Fade to Black

Fans have watched Jay-Z grow up quickly over the span of his career. The multi-million dollar rapper has come a long way and fast. He first presented himself as a young, hungry, charismatic MC in 1996 with “Reasonable Doubt.” A couple of years later he ascended to his throne with his five-times platinum album, “Vol. 2 – Hard Knock Life.” The much-anticipated 2001 album, “Blueprint,” was supposed to be his first stab at retirement. Now, four albums later, Jay-Z presents “The Black Album.”

Jay-Z’s latest album, “The Black Album,” certainly will not disappoint his fans. From his deep inner reflection on “December 4th,” to the commercial stamina of “Change clothes,” all the way to the bittersweet finale “My first song,” the album delivers creative, hard-driving beats and eyebrow-raising lyrics.

In this, his supposed last album, Jigga has a lot to say about those who have had so much to say about him. He doesn’t seem to hesitate to bring up some of the controversial subjects that have had an impact on his career. He address issues such as his use of Biggie’s lyrics in his third track, “What more can I say.”

I’m not a biter, I’m a writer for myself and others/ I say a Big verse/ I’m only biggin’ up my brother/ biggin’ up my borough/ I’m big enough to do it/ I’m that thorough/ plus I know my own flow is foolish.

Jay-Z spends a little too much time on the CD rapping about his career. Understandably, his career was the focus of his final album. However, he gets annoying after about the fourth track of him ranting about how great he is.

Tracks like “Threat” bring “Reasonable Doubt” flashbacks as Jay’s lyrics pulse with the type of energy that made him famous. It’s as if he is letting his listeners know that while he makes his money off “commercial rhymes,” he hasn’t lost a bit of the edge that brought him this far.

The album flows smoothly from beginning to end, and will keep heads nodding and trunks rattling with tracks such as “Lucifer” and “99 problems.”

Production wise the album is fairly decent. Producers such as DJ Quik, Kanye West, Timbaland and Eminem grace the tracks in mediocrity as Jay-Z compliment them with his rhymes. Producers Just Blaze, The Neptunes and Rick Rubin bring some more worthy material to the table. Jigga does seem to show a lot of versatility by flowing over such a wide range of beats.

Overall, “The Black Album” is a must have for any Hip-hop fan’s collection. While it isn’t Jay’s best album, it is certainly one of his biggest statements. He is without question one of the greatest MCs ever.

Grade B+