Picks and Pans Review: Volume 3
The Life and Times of S. Carter
Jay-Z (Roc-a-fella/Def Jam)
By the time Brooklyn's Jay-Z (né Shawn Carter) released his 1998 smash, the Annie-inspired "Hard Knock Life," his name was already writ large in hip-hop circles. The 30-year-old rapper was hailed by many as heir to the late legends Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. and was so well-regarded as a lyricist that he was hired to pen rhymes for fellow artists. The CD that spawned the single, Volume 2: Hard Knock Life, was a staggering success both artistically and commercially and would stay at No. 1 for five weeks, sell more than 4 million copies and earn Jay-Z a much-deserved Grammy.
On his fourth CD, Jay-Z muses about the lingering impact of becoming a superstar. "I ain't crossover, I brought the suburbs to the hood," he laconically intones on "Come and Get Me." Elsewhere he insists that despite money, fame and a newly acquired summer home, he's still the same guy from the projects. Of course he isn't, but facts rarely interfere with a good story, and Jay can spin yarns like few others. With inventive imagery ("Who ever thought S. Carter would change the game? I used to rap to the raindrops on my windowpane") and a solid, no-nonsense style, Jay-Z pledges his allegiance to the streets. Little matter that he has covered much of this territory before. Jay-Z's ways with rap make it well worth hearing again.
Bottom Line: Hard knocks, hot sounds
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