White Suburban Kid Reviews Classic Hip-Hop Albums

Dark Man X. Earl Simmons. DMX. Whatever moniker you’ve chosen to give your favorite rapper/actor/lunatic/drug addict/autobiographer/reality show contestant, the fact remains, he’s been a fun guy to pay attention to the last 15 or so years. Of course, most of that enjoyment has come in packages other than hit singles.

Like, say, this Christmas treat.

Or, this.

Or, that.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. So, without further ado…

…And Then There Was X

Right off the bat, you’ve gotta love two things about this album: it’s title and it’s cover. Like many in his catalog, this one is both oddly religious and blatantly boring (though, I personally feel “Year of the Dog… Again” is the best title of his, for many of reasons, not the least of which is that there never was a first “Year of the Dog” necessitating an again.)

Let’s get to a few of the facts… this album was his biggest selling album (then and to-date), it spawned three of his biggest hits, and ultimately the biggest hit of his career, “Party Up”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of Earl’s music. I’ve enjoyed his hit singles (admittedly sometimes not ironically) but outside of that, he’s never been a guy that produces CDs where I think, “No, I should listen to more than just the stuff on the radio.” I’m convinced, largely, that the best we’ve ever seen from DMX is what we’ve heard on radio. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

In that vein, we’re going to investigate those three hit songs. For no reason other than logic, we’ll do it in order of appearance on the CD.

Party Up (Up In Here) – Well, for starters, what’s with the parenthetical information? It’s like D’Angelo’s “Untitled” for some reason feeling the need to have a (How Does It Feel). Actually, it’s not quite as stupid as that.* But, it’s close and it’s equally unnecessary. The party couldn’t be going on anywhere else than in here, that would have been illogical to think otherwise Earl. Tsk, tsk.

The song itself is produced by Swizz Beatz, one of his first few enormous hits (the others being “Jigga My N*gga”, “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and “Gotta Man”).  Verse one starts off in classic Earl fashion, dropping the beautifully crafted warning to potential foes:

If I gotsta bring it to you cowards then it’s gonna be quick, aight
All your mens up in the jail before, suck my dick

Well, then.

Moving on, we get the incredible rhyming of “nine one one shit… dumb shit… some shit”.  Pure, genius.

General theme of the song: He’s fairly angry at everyone (namely, other rappers). And he’s about to lose his cool, up in here (specifically, everywhere).

What These Bitches Want (feat Sisqo) – I want to apologize. If you clicked on the previous link, you went to “What They Really Want”, the edited version of the song we all know and love. I couldn’t find the unedited version, but in some ways, watching this video achieves the same humorous goals and then some.

I have so many things to say about this song and video, I’m just going to do it list style.

  1. This is my second favorite DMX song (in terms of pure enjoyment), just behind “How’s It Going Down”.
  2. This is my favorite DMX song (in terms of humor).
  3. Sisqo’s robotic dance moves, coupled with his denim (maybe?) pants, are priceless.
  4. This was the first time, I believe, I’d ever seen under-boob (Veronica, at the 1:46 mark).
  5. That second verse, where he straight-up lists 46 women is absolutely epic (that includes “About Three Kims”, which frankly is a hotly contested point of debate. Did he mean that he had sex with three different women named Kim? Is he joