Ayo whattup…yall back in the presence of the world famous Big Ghost aka Caviar Tusks aka Thor Molecules the great aka the mighty Hands of Zeus aka Shampoo Bracelets the panty melter or Galaxy Knuckles or the muthafuckin wise n powerful Phantom Raviolis. Word life. So as yalls mighta guessed its the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest rap albums n one of my personal favorite albums of all time…Hov’s Black Album. Theres certain monuments in hip hop that jus cant be fucked wit b. This man happen to got a few of em. Theres certain concepts I tried to explain to muthafuckas before but I think the shit was jus too heavy for niggas to grasp namsayin… My main one is Reasonable Doubt to me wasnt the classic at the time it was released that summa yall younger muthafuckas mighta thought the shit was. That shit was like a revisited “oh by the way” type classic. Jay had to “Lil Wayne” that shit into a classic by hisself. Wasnt nobody callin that shit a classic when it dropped or the year after that or the year after that tho…so after Biggie died Jay had began his little campaign to be the cat who ran not only NY but the whole rap game too namsayin. Lemme explain what I mean by that. Wasnt nobody talkin all that classic talk after that album dropped in ’96. It was a dope album…shit was cool…but wasnt nobody callin that shit a classic like that. Jay had traced the steps of Nas n Biggie as far as how he wanted to present hisself…they albums was instant classics right out the gate b. Big had gone 2x platinum off his shit…back when that was some rare shit. Ready To Die was so damn vivid son…ya boy Frank White was paintin pictures n was on some not givin no fucks shit way before Eminem came around. It was like somebody had took Scarface n Ice Cube n Big Daddy Kane n Heavy D n made em into one dude. Nas aint even sell gold at the time but his shit was so damn influential that it aint een matter. When that Illmatic shit dropped it was like the earth stopped spinnin b. Reasonable Doubt? Not so much. On his next album Jay gave us his famous hypothetical scenario of niggas in his projects arguin all day bout “Who the best MCs…Biggie, Jay-Z n Nas” n pushed his way into the conversation even more nahmean. Once again…wasnt nobody includin Jay in that convo at the time bruh. Whether Resonable Doubt deserves the classic status it achieved LATER is besides the point yo.
Lets fast forward a little here to when The Black Album was bein conceptualized n shit. When the ROC was really actually factually the best team in the game. Besides Hov…State Prop n Dipset was all under one umbrella…they had Kanye n Just Blaze… Technically they also had M.O.P. n Ol Dirty Bastard…but obviously none of that shit went as planned b. Jay, Dame n Biggs really had the game on lock tho. Sad thing was the cracks in the foundation was startin to show… Shit mighta had ey’thing to do wit Jay wantin to fall back on the artist side n concentrate on business moves instead nahmean. Jay had said he was gon drop jus one “last” album before he “retired” n it was gon have a black cover wit no tracklist n no credits n no promotion n whatever whatever.
Hov had did a little work wit The Roots on the Unplugged joint n developed a relationship wit Amir “?uestlove” Thompson. So he asked Questo for his musical guidance on what was pose to be his swan song n whatever. If you familiar wit the boy Amir n his repertoire then you already kno his knowledge when it comes to this music shit is vast as fuck. Word is bond…its only a few cats on this earth thats fuckin wit that mans advanced understanding of musical antiquities n shit…myself included. So when Jay sought that mans advice you knew the shit was real. Quest gave Jiggaman the real rap fan dream “wish list” for who he should work wit. But you could tell he aint wanna overstep his boundaries too much n ask son to work wit some obscure underground niggas or advise him to fuck wit MF DOOM or some shit. No disrespect to DOOM at all tho. Im jussayin… Asides from the usual suspects like Kanye (who Amir was hopin would come wit some “Get By” type shit…as in the Talib Kweli joint), The Neptunes, n Just Blaze.. he wanted to bring DJ Premier n Ski Beatz back. He wanted to throw some curveballs in there too…like Beatnuts n J Dilla…n then he threw the idea for DJ Quik at him. He had also wanted MEGAHERTZ (lil niggas is like WHO?) to close out the album which probably sounds like the most outlandish n ridiculous request NOW…but son was kinda hot at the time namsayin. Also he wanted Pain In Da Ass to do his thing on the intro. Nothin too unreasonable b. The craziest shit was he wanted Freeway n Nas to be the only guests on the album tho… NAS. As in the dude who had made “Ether” n said Jay had “dick-suckin lips” less than 2 years before this shit. Obviously that aint pan out. He also suggested that Jay go wit 12 joints n keep it short. Shit coulda been a whole different album yo. Jay responded… He agreed that Primo on the intro n first track would be the right move. He wanted to add Timbaland n Dre to the mix tho. He also wanted to include Rick Rubin n Marley Marl for that vintage classic touch…n he said Beatnuts n Dilla could fight for the last spot. Jay ended up turnin down the Preemo n Dilla submissions n apparently he saved the Dre shit for when he made his “comeback” on Kingdom Come n had the Doc produce 4 joints n mix the whole album. I guess the Marley Marl n Beatnuts shit never came to fruition at all tho.
