, but I’m not gonna take off points for that shit. Nas said a LOT of homophobic shit on Ether. I try to be conscious of my Nas fanaticism. I’m gonna at least try to be fair when listening to stuff like this. However, the actual content of the line where he dropped the F bomb was really fucking stupid. Basically, he implied that Nas was gay because he modeled for Karl Kani & Willie Esco. That really doesn’t make any sense tho. Does Jay think you have to be a dick lover to be a model? Shouldn’t being a model be looked at as a good thing? It basically means people think you’re attractive enough to sell the way you look. So yeah. That was kind of a shitty line. It gets a lot better after that tho.
Had a spark when you started, but now you’re just garbage / Fell from top 10 to not mentioned at all / To your bodyguard’s Oochie Wally’s verse better than yours / Matter of fact, you had the worst flow on the whole fucking song.
That’s actually true. Oochie Wally is one of the worst Nas songs I’ve ever heard. I never reviewed it because it wasn’t on an official Nas album—it was on his “QB’s Finest” compilation—but in case any of y’all were wondering, I do in fact hate the song. I don’t know WHAT the fuck that motherfucker was thinking when he made that wack ass shit. Anyway, after this handful of dope lines, Jay calls Nas’ career “lame” again, using the same irritating delivery that he used before. The actual shit Jay’s saying isn’t wack tho.
That’s why your lame career’s come to an end / It’s only so long fake thugs can pretend / Nigga, you ain’t live it; you witnessed it from your folks’ pad / You scribbled it in your notepad and created your life / I showed you your first TEC on tour with Large Professor.
That’s one thing that’s always bothered me about Nas. The way he switched up after Illmatic was like if Kendrick started rapping like The Game after good kid, m.A.A.d. city. He went from being an innocent conscious dude in a rough environment, to all of a sudden being a drug kingpin. It’s never good when dope rappers hop on trends like that; in this case, it was Mafioso Rap, which I’ve never really been much of a fan of. I think Nas did a good job with it, but it was just weird how fake it all was. It was almost as bad as Drake acting all tough and threatening to sic his bodyguards on motherfuckers. It was also a smart of Jay to take advantage of Nas’ song Project Windows. The famous line where he claims that he made Nas’ “hot line” a “hot song” has always been kinda dumb to me. I mean… I don’t really see how it’s a diss. It’s like Jay is saying Nas is a loser for inspiring him. Also, Jay wasn’t really being fair with that line about Nas being in the game ten years. If you start from Nas’ first recorded feature—Live at the Barbecue by Main Source—then yeah, Nas’ career was 10 years long. He didn’t release his first album until 1994 tho. So if you start from the release of Illmatic, he’d only been in the Rap industry for 7 years, which is only two more years than Jay. However, if you start from Jay’s first ever recorded feature on a song—H.P. Gets Busy with Jaz-O as High Potent—which was all the way back in 1986, Jay’s career was 15 years. Then Jay goes on to say that Nas’ output came out to 1 album every 2 years, basically shitting on his work ethic. But if you actually do the math fairly, Jay’s output comes out to 1 album every 3 years. The only way this argument could even work in Jay’s favor would be if he used the proper timeframe for Nas’ career, starting in 1994. This whole section of the verse is just preposterous honestly.
You said you’ve been in this 10; I’ve been in it five / Smarten up, Nas, four albums in 10 years, nigga? I could divide / That’s one every [2.5]… let’s say 2; two of them shits was due / One was “meh,” the other was Illmatic / That’s a one-hot-album-every-10-year average.
I know people like to say everything between Illmatic & Stillmatic was wack, but I really disagree with that. Personally, I think Nas’ first four albums all put together are better than Jay’s first four albums put together. Actually, I’d even say that Nas’ first four albums are better than Jay’s first FIVE albums put together. There was a noticeable dip in quality after Illmatic, so, even tho It Was Written & I Am… were good projects, this line from Jay about Nas only having one hot album was viable to a lot of listeners. I also strongly disagree with him knocking Nas’ flow. However, don’t forget I’m a huge Nas fan. Nas was one of the first legitimately good rappers that I liked when I was just getting into Hip Hop. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who think Jay has a way better flow than Nas. So yeah that whole section of the verse is a little rough to me, but the way he actually ended it so ambiguously was brilliant.
You niggas gonna learn to respect the king / Don’t be the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen / Because you-know-who did you-know-what / With you-know-who, but let’s keep that between me and you.
That was awesome. The final verse was dope af too. That last line was fantastic. Okay, it just ended. That was great. Ether’s better. Lol. I’m not just dickriding Nas right now tho; I really think Ether is the better track. I honestly like everything about that song more than this. A lot of people don’t like the beat, but I’ve always thought it was dope. I just feel like Ether was more aggressive. Like on that last verse he just slaughtered Jay with bar after bar just shitting on Jay’s whole life. When he says that Ether makes his soul burn slow, he’s not lying. That shit was ruthless. I loved his aggressive flow too. He murdered that shit. This is a fantastic song too. It’s not like Nas completely destroyed him. There’s a reason people still debate about this shit. At the end of the day it just comes down to personal preference. They’re both amazing songs tho. I love this shit. It’s dope af.
