Jay-Z – Kingdom Come

Hov’s back and still arrogant as fuck: “I don’t know what life will be in H.I.P. H.O.P. without the boy H.O.V.” But don’t blame him for his cockiness; blame the game for it. Hip-hop is damn near dead that Jay-Z has to roll out of his CEO’s chair and step back into the lab to revive her. With Kingdom Come, Hov shows, once again, that he can’t leave rap alone. The game needs him, and he loves you.

Right from “The Prelude,” Jigga knows exactly what hip-hop is missing—”The game’s fucked up / Nigga’s beat is bangin’ / Nigga, ya hooks did it / Ya lyrics didn’t / Ya gangsta look did it / So I would write it if yall could get it”—and he knows damn well how to fill in the gap. Whether he’s reporting on the Katrina crisis, addressing his lost ones, expressing his trouble, or bragging to his mama that he made it, Hov’s flow gets more intricate while his delivery becomes more effortless. With precise wordplays (“Fuck that exclamation, comma, quotation, I love drama, period.”) and sharp punchlines (“Keep my enemies close / I give them enough rope / they put themselves in the air / I just kick away the chair.”), he still proves to be a skillful lyricist who gets even better with time. And the mellowness in his vocal tone shows the matured Jay-Z who makes “30 is the new 20.” Gone is the misogynist, which is good, and remain is the champion of the lyrical roulette who still digs holes to bury his opponents.

As the owner of his 40/40, Jay-Z obviously wants to hear his shits, like “Anything” (with Usher and Pharrell), “Hollywood” (with Beyonce), and “Show Me What You Got,” bumping in his joint. What could be more pleasurable than watching sexy ladies shaking their booties and bouncing their titties to your own tunes in your own club? But Hov has been walking the thin line between big pimping and street hustling all these years without suffering his credibility because he knows how to balance himself. The album-closer “Beach Chair” is where Hov’s skills sold. Over the dope, bizarre, rambunctious beat from Dr. Dre, Hov spits with calm bravado and serene spiritual: “Some said, ‘Hov how you get so fly’ / I said, ‘from not being afraid to fall out the sky.’ / My physical’s a shell so when I say farewell / My soul will find an even higher plane to dwell / So fly you shall so have no fear / Just know that life is but a beach chair.”

With his previous release, The Black Album, Hov rapped every track as if it was his last. He wanted to make sure that we would miss him when he fades to black. With Kingdom Come, he even apologizes that he’s back. Not that he wants to return as a rapper, but as a hip-hop’s savior—“Just when you thought the whole world fells apart / I take off the blazer loosen up the tie / Step inside the booth Superman is alive”—and we might owe him a favor.