Nobody knew what to expect nahmean. Then this shit popped up on the internets n REALLY fucked niggas heads up…
In the end the shit turned out the way it turned out…but ?uestlove had made one comment that really drives home the point Im makin here b. Son was quoted sayin “I think he should bring it on home, sure–Reasonable Doubt is dope, but I know and he knows….that he has yet to make his Illmatic”. Sonnnnnnn…allow me to refer my man Questo to Resonable Doubt, track 8. Jay had already blessed us wit The Blueprint n changed the landscape of hip hop (thats some shit that professional music journalists such as myself be sayin) forever. That was a forreal INSTANT n eternal classic. Straight up. But Questo was right… Jay DIDNT have his own Illmatic yet. Blueprint was dope but Illmatic aint had no “Jigga That Nigga” type throwaways on it. Maybe if he had taken that n the mediocre ass “Hola Hovito” (dont argue wit me on this) shit off it coulda been the flawless masterpiece it was destined to be. But he wanted to sell records too…understandably so. Thats why we got “Izzo” instead of a “It Aint Hard To Tell” type joint as the 1st single. Truthfully Ion think Jay was aspirin to compete wit Illmatic or Nas like that anymore at this point anyways namsayin. He had already self-declared Reasonable Doubt to be on par wit any niggas classic debut album n by this point him n Nas had already let the beef cool off. But if he was gon prove he could make his own statement on his own terms n really drop that hammer on muthafuckas heads…this was that time b.
1. Interlude – Jokes on you Jay…interludes happen in the middle of shit not at the beginning yo… By Kingdom Come he had got the word right n named the first track “Prelude” tho…which was also a better intro. This shit is jus Just Blaze mushmouth readin a sonnet or some shit at the most hard to fuckin understand volume known to man for a minute n a half. Son I had no idea what the fuck homie was sayin for like 8 years n shit. But the beat was cool n it sets up the first joint nicely…
2. December 4th – Son this shit jus sounded so glorious when it came thru the speakers for the first time. The backdrop Just Blaze gave Hov to paint his murals over was so lush n elegant..shit was like bein bathed in the nectars of Heavens orchards by the hands of a dozen naked sirens n then carried into the clouds by a thousand swans to have a menage a trois wit Isis n Aphrodite upon the rings of Saturn n shit. Jay got his moms Gloria to narrate the story…I mean she aint no Morgan Freeman or nothin but she got the job done. Had her sayin shit to stroke his ego like how at 4 he taught hisself how to ride a bike talmbout “Is-int that speh-shull?” What else could you ask for tho…the “last” Hov album was off to a majestically executed start my nigga. Praise was due…
3. What More Can I Say – …n like THAT…son hits you wit that one two punch n that right cross jus tapped yall in the muthafuckin chin n snapped ya jaw off. I mean Hov aint exactly known for his lack of confidence…but when else did son ever sound this arrogant n in complete control of his muthafuckin universe again b? Lemme answer that for you…never fuckin ever ever ever again. Son jus took confident to a whole nother height on this shit. This like the pinnacle of braggadocio rap right here b. What makes all that shit so dope is he could back up damn near anything he said on this shit son. Shit bangs to this day bruh. The Gladiator shit on the intro was like the cherry on top of all that greatness underneath it yo. Salute to The Buchanans for cookin up that work nahmean.
4. Encore – Im a big fan of niggas who kno how to sequence they albums right bruh. From a logical standpoint a rational cat might think to hisself that the second to last song would be a good spot for a track named “Encore”…but as far as the flow of the album is concerned…this shit actually makes sense. This whole album was like Jay’s encore anyways…this was a victory lap b. He was in the best form of his career n son was really really on top at that time namsayin. Jay was the most successful rapper (Puffy not a rapper b) n he had the hottest chick in the game wearin his chain…he had bread, respect, n the crown. What more could the nigga really need… Lil Wayne was still on his 500 Degreez shit n rockin 5 ft long wife beaters wit his Hot Boys brethren so any talk bout “heirs” was bein saved for ey’body favorite durag under the fitted rockin weed carrier Memphis Bleek. Only time would prove that Jigga had no intentions of EVER passin the legacy on to any these niggas tho bruh.