Track 3: Izzo (H.O.V.A.) [Prod. Kanye West]
This is the first song from this album that I’m actually kinda familiar with. It was in a mashup with ABC by Michael Jackson in that game DJ Hero. That was the first time I heard it. It’s starting now. Yeah I remember this beat. It’s dope af. Kanye fucked this song. The first verse from Jay was alright. I always thought it was super corny whenever he said “for shizzle, my nizzle” and “for sheezy, my neezy.” I don’t know how people let him get away with that. That shit is lame as fuck. The hook is dope even tho he recycles that corny line I just mentioned. The second verse was fine. This is one of those tracks that’s really dope sonically, and not really that impressive lyrically. It’s just a really catchy, Poppy song. I like it tho. This is dope to me.
Track 4: Girls, Girls, Girls (Prod. Just Blaze)
Just based off the title of this track, I don’t think I’m gonna like this shit. Hopefully Just Blaze fucked this song. Lmao. I love that. It’s starting now. Oh Gawd… This hook… No… I can’t stand this shit. The beat’s cool. This first verse is fucking… I don’t know. It pissed me the fuck off. He’s rapping about all the different races and nationalities of women he’s been with, and he just comes off as an ignorant fuck. Look at this shit…
I got this Indian squaw, the day that I met her / Asked her what tribe she with; red dot or feather / She said: “all you need to know is I’m not a ho, and to get with me you better be Chief Lots-of-Dough” / Now that’s Spanish chick, French chick, Indian and black / That’s fried chicken, curry chicken… Damn, I’m getting fat / Arroz con pollo, French fries & crêpe / An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate.
This song is just making me think about Donald & Melania Trump. This is probably the way Donald Trump thinks about women. Even if the lyrics weren’t in such poor taste… I mean… “Chief Lots-of-Dough?” …Really?
JAY-Z just seems like such a condescending prick. The only good thing about this song is the production. This shit is wack af.
Track 5: Jigga That Nigga (Prod. Trackmasters)
What the fuck…? Trackmasters made THIS beat? Wow. This production is fantastic. None of their beats for Nas sounded anything like this. The first verse from Jay was fine. The hook’s not bad. I’m not crazy about the female vocals saying “Jigga, Jigga, Jigga that nigga” tho. The second verse just ended. I pretty much know already how I feel about this song. It’s good. It’s honestly like any other standard JAY-Z song. The only thing that really makes it stand out is the production. Trackmasters fucked this song. It’s not that great lyrically—it’s just another mainstream club song—but it’s not really wack. It’s just not that good. It’s cool sonically tho. I like this track. This is dope to me.
Track 6: U Don’t Know (Prod. Just Blaze)
This beat’s dope af. Jay’s flow on this first verse is nice. He’s finally rapping about something interesting. I mean, it’s just more coke Rap, but I think he’s doing a decent job with it. Okay, now all of a sudden he’s rapping about money. I just listened to the whole song. It’s dope. I really like the way it’s structured. He’s just rapping through the entire track, with a short sample to break it up every once in a while. The subject matter isn’t that great, but I think he did a pretty good job with it. This definitely isn’t one of my favorites, but it’s enjoyable. I fuck with this.
Track 7: Hola Hovito (Prod. Timbaland)
This beat is dope. The first verse was fine. He’s rapping in Spanglish. Again, this isn’t that impressive lyrically, but it’s not really bad. It’s sufficient. He sounds pretty good over this beat. Oh… Oh God. Yuck… That hook is rough… That sucks. I was kinda enjoying this song. Timbaland fucked it. The second verse was nice. That hook really ruined this shit for me tho. I can’t fuck with that shit one bit. The third verse was dope, but… Uh…
If I ain’t better than Big, I’m the closest one.
How could anyone even think something like that? I mean, MAYBE if Jay kept rapping like he did on Reasonable Doubt I’d understand a sentiment like this, but… I mean… REALLY? If you really think post-Reasonable Doubt JAY-Z is anywhere near as skilled as Biggie, you must be smoking crack. To be fair, one could argue that I should only be comparing Reasonable Doubt & In My Lifetime to Ready To Die & Life After Death, but Jay didn’t say “If I WAS’NT better than Big, I WAS the closest one.” I’m not even that familiar with most of Biggie’s work, but from what I’ve heard in the marathon so far, JAY-Z doesn’t have a single track anywhere near as good as Me & My Bitch. Let me stop myself now because I could write a novel about how preposterous that shit Jay just said was. I’m not feelin’ this song. It’s not terrible, but the hook really ruined it for me. It’s kinda wack to me. I mean, it’s not THAT wack. I think it’s bad tho.
