The Black Album illuminates rap music

Jan. 29, 2004, midnight | By Kedamai Fisseha | 20 years, 4 months ago

Jay-Z shines on his latest LP

Proclaimed to be Jay-Z's final work, The Black Album offers listeners no type of closure. Thoughtful, fresh lyrics make The Black Album one of, if not the best, Jay-Z record to date.

With a different multi-platinum producer on almost every one of the fourteen tracks, the beats alone can sell this CD. Many of the instrumentals are provocative and exciting, using traditional hip-hop style as well as music from other genres. A remake of Madonna's Justify My Love is a fresh reminder that Jay-Z can still "change the game" when he wants. The Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland and Eminem, are the most notable of the several producers who provided Jay-Z's musical accompaniment.

Through snippets of dialogue from his mother on his autobiography, December 4, Jay-Z quickly shows (by the second track) that there is truly something different about The Black Album. In the song he describes his life as an observer would, including proverbs and giving advice. He also uses spoken quotes from various notable figures and rappers such as the Notorious BIG. Overall, he put a lot of meaning into his lyrics, most of which do more than simply tell a story.

And for the careful listener, these lyrics carry enormous significance. Revealing much about his life and his outlook on rap, Jay-Z presents ideas on this CD that he has never before addressed. On the eighth track, Moment of Clarity, he attempts to explain his career and motivations with neither remorse and nor inhibition.

"I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars,
They criticize me for it, yet they all yell holla.
If skills sold, truth be told,
I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.
Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense,
But I did Five Mil…I ain't been rhyming like Common since."

Throughout the album he snatches the limelight from his prolific producers, using his greatly developed wordplay and dominating delivery to captivate. Without a doubt, this album shows a huge increase in his lyrical confidence. This improvement in his lyrics also comes along with a stronger presence on top of the music, which allows him to sling his rhymes even harder. He himself describes, "these words ain't just prepared to go in one ear out the other ear (No!)."

Whether just a publicity stunt or the truth, Jay-Z's retirement comes with an album that is indicative of anything but an end. The Black Album is the pinnacle of Jay-Z's career and whichever way he goes, these fourteen tracks should be remembered as such.

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Kedamai Fisseha. Kedamai Fisseha sorely misses the computer lab where Silver Chips was born and is daily reborn. He is currently living and writing from London, England where he is glad for the chance to continue his participation in the organization. More »

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