5. Change Clothes – I always felt like Pharrell never truly appreciated the opportunities he had to work wit Hov. I mean this dude is like 3/4 of The Neptunes n was responsible for makin “Grindin”…this the muthafucka who made “Drop It Like Its Hot”…n the whole damn Hell Hath No Fury album b… But how is it when it comes time to work wit one of the greatest to ever do it he be comin wit shit like “Excuse Me Miss” n “Give It To Me” or forgettable bullshit like “Nigga Please” or “A Ballad For The Fallen Soldier”? Fuckouttahere son. It took me years to give a fuck bout this track b. My main issues wit it mighta had more to do wit the fact that Jay released it as the first single off the album. Had the shit jus been on the LP mindin its own business it probably woulda never bothered me like that namsayin. But when son put the spotlight on this shit it jus made it stand out too much. Truth be told tho this shit was kinda fly…like on some Prince circa Sign O The Times shit. Its also like son takin a break from all the epicness on the album so far n catchin his breath…maybe to cater directly to some broads n whatever. Sometimes you jus gotta appease the females n thats exactly what son did here b. Chicks love two things…Pharrell croonin on records n old Prince songs. That shit was in the bag yo.
6. Dirt Off Your Shoulders – Now we gettin back to the epicness. After Timbaland stalled on Jay n gave him that half ass shit on Blueprint n BP2…this was owed to the nigga. This that Timbo wit the gallon of fruit punch in the studio n the pack of ballpark wieners on the back of his neck shit b! Aint nothin else that needs to be said bout this shit. I aint gon make no corny references to how even Obama dusted off his shoulders durin his campaign n shit like that cuz thats neither here nor there. This shit was certified by the people before it got the mainstream stamp of approval from muthafuckas like Wolf Blitzer or Ellen bruh…fuckouttahere.
7. Threat – 9th Wonder been had the respect of the underworld in rap for over a decade now son. When he started out it was mad comparisons to cats like the legendary Pete Rock n Marley Marl nahmean. At the time it seemed like son was bout to become the next “THAT nigga” in rap. ?uestlove had brought him to Jay’s attention…so it was definitely one of those bein in the right place at the right time kinda things for son. But Jay mighta wanted the mans services more for his name than for his actual actual contributions. Hov n em brought 9th into a room n let him play like 30 beats but in the end…he ended up showin him the R Kelly “A Woman’s Threat” sample he wanted him to flip n jus let the man put the shit together however he wanted. Jay got on his menacin shit n balanced the shit out wit some comic relief from Cedric The Entertainer. The rest is history my dude.
8. Moment Of Clarity – After Nas had made the claim that Eminem murdered Jay on his own shit when they did the “Renegade” joint…it was almost like Hov jus said NAW I AINT RAPPIN ON NO MORE SONGS WIT THE WHITE BOY… But he wasnt too proud to spit over Marshall’s BEATS tho. As far as the track goes…shit dont really hold a candle to the “Renegade” beat at all…but in the hands of the Jiggaman the song transcended all that mediocreness n became his most personal joint since “You Must Love Me” n shit. This muthafucka is filled wit quotables…but you really get one of Jay’s most potent n honest lines ever on this song son…
“If skills sold…truth be told…
Id probably be, lyrically…Talib Kweli
Truthfully…I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did 5 mil…I aint been rhymin like Common since.”
9. 99 Problems – How stooooopid is this beat son? Before Rick Rubin was givin Kanye the thumbs up on summa the most unlistenablest music of his career n doin his best to sabotage Eminem albums he made his official comeback to hip hop on this classic joint. Rick had been runnin the rock n country n easy listening genres for a hot minute before Jigga asked him to contribute to his magnum opus. The shit he cooked up was so marvellous it probably blew Jay’s hairline back a full inch the first time he heard it yo. This was like a classic Run DMC joint on steroids b. If you knocked this shit on the right speakers you could collapse buildings wit it. It brought the best outta Hovi too. Lyrically…shit was on point from jump…but when he got to the 2nd verse…it was a wrap son. The story wit the po-po pullin young Sean Cory Carter over n the interaction between him n Jakes was like the illest narrative since he did his thing on Friend Or Foe. Its too bad Jay aint really known for his storytellin abilities cuz when son really wants to he gets his Charles Dickens on like its nothin b. Shit was crazy. The end result? Top 5 in his catalog easy (not gon argue this shit neither).