Track 8: Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love) [Prod. Kanye West]
Alright, HERE we fuckin’ go. I love this song. This track has one of the greatest beats I’ve ever heard. Kanye ran a train on this shit. The beat alone makes this my favorite song on the album so far. The first verse was cool aside from the F bomb. The sample Kanye flipped for the hook is amazing. The second verse was cool. The third verse was dope despite that line about jealousy being a female trait. Honestly, it’s hard to make a song that isn’t great with a beat like this. It’s a shame all these amazing beats were given to Jay instead of a more impressive MC. Imagine if Nas had this beat. That would be fucking incredible. Can somebody do that? Can somebody take the vocals from a Nas song with a shitty beat and put it over this? That’d be awesome. Anyway, if you couldn’t tell already, I fuckin’ love this song. The ONLY thing I can nitpick is the beat break during the second recital of the hook and at the end of the song. It sounded a little corny to me. Especially with the handclaps. However, the rest of the song makes up for that. This shit is dope af.
Track 9: Never Change (Prod. Kanye West)
I know I’ve heard this song before, but the only thing I can really remember is the production, which is amazing by the way. Kanye really used to be an amazing producer. I mean, I still really like a lot of the beats he makes today, but I’m not gonna pretend there hasn’t been a dip in quality. Anyway, the first verse from Jay was really dope. There’s an uncredited feature from Kanye. He does the hook. It’s pretty good. The second verse was pretty good. The third verse was great. I don’t really have anything negative to say about this track. I think it’s great. This is definitely my second favorite track so far. It’s dope af.
Track 10: Song Cry (Prod. Just Blaze)
This beat is fucking incredible. As anyone could’ve predicted from the title, this is one of Jay’s more introspective songs. He’s rapping about a relationship that didn’t go so well. Things were great, and then he fucked it up. The first verse was cool. The hook’s alright. The second verse was definitely better than the first. He rapped about being ugly. Lmao. I mean, it was really only one line about how girls used to call him ugly, but it still sounded sad. I kinda wish rappers would say more shit like that. People never rap about being insecure about the way they look. I guess Tyler kinda did on Bastard when he talked about being tall, dark & skinny, and having giant ears. That’s one of the only examples I can think of tho. The third verse was cool, although the shit he said about fucking other girls was pretty fuckin’ stupid.
I’m a man with pride, you don’t do shit like that / You don’t just pick up and leave, and leave me sick like that / You don’t throw away what we had just like that / I was just fuckin’ them girls; I was gon’ get right back.
The song just ended. Huh. I liked this track, but I really don’t think it’s that sad. I mean, the content is sad, but the song itself just didn’t really affect me emotionally, aside from the line about him looking like a blister-lipped zombie camel. Soon You’ll Understand is way more emotional than this song in my opinion. I enjoyed this track tho. It’s good. It’s just not nearly as good as everyone had me thinking it was gonna be. It’s dope tho.
Track 11: All I Need (Prod. Bink!)
This beat is cool. The first verse was fine. The hook’s not bad. I love the percussion in this song. Bink! fucked those drums. The second verse was nice. I don’t know. I definitely like the song, but there’s just not really much to say about it. The structure’s very simplistic. The subject matter isn’t any different from every other song by JAY-Z. It’s a cool track tho. I like it.
Track 12: Renegade Feat. EMINƎM (Prod. EMINƎM)
This is the song that Nas took advantage of to popularize the idea of rappers getting “murdered” on their own songs, or “ethered.” This beat is dope. I’ve never really been that impressed with Em’s production—to be fair I’m not really familiar with much of it in the first place—but this beat is pretty effin’ good. Jay’s verse is great. I think “murdered” is a bit of an exaggeration. Em definitely rapped better than Jay, which is to be expected, but it’s not like Jay wasn’t also really dope. This was originally a Bad Meets Evil Song, which definitely would’ve been better, but Jay still did a good job. Em’s verses were great tho. The way he was flowing through that shit sounded so smooth. The hook is cool. The way Em kinda moans in the background like a seal is a little weird, but it’s not something I actually have a problem with. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this track honestly. This is dope af to me.
Track 13: Blueprint (Momma Loves Me) [Prod. Bink!]
This beat is dope af. Jay’s just going in about a bunch of people who affected his life. Well not only people. Just formative shit in general.
Marcy raised me, and whether right or wrong / Streets gave me all I write in the song / Hootie babysitted, changed my diapers / Gil introduced me to the game that changed my life up.
I’m enjoying this, but there’s not really much else to say about it. It’s just another good song. It’s one verse. It just ended. This is a dope song. Again, there’s not really much to say about it. I really like this tho. This is great.
This took way longer than it should have. I’m out of town right now tho. I’m in New York City for my orientation at Pace University, so yeah. That’s why this review is so late. Anyway, this album is good. It’s really good. I wouldn’t say great. I really like it tho. It’s definitely his best album since Reasonable Doubt. I’d say the only thing that really amazed me about this project was the production. Just Blaze, Bink! & Kanye all put they ASS in this album. I mean, they fucked it. They fucked this album. There weren’t really that many points on this project where I was super impressed by the actual rapping, aside from Renegade & Takeover. It’s not that Jay was rapping poorly tho. I just didn’t think it was that great. He did his job tho. It’s one of those projects that’s hard not to like just because the production is so good. If you aren’t a fan of JAY-Z, at least listen to this shit for Just Blaze & Kanye. It’s a dope album.
Favorite Song: Renegade
Least Favorite Song: Girls, Girls, Girls
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album