Monday, November 13, 2006

Jay-Z: 2006's Worst Rap Album?


Shut up, shut up, shut up.

I'm not gonna mince words like the hiphop blogs trying to find something nice to say about Kingdom Come or button my lip like Status Ain't Hood. Kingdom Come fucking sucks, end of story. "99 Problems" was the perfect capper on a hardly perfect but almost never embarassing career, and in three busy business years for Def Jam, if I didn't expect Jay-Z to come up with something as epochal, I at least trusted him to phone in something still worth putting out. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The first bad sign was "Show Me What You Got," which I wrote off safely as one of those mixtape-type "singles" that no one seriously believes will get to MTV and just sort of whet people's appetites for an album. Wrong again: there Jay was, racing cars on MTV to a lame instrumental Just Blaze jacked from Public Enemy and making even that look boring. Then came the news Jay would be soliciting a contribution from Chris Martin. That could be interesting. Wrong, wrong, so wrong it is unbelievable. Mr. Paltrow didn't even go the piano syrup route, he took like, fucking Dre synths and badly echoed slow-thud-drums, far out of his own territory into just an embarassing mess. I mean, Coldplay's violently bowed "Politik" is more gangsta. But this song's called "Beach Chair," which apparently evoked to him some kind of muddy 80s synth-mix. Bad earnest rock singer.

At the end of the day, this muddle is all Jay's fault. There's not a quotable rhyme anywhere on the entire cd, and most of the music is worth attacking. I think the title tune was conceived as some kind of triumphant "I'm-back" thing like Run-DMC's "Down With The King" and he couldn't even manage that. The closest he comes to a decent heads-up jam is Just Blaze's "Oh My God" which coincidentally evokes Coldplay's "Politik" but doesn't sound (ouch) quite as violent. The other decent song is the Erykah Badu/Tribe Called Quest-flavored "Lost Ones," which tries to be conscious over a hazy, rolling piano figure and doesn't altogether suck. But the only Actual Good Song, the one I'll play over and over, is the damn-smooth "Do U Wanna Ride?" which is almost entirely John Legend's fault, spoiling Jay's utter cluelessness throughout the rest of the album. A Beyonce appearance that sounds like a B'Day knockoff? Of course. An overly clubby second half that was done better on (double ouch) Diddy's new Press Play? Gulp. A muddled, "serious" Katrina song featuring Ne-Yo near record's end that feels totally inconsequential and uninspired when it should be urgent and affecting? Produced by Dr. Dre, the reigning king of conscious rap? Man, what a fucking failure.

At least Diddy admits his laziness. Jay may be hard at work overcharging African concertgoers for their own Water For Life proceeds and lunching with Pete Wentz but he's definitely fucking dead to the music, even though most of his influences should be right in front of him. I mean, did he learn nothing about success from his buddy Kanye? What a missed opportunity, assuming it had to be an opportunity at all. But don't think old rival Nas isn't jumping on this shit-music trend himself. He might've just upped the ante by entrusting will.i.am with his first single and letting him sample "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" again. Who samples the same song twice? But that's another rant for another disappointing 2006 rap record to be. In the meantime, until Kingdom Come is officially brought into the world on Nov. 21, let's hope Jay considers abortion before he gives birth to his first true red-headed stepchild that can't be blamed on R. Kelly.

Kingdom Come: C

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