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I’ve been listening to this album repeatedly for the last ten hours or so, trying to figure out where to start with this review. Finding a direction to where the richest and (disputably) best rapper alive’s album is going was taxing. But after much deliberation, I think it’s safe to say that not only is he at the top of his game, but also has been meditation on his evolution.

People have been saying that this is Jay-Z’s last album, but of course I’m going to throw that notion potion out the window. So let’s get to the nitty gritty, and BaRF on this album; something I haven’t done in quite some time now. What better album than this?

Beats 8/10

I honestly think the rumor of Timbaland producing the entire album would have been great…if it were true. While most the beats had me bobbing my head for invisible apples on my desk, they weren’t the best I had heard all year.

A Star Is Born, is track nine, and had that gritty/harmonic juxtaposition that has a flowing head nod feel to it. Sampled from the Mother Freedom Band’s Touch Me, it was a perfect flow for Hov to rap over.

D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) was a tight beat, albeit heavily sampled from the song In the Space by Janko Nilovic and Dave Sucky. I guess I liked it not because of the creativity of the beat, but rather the excellent song sample choice.

Swizz Beatz produced the seventh track, On To The Next One, which apparently sampled D.A.N.C.E. by Justice, but I don’t know from where exactly. It reminded me of the beat from A Milli by Lil Wayne, with the same thing droning in the background, and the beat dropping out save for the drums for certain parts.

My two favorite beats go to Timbaland though. First, the eighth track, Off That, which gives me that futuristic urban feel; with Venus Vs. Mars being that downlow jungle beat that gets the ladies in the mood.

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Rhymes 6.5/10

Jay Z isn’t exactly the most socially conscious rapper out there (unless it has to do with him directly), But I do appreciate the message and direction of the album. He does just like President Obama did, and clarified the bullshit for everyone before saying thank you and moving on. Lets Discuss.

What We Talkin’ About was a great way to kick the album off, calling out Jay-Z’s defectors and competitors. He even takes time out to make a shout out to the President (the first time of many on the album) and the White House. Here’s a clip of the lyrics:

Blueprint 3 And now that that's that Lets talk about the future We have just seen the dream as predicted by Martin Luther Now you could choose ta Sit in front of your computa Posin' with guns Shootin YouTube up Or you could come with me to the White House get your suit up

Off That was another favorite of mine, for its rant about what Jay-Z used to be into, but now what he’s off. Drake sings the hook, with a song about calling out haters and their old ways. Here’s the hook:

Drizzy Drake: Whatever you about to discover We off that You about to tell her you love it, we off that Always want to fight in the club and we off that But you can't bring the future back Ya'll steady chasing the fame, we off that Oversize clothes and the chains, we off that Niggas still makin' it rain and we off that But you can't bring the future back

Tell them hatas get off me Cris we off that Timbs we off that Rims we off that

Jay-Z: Yeah we off that Is you still on that And we still making money cuz we still on that

Featurettes 8/10

I give the album this score because of the level of album sales the people featured on it will bring, in addition to their relative badassness.

Rihanna was an obvious choice for this album, with Jay-Z playing the big brother role for quite some time now. She sings the hook to Run This Town; quite well I might add.

Alicia Keys sings the hook (and I assume played the piano ) on Empire State of Mind. I’ve always been a fan of her work, and being a resident New Yorker, it was only right to have her jump on a track with Hov.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Drake on the roster for this album, for his hook on Off That. Drake is one of the most hyped guys in the business right now, so I tip my hat to him gaining a pass to record on this album, albeit only the hook.

Kanye West actually cracked me up on the first verse of Hate. A song which he also produced, his verse was cocky to the level we have known and learned to love.

Also making me laugh was Pharrell in his Neptunes produced song, So Ambitious. He sings the hook with Z, amid another playful circus sounding beat.” I’m so ambitious…I might hit two sisters”. Classic.

In Conclusion

I would have loved to see a collaboration between fellow Bedford-Stuyvesant MC Mos Def, but maybe that’s just me (or theres some beef there that I don’t know about). But overall, this was another great album by Jay-Z, even if I don’t think it would be the best album to walk away from the game with.

I think this is the intro album to another chapter in the Hov universe, with several oppoutunities to make more albums during the current presidency. What would be really crazy though, is if Beyonce and President Obama jumped on a track with Jay-Z… C’mon, you know that shit would be insane.

Until next time my friends,

~Flak