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Jay-Z : Unplugged
The Jigga, powerless. In a manner of speaking...
It's a good idea that goes way beyond the ancient (and usually disappointing) live rap template of two turntables and a microphone. But 'Unplugged' goes too far in the other direction. For a start, it's about as unplugged as Blackpool illuminations. Call it nickpicking, but since when were the Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes piano acoustic instruments? And the band in question, conscious hip hoppers The Roots, smooth over the jagged edges of Jay's most biting moments with overly slick muso efficiency. Their sawing strings on 'Takeover' are no substitute for the magisterial thump of the original track's Doors sample, while 'Izzo (HOVA)' suffers from interminable doodling over which Jay-Z, tongue firmly in cheek, declares 'Welcome to my poetry reading'.
Yet Jay's natural talent is such that he shines almost regardless of context - even when MTV rules dictate that he can't even swear! Skittering over 'Jigga That Nigga', defeating the ear-fraying backing vocals on 'Heart Of The City (Ain't No Love)', this is the sound of a man at the top of his game.
Though some tracks are pointlessly thrown away in a medley, 'Unplugged' underlines what an amazing back catalogue the man possesses, a Greatest Hits of dreams. (Hearing him and Mary J Blige rocket from 0 to 90 on a medley of 'Can't Knock The Hustle' and 'Family Affair' is pretty cool, too.)
You need Jay-Hova in your life, but this isn't the place to start. Get 'The Blueprint', not a pale facsimile.
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