10. Public Service Announcement (Interlude) – Shit was jus gettin unfair by now yo… I mean its like back to back bangers all over this muthafuckin album but he straight took it to the next next next next level on this shit b. The album was a wrap by the time this shit happened namsayin. The record was goin out to be mastered the next day apparently… Then Just Blaze happens to show Jay the beat n Hov felt compelled to bless it even tho the album was done. As a rapper…how could you NOT wanna snap on that shit tho. Im sayin yo…that beat jus makes me wanna hop up on my zebroid n gallop all over yall niggas couches n shit. Fuckouttahere… But gettin back to the shit that happened that day…ayo if you had stopped the story right there…after Just Blaze had collided wit destiny n found the sample that he used to make the beat that he showed to Jay who blacked the fuck out over it…its like the rap gods was lookin out for the ROC that day b. But only to a certain degree nahmean…cuz it turned out that Black Moon had a joint produced by Da Beatminerz that flipped the exact same sample on the Total Eclipse album a month before called “Stay Real”…which happened to be bananas too fam. History favors the nigga thats worth half a billi tho…n a lotta muthafuckas forgot bout the Black Moon banger over time namsayin. But both joints deserve recognition for helpin to keep that hardcore raw rugged n dirty hip hop alive b. Jay had the nerve to try n call this shit a interlude tho…
11. Justify My Thug – Niggas was hyped up for this shit son. Probably not for the fact that Madonna was pose to be on the track but cuz Jay was finally workin wit one of the west coast’s finest producers b. I mean at the time it looked like Quik AND Dre was gon be on the album but Jay had never worked wit Quik so it was dope that he was the one that aint get left off. As far as DJ Quik joints go…this is far from bein sons most incredible work or anything like that. Seemed like he kept the shit stripped down n pretty basic…on the surface n shit. If you really listen to this shit on the right speakers you get the full experience tho. Plus it jus had that pop to it… Ion mean POP like One Direction shit I mean like you could really feel that groove pulsatin in ya veins n shit. Jiggaman more than blessed the track wit his ill ass “Michael Schumacher of the Roc roster” type brags… The dopest touch was the Run DMC scratched vocals Quik put on this shit…that shit took it from lukewarm to straight fire b. How could you not fuck wit it?
12. Lucifer – This shit right here like the hidden jewel in the rough on the album b. This shit jus came in like boom boom..in n out quickfast namsayin. It was so easy to miss but truth be told this one of the most incredible joints in Jay whole catalog b. Word is bond. Kanye did his damn thing on the track too. This was before Ye went from egomaniac to jus plain ol maniac witta ego nahmean. I mean son had the whole vision laid out for Jay…from the hook to the flow to the concept… But you cant not give credit to the god tho cuz Jigga snapped on this shit. The last verse where son speaks on his friend who had got shot n killed while he was drivin was some straight gifted shit b…
“So curse the day that birthed the bastard
who caused ya church mass…reverse the crash
Reverse the blast…n reverse the car
Reverse the day…n there you are…Bobalob”
I mean that aint no regular rap shit son. When niggas was sayin Jay had sold his soul to the devil it was cuz of shit like that b. I mean theres niggas thats jus lyrically nice but this was more than jus spittin words that rhymed together…he was reachin into the chest cavities of new niggas who wanted him to move out the way n give em a chance to shine n pullin out they hearts while the shits was still beatin n holdin it up to they faces n tellin em little niggas…NAH.
13. Allure – This shit also took me a long ass time to appreciate b. Sumn bout these Neptunes joints was jus wild disappointing to me par. Truth be told this still one of my least favorite joints on the album…even tho its dope…I jus never bought how Pharrell had hyped this shit up talmbout this beat like the end of Carlito’s Way n whatever whatever… Muthafucka I seen the movie n this not the kinda shit I be picturin while Carlito laid out in the train station or while the credits is rollin n shit. Nigga had Jay gassed forreal. This probably also the most lyrically laid back shit on the album too yo.
