As I write this Jay Z is thirteen solo albums in; the catalog expands exponentially when joint albums and the “MTV Unplugged” jawn are added. His career is a trail blazed with successes. The vast majority of his discography is highly touted… then there’s “ Kingdom Come .” While it charted well, that’s usually where the love ends, it doesn’t even enjoy the apathy or repressed memories reserved for “Streets Is Watching." People’s faces tend to purse up off mere mention of Hov’s ninth, while I regard it one of Shawn Carter’s finest masterpieces; rife with honesty most albums lack and chock full of personal stories you don’t typically get from Jay.
This is my retroactive track by track breakdown of Hov’s strongest foray into grown man shit, an acoustic victory lap, the digital equivalent to your OG unc’ putting you on game – Big homie music.
“The Prelude” – “But I’m just a hustler disguised as a rapper, in fact you can’t fit this hustle inside of a rapper.” Pretty much the mission statement, echoing the “businessman/business-man” rationale, we’re reminded that music is merely the new conduit being employed. Jay left the rap game in order to expand his empire, but Hip Hop’s cultural barometer just couldn’t stay away. Here Hov made it clear that a new era was beginning, this album was designed to be different. Sitting as the then head of Def Jam, Jay was firmly flexing his hustla muscles on this one.
“Oh My God” – Before this term became an annoying acronym it served as a biography. Chronicling Jay’s history of defying the odds, it’s also a subtle clap back to foes that will never have the benefit of being named. By the way, the stunting here is epic; “what you call money I paid in taxes.”
“Kingdom Come” – If Jay Z is good at anything, it is evaluating (and policing) the state of Hip Hop, both NBA jersey and auto-tune trends was laid to rest at his request. In a year where OutKast, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and other Rap heavyweights couldn’t deliver a signature 2006 project, the “King of New York” hops into his phone booth and flies in to the rescue.
“Show Me What You Got” – I get it, I get it!!! It’s mad commercial and while independently a great track it probably wasn’t the look we wanted as Jay’s initial single post an abbreviated retirement. YOU CAN’T TELL ME YOU WEREN’T FEELING F. GARY GRAY’s VIDEO THOUGH!!! It was 90’s Bad Boy meets James Bond; the Lamborghini race on the hills of Monaco, boat race, secret casino party, Jay publicly ending his Crystal endorsement to introduce us to Ace of Spades – genius. If you don’t like that video it’s just time to acknowledge that you’re fundamentally predisposed to a life of surliness.
“Lost One” – This track is emotionally gripping and chronicles three broken relationships. Hov’ goes over the Roc-a-fella breakup, concerns with his wife, and a nephew passing in a whip he gifted. This is as vulnerable as I can remember Jay getting (since “You Must Love Me”). It’s a great listen.
“Do You Wanna Ride” – A scribe to those unable to enjoy the spoils of hard earned success, John Legend is well placed here. The Roc-a-fella split kinda left the impression that Jay was cold, easily cutting off those that served him no purpose, this track bucks that thought process as he reaches out to people that couldn’t finish out the ride with him. His success here is seen as that of his circle. A communal win.
“30 Something” – Remember when I said this album was your OG unc’ putting you on game. This is where 90% of it rests.
“Young enough to know the right car to buy Yet grown enough not to put rims on it I got that six-deuce with curtain, so you can’t see me And I didn’t have to put tints on it I don’t have the bright watch, I got the right watch I don’t buy out the bar, I bought the nightspot I got the right stock, I got Stockbrokers that’s moving it like white tops”
“I Made It” – This one doesn’t really require an explanation, the victory lap continues...
"Anything" - I agree, it's a weird transition to move from a song to mama to the "I Don't Mind" beta, but this one's for the two steppers. OG's love to spread the wealth and this serves as a low key strip club stimulus package. Pharrell once again blesses Jay with a seemingly sun-kissed summer beat and Ursher makes tricking seem like a noble pursuit. We're even advised to try it at home... now why haven't I attempted that yet? Oh, recession.
“Hollywood” – Again, independently a great track, probably a better fit on a Beyonce album, but it’s here. We also, to this point, have a bevy of collaborations by the Urban Chart’s Royal Couple. Sadly, when comparing “Hollywood” to their other songs, it won’t crack the top three list. Any other artistic couple would give up their catalog for a track like this though (that means you Papoose & Remy Ma).
“Trouble” – um, nothing to see here. Skip. Remove it from your iTunes list, you won’t miss it. Shades of “You whippersnappers need to get off my lawn!!!”
“Dig A Hole” – Another track that feels like a filler, additionally Sterling Simms is unbearably annoying – the version without him is a bit easier to digest. The track reveals a lot about the Roc split however as Jay addresses former business partners and disgruntled artists (more specifically Beanie Sigel & Killa Cam). The chorus wears on you though.
“Real niggas like, “Why Hov’ talking to dude? You sellin’ too low, only time you went [platinum] My chain was on your neck. That’s an actual fact…”
“Minority Report” – Jay is often accused of ignoring social issues, although it’s typically revealed after the fact that he’s been instrumental in facilitating change. On this track Jay bemoans the fact that he didn’t personally do enough in the face of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Refreshingly honest, he confronts the ease of sending donations to agencies with shady histories, participating in telethons, etc. versus creating the means to better help the people affected.
“Beach Chair” – One of my favorite Jay Z tracks, this is an artist realizing he’s further from his career’s sunrise than its sunset. Coldplay front man and regular Jay Z collaborator, Chris Martin plays the assist on Jay’s existential exit. With wife in tow inquiring about his happiness, he ends the album opining on his legacy & family, this is as mortal of a look as we’ve ever gotten from the God MC.
“See, I’ve got demons in my past, so I got daughters on the way If the prophesy’s correct, then the child shall have to pay. For the sins of tomorrow, so I barter my tomorrow Against my yesterdays and hope that she’ll be okay.”
Overall, it's almost criminal how underrated this album is. Let me get your thoughts though; agree/disagree/want beef? Please address your concerns to my twitter. Additionally, feel free to check out our "All About The Game" Podcast Facebook page.