The Retired Hustler
I’ve been feeling Jay-Z lately, particularly The Blueprint and The Black Album. Listen to both joints, one after another, generates a fascinating experience. Jay moves from a young hustler (Blueprint) into a grown man (Black Album).
Although the Blueprint is not as intriguing as the classic Reasonable Doubt, Jay proves that he still has his hustling swag. In “U Don’t Know,” a soulful production from Just Blaze, Jay rhymes, “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell / I am a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a well / I was born to get cake, move on and switch states / Cop the Coupe with the roof gone and switch plates / Was born to dictate, never follow orders / Dickface, get your shit straight, fucka this is Big Jay.” In contrast to Shawn-Carter-the-hustler in Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt, Black Album finds Jay mellows out as he reflects on his accomplishments throughout his rapping career: “There’s never been a nigga this good for this long / This hood, or this pop, this hot, or this strong / With so many different flows there’s one for this song / The next one I switch up, this one will get bit up.”
Personally, Black Album is Jay’s finest work in term of his wise words and def flows. Whenever I am on the freeway these days, I set my cruise control at 70mph so that I don’t have to look out for the bitch-ass cops, and just experience the whole CD straight through with my eyes on the road and my ears and mind on his every word. Jay’s delivery is so natural and effortless that he could even punctuate his flow. In “Moment of Clarity,” he raps with confidence over Eminem’s hypnotic beat and violin sampling, “We as rappers must decide what’s most important / And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them / So I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win/win / So next time you see the homey and his rims spin / Just know my mind is working just like them… rims, that is.” Love the way he pauses and then adds in the parenthetic expression.
Unfortunately Jay has left his artistic vision behind and moved on to the business side of the game. Jay needs to get his ass off that CEO’s chair and back to the lab because the game needs his presence.