He's the Mike Jordan of recording and like Number 23, he comes out of retirement to much fanfare. But also like Jordan, Jay Z seems to suffer the same outcome.
In spite of its shortcomings, the album is comparable, for the most part, to his other albums – not in comparison to those of other rappers. Kingdom Come is still far better than most hip hop albums out today. Much like Jordan, because of physical incapability, he could not keep up with the athletes he himself had inspired, athletes that had grown up trying to leap over the bar he had set. Most of the tracks find Jay embracing his maturity, his movement away from the brashness and gaudiness of his youth. Like the lyrics to "30 Something" say, "I'm young enough to know which car to buy, yet grown enough not to put rims on it" and "I don't buy out the bar, I bought the nightspot."
But ultimately, it doesn't live up to the high standards he himself set for the rap world. It is that brashness, coupled with his hustler narratives, that make us love him so much. And though I enjoy his new narrative influences, the Superman theme in "Kingdom Come," and the Jesus self-comparison in "Dig a Hole," it's just not the same.
My favorite tracks: "Kingdom Come" – Much has been written about this track since it was first leaked. Just Blaze's usage of Rick James' "Superfreak" (with arrangements by ?uestlove), though not one of his best, is interesting in its savior imagery, "Not only NYC, I'm hip hop's savior."
"Beach Chair" – In a time when rap songs are not listened to for the lyrics but for the beats, how is it that with songs produced by some of hip-hops most talented beatmakers — Just Blaze, Dr. Dre, and Pharrell — the best track comes from rock's Chris Martin?
"Hollywood" featuring Beyonce – Just about any collaboration with his wildly famous other half is destined to be a hit and I'm sure if this is released, it will be. It's insanely infectious, especially to the non-hip hop purist. (Hip hop heads would probably think this song akin to blasphemy.) I can't get it out of my head as I push repeat, again.
"Anything" featuring Usher and Pharrell – I didn't expect this from Jove, with the new, grown up image, CEO, practically married to Beyonce, but it's still enjoyable. Not quite a club jam but it couples his swift, brash flow with Usher's R and B smoothness over Pharrell's chill bounce. Almost a throwback piece, with lightness and sexual charisma, from one of his earlier albums.
Nice and Smooth said "Sometimes I rhyme slow sometimes I rhyme quick." For me, Jay always seems to fair better when his flow has a bit of quickness to it, perhaps it makes things sound a bit more clever than they already are.
"Minority Report" – The most poignant of all the tracks, this one contains his view of Hurricane Katrina and the governmental mistakes that followed. It gives us a sense of sincerity and should probably be the one that shines through most.