When I Come Back Like Jordan
when 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.