Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The would-be "Best of Both Worlds"
After hearing Jay's boring new song about how he hates Autotune, but somehow, not the most famous artists who use it (because they're creative?), I got to thinking again about what is the best Jay-Z album. Now, if someone like Noz or Trey Stone are to be believed, then it's Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. A couple years ago, back when I was living in Seattle, I had a lot of free time and mostly thought about rap and went to my local used record store. After reading Noz's defense of Vol. 3 in the comments section of these posts, I figured I would actually cave and buy a record that is really only known for "So Ghetto" and "Big Pimpin'." Just in case I wasn't feeling up to buying the album that day (or ever), I could listen to it at some handy listening stations. Now, those of you who read Posse on Blogway way back when may remember some post he did about a fantasty Timbaland/Hov album and embedded some songs in that post. One of those songs is Vol. 3's "Come and Get Me." For whatever reason, I wasn't really able to get into while reading his post, but I figured that If was was going to buy a hard copy of the album, I better know what this song sounds like, so it was the first track I listened to. It started off decent enough, with talk of "remov[ing] your roof" over some beat that did not sound like Timbo at all... then it changed to this slow, sort of futuristic album cut. As though it should be the title track, with Jay defending his rise to stardom following Vol. 2. With this song at least, I was convinced.
I went looking through the album credits to see who was responsible for the rest of the production, since Jay fans love to celebrate Jay-Z's beat selection meanwhile shitting on Nas. "So Ghetto?" Check. The other four Tim tracks? Check. Everything else, though, was just not grabbing me. To be honest, all the other beats sound horribly dated from the DJ Clue?/Dame Grease/Swizz Beats era of New York rap... except these sound like their throwaway beats. Remember the first single, "Do It Again?" It's not a bad beat or song, per se, but it isn't engaging at all, and certainly shouldn't deserve Jay's supposed seal of excellence or approval. And do not get me started on "S. Carter." As soon as it started, with Amil's shrill whine, I stopped the CD player. Why he dumped Foxy for her I will never understand. Overall, the songs I heard from the album just didn't convince me that it was an album worth owning.
As I mentioned before, Noz had this rap nerd fantasy post about a Tim/Hov collaboration album. Personally, I don't think that would have worked in 2007, or anytime since Jay-Z has retired. He simply cannot rap as well as he could back in '98-01 and Timbaland, except for a few cases (like Jeezy's 3 A.M.), has simply outgrown rap. I'm not sure he could bring it anymore. But, there is a wealth of material from the past that could have been compiled to make probably Jay's best album. Think of this as a missed opportunity. Now, I would say Timbaland's best beats were from about '97-'02 or '03, and if certain people are to be believed, Jay was at his best around the time of Vol. 3. Now, what would an album look like if Jay had waited two years between Vol. 1 and Vol. 2? Here's my idea of the tracklist, in no particular order:
Intro: Hand It Down
N*gga What, N*gga Who
It's Hot (Some Like It Hot)
Lobster and Scrimp
Come and Get Me
Look at that, what album in 1999 could touch a lineup like that? Even with Bleek on the first track? It's amazing what a little quality control could have done for his place in 90's rap. Maybe then DMX wouldn't have been the megastar at that point in time. Oh well, I can dream.