14. My 1st Song – Imagine if Hov had actually left the game on this note b…I mean its all here namsayin. You got his homeboy/muse Biggie Smalls on the intro droppin the science behind the track n shit…you got Jay floatin over the beat spittin some rapid ass shit like when he first came into the game but flippin it on some modern type shit…like he had come full circle forreal. Then he tellin stories for the last half of the song on some bitter sweet shit. It was jussa dope ass way to exit the game…on top namsayin. I mean…the last song on any Jay Z album…n its called “My 1st Song”. Thats jus poetic yo…he coulda went out on a high note n immortalized his legacy n lived forever nahmean. But ego is muthafucka…n as we all kno…son came back wit the Jordan #45 jersey on n 10 years later dude still steppin in the mic booth n droppin albums.
To keep the shit 100 wit yalls…Jay had a lotta great moments after The Black Album b. The Kanye “Never Let Me Down” joint… that shit was beyond ridiculous. Plus he jumped on the Young Gunz album…the “Diamonds” remix…the “Go Crazy” joint wit Jeezy… He had the “Dear Summer” joint on Memphis Bleek album. I mean how many muthafuckas drop a solo joint on somebody else album…n that gon be the best song on the album to top shit off. When he made his “comeback”…it definitely wasnt the triumphant return of the king that niggas was expectin it to be…but what you gon do? He still dumbed out on “Umbrella” tho. Then he came back wit American Gangster…which gotta be in his own top 5 best albums namsayin. On the other hand he also dropped the Blueprint 3 album…which wasnt so dope. Either way…its pretty muthafuckin NOT LIKELY AT ALL that dog is gon be able to reach this level again. Jay ranks The Black Album as either his 3rd or 2nd best (Reasonable Doubt bein his all-time #1…n Blueprint bein his usual 2nd choice)… Me? I disagree. I think The Blueprint was his most complete n influential album…but The Black Album? Son that shit is its own monster yo… This the gawds favorite album outta his whole catalog PERIOD. Shit sounds like a greatest hits joint… On the flip side of that coin BP1 was more like a project wit one sound holdin it all together. It aint mean one was stronger or better than the other tho. They was jus two different kinds of animals yo. One was like a gorilla n the other was like shark nahmean. Obviously gorillas dont be all in the ocean swimmin cuz they land dwellin creatures n swing from vines n eat bamboo n shit like that…meanwhile muthafuckin sharks aint gon crawl thru the jungle jus to fight gorillas n shit. So these muthafuckas…its like they paths never really cross. Which is coo… But then you got his first album…which mighta been more like a Eagle or some shit like that… Now dont get it fucked up cuz eagles really dont play b. These muthafuckas be swoopin down on white folk while they campin n pickin up they 6 year old kids n flyin off wit em from time to time nahmean. They dont fuck around dunny. But they also not fuckin wit gorillas n sharks like that on a physical level…not as far as science is concerned namsayin. Cuz like I was sayin you not gon see gorillas flyin thru the sky n shit or eagles divin into the ocean to fuck up some sharks b. Whether you believe in creation or evolution…we jus not there namsayin. God not givin gorillas wings n Im pretty sure if evolution is even really a thing it aint in natures plans to give sharks n gorillas the ability to fly nahmean. Thats jus too far out there even for science namsayin. I mean imagine if sharks was flyin round in the air yo…that shit only happen in movies. Or imagine if you in a boat or you snorkellin in a cove or some shit n a muthafuckin gorilla swimmin by you…doin breaststrokes n shit… I mean cmon my nigga. So once again how you gon compare RD to BP1 or to TBA… Thats preposterous b. I mean son mighta had slightly more lyrical dexterity on Reasonable Doubt…but he was diggin into deeper themes n shit on this album. It wasn’t his biggest sellin album…that honor actually goes to Vol. 2 aka the Hardknock Life album…but you tell me which album aged better yo. Vol. 2 was basically a peacock…cuz that shit was all flashy wit bright colors n whatnot…n technically the shit had wings…but the shit aint fly like that nahmean. Yo that was a play on words namsayin so you might gon have to read that part over n give me my muthafuckin dap for that one bruh bruh. Word is bond. We not een gon get into the impact this album had tho son… Sellin out the Garden (in a day)… the Collision Course joint wit LinkinPark…the way it set off the trend of cats remixin whole albums…the way it set off Danger Mouse entire career when he made The Grey Album…the amount of anthems this shit had… I mean this was a monumental moment in hip hop b. That shit aint never gon happen again ever. Gettin back to what ?uestlove was sayin bout how Jay never made his own Illmatic tho…that shit may be true to this day namsayin. You cant be mad at facts. But yo…Nas never had a Black Album b.
I gives this shit 5 Zeus Slaps outta 5