When I Come Back Like Jordanwhen he came back like jordan the first time, wearing the 45, it was a triumphant return. the Black Album was, no doubt, a career pinnacle. he threatened retirement just to see how much the fan base, in a relative drought musically, appreciated his immanence in rap culture. even after a nasty incident with nas, the Jiggaman had somehow dusted off his shoulders, produced an album full of hits and made himself still more relevant than the years before. it seemed an impossible feat. in a sense, it was at least improbable that he could sustain that kind of production. his feature spots were still notable and freestyle jabs impeccable, but the next album, Kingdom Come was a slap-dash once-a-year project that sounded exactly like those two adjectives. in spite of it, his fanbase was so perniciously loyal that he was untouchable by most standards, and could d*ck around in the studio and earn praise because he was now Jay Z the Brand more than Jay Z the Rapper. american parents and ad men started to quote his name and buy beer from him, so it wasn't immediately alarming that his original persona was that of a crafty crack salesman. think about that. to extend the jordan analogy, hov was relying on his jump shot and his ability to make free throws not because he wanted to scare the opposition into daring him to show other skills, but because those other skills had begun to diminish, or (at least) he had less faith in those skills getting him further. he stopped practicing those free-form verses that made him legendary, bragged about his independence of the writing process and marginally suffered as a result. he still had a lot left in the tank, but the first omens were his sagging albums.
That's A One Hot Album Every...since the release of the Black Album, jay z has really struggled to put together a similarly wide-ranging and cohesive body of work, one that meets his standards of critical efficiency and 'got a song for the streets/a song for the b*tches/a song for all my thug n*ggas/a radio smash' mark. undoubtedly, he set the bar so high that when collectively creative works like American Gangster and impressively broad stroke pieces like Blueprint III failed to meet one of the two golden standards of a shawn carter album (hip-hop ruggedness, commercial banger), they were overall uneven. he didn't corner himself into any particular fan group, preferring to survey what was working in music and adopt styles strategically. but that led to some severe misses and generally unbound works. campy, pedantic medleys like "Star Is Born" featuring j. cole sounded more like laundry list than personal history, and pop-futurist reaches like "Off That" featuring drake were strained and scattered. for the first time, it seemed as if jay z didn't know what was cool and so he relied on a fading instinct to grab at a few of the young stars who might reportedly know what was trendy, and then caddy his verse to theirs with a casual (but stunted) affect. he was the uncle who came along with your boys to the club, twirling his keys at every young woman half his age in sight and talkin' bout "40 is the new 20" on a bad hip. sure, he had the means to get bottle service for those perky grad students who snickered behind his back, but was it ever a good look? you ain't have the heart to tell him that it wasn't Air Force Ones season anymore because he took so much time keeping them sh*ts pearly white and kept referring to "his day" as if you could learn something from this tired act decades later. it was disappointing, but most of all it was beneath him. uncle hov been had the 401k and the restaurant business poppin', but here he was chasing some Nuvo dream and releasing songs like "Forever Young" that still cause computer errors on replay. pandora and spotify both ask me if "i'm sure" when that one comes up, knowing how much Skip Action it's felt in the past five years. it probably reads like a virus to them.
Snap-Backs And Skinny Jeans at 40there are a lot of cool 40-year-olds. probably more than there ever have been. but what makes a man cool at 20 is not the same as what makes him cool at 40. some of the lines are blurred when it comes to pop stars, as they have about an added ten year window of wearing tight pants that most 40-year-olds are not granted. fine. designer jeans usually come in fitted sizes, and there's no way around groin-stranglers in the world of high fashion. in the above photo, hov has finally assumed the true role as Mike Jordan Of Rap by choosing terrible jeans. the color tones are fine but the fits are way off, and he is unsure about how baggy to wear this pant with that top combo so it looks as if the sweater might just float off of him. plus, that face he's making... hov has never been famous the way that he is famous now, where he can't leave the house without being photographed. one way that he was able to maintain a veneer of cool for this many years while being an above-average-awkward guy was by choosing his spots. now that we have to see hov's taco meat on the sands of the riviera or his belly fat on a luxury yacht or his neck trying to swallow his face during a candid shot, there is actually no way for him to remain cool. the way his face moves belies any smoothness in his rhymes. while that's not his fault, it is the world we live in, of ceaseless images and coverage. jay has never been photogenic, so to speak, but this level status (still, arguably, the globe's brightest rap icon) has given him exposure that is unkind to his image, to put it mildly.
Blue Told Me Remind Youhe's a dad now. this is adorable. he needs to spend all of this time carrying and caring for this child. none of us would care if he ever air-wrote another rhyme if he was shepherding that special child into a life of tremendous accomplishment and grace. just do that, hov. it's high time you did, and then we'll all be way more forgiving when the secret children start popping up in your 60s and 70s.
the curious case of shawn carter took an unexpected turn last week. jay z, probably the best rapper to ever touch a microphone, had a senior moment during a concert at manchester. this is a telling sign of a rapper not long for this stage.
what you just viewed was a flash-forward to jay’s late stage career, where he’ll headline the bellagio and the mgm grand 6 nights a week to sold-out audiences every time, and lyric lapses like this one will be common, and met with a wry smile and a ‘wasn’t he great then?’ on a 30th Wedding Anniversary date. those tickets are queued up now and would sell out if released today.
that familiar hov deserves a nod, at that. he was great. but like all great things, gravity will shrivel him up and the earth will suck him into its core like the very mortal that he is. as one-time competitor and friend b.i.g. noted “n*ggas bleed just like us” so the jay-hovah mythology just isn’t enough to keep him away from decrepitude, or the steadily emanating scent of rap decay. the situation is critical.
here are the 5 reasons hov should hang it up before he suffers a wizards-like career-ending footnote.