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.