Welcome back. Quite frankly, when you left the game in 2006, the Hovi fan nation was upset, but content. After all, you had already crafted your place as one of the best to cradle a mic.
But then you came back and you released Kingdom Come. Sure, we all fought to convince critics that it might be too sophisticated to the average listener. But deep down, we knew that no one wanted to hear about your yacht exploits with Gwyneth Paltrow. And no one believed for one second that 30 was the new 20.
We needed you to weave the same street tales that inspired awe and intrigue in ’96.
And with American Gangster, you did just that. You were back fluidly hammering soul samples with an unrivaled flow.
I knew we were in for a treat once you began to cunningly craft a vivid street tale of your entry into the game in the opening track “Pray.” That was the first of six Puffy and the Hitmen’s cinematic soul inspired tracks that you unleashed your lyrical prowess on.
Admittedly, I was skeptical reading the liner notes when I saw Lil’ Wayne’s name resting next to a song entitled, “Hello Brooklyn.” But somehow you and that other Carter did Bigg D’s heavy 808’s some justice. Wayne sang and you rapped. It was magic.
But it was not as magical as the collaboration with you and Nas, “Success.” When you mocked doubters with lines like “N*** thought Hova was over/ big dummies/ even if I fell I land on a bunch of money,” I knew the old Jay-Z was back.
And formidable rhymes like, “Only he without sin/can tell me if the means can justify the end” over DJ Toomp’s larger than life bass lines mixed with the obscure 70’s sample on, “Say Hello” let me know that you haven’t lost a step. I think you might have even gained one or two.
You had every right to celebrate your ascension in the game on track nine, “Party life” and track seven, “Sweet”.
There were no fedoras and scarves this time, but it felt like Reasonable doubt all over again. This wasn’t an album, it was a soundtrack of a hustler.
No, you don’t have the single worthy bangers that we expect. But like you said on “No Hook,” this isn’t for commercial usage. You even got Jermaine Dupri to produce a track that Bow Wow could never rap on in “Fallen.” And, is that Bilal on the hook? Anyway, the album didn’t really need the revamped version of “Ignorant S***.” It was a gem a few years ago, but the album would have been epic without it.
Let me be the first of many fans to congratulate your production of yet another flawless rap opus. Lord knows the game needed it.
Sincerely in the name of Hip Hop,