The world’s gone mad. Multimillionaire rapper Shawn Carter has been arraigned for a stabbing incident on December 1, 1999, and could face up to 17 years in jail. What happened when he allegedly confronted industry exec Lance ‘Un’ Riviera at a [a]Q-Tip[/a] album-launch party is subject to speculation, but it seems a massive setback for the biggest name in rap, Jay-Z. Who, incidentally, now refers to himself as Jay-Hova.
Such Messianic tendencies might suggest a suitable case for medication, but anyone who has existed in and survived to Jay-Z‘s age in Brooklyn’s infamous Marcy projects can be forgiven for declaring themselves a deity.
Inevitably, this fourth album by the crown ruler of rap (who also has a lucrative parallel career ghostwriting hits for others), will triumph at the global musical box office. But is it as hyper-realistic, clever and serrated as past work? Has he coaxed the artform forward?
Yes and no. For, while ‘Snoopy Track’ has a most intense and askew electronic groove, Jay-Z has mainly ditched his original intentions of getting deep and political (aside for the assertive ‘NYMP’), and is up for settling recent scores instead.
Consequently, nothing here is as reflective as ’98’s ‘You Must Love Me’, and Jay-Z admits as much when he confesses that a shattered spirit and a numbness inside has led him towards an aggressive player/ ballin’/ money-flauntin’ lifestyle.
What treats the listener does get are a series of uptempo party tunes much leavened by threats to the masculinity of competitors, as Carter uses his pen to cast himself as ‘Dope Man’ (in which he’s on trial for selling albums), hustler, pimp and teacher.
An intelligent man, with a gifted turn of slang, Jay-Z spits venom one minute and cools out the next. But he always has the jealous, the weak, and those who have crossed him in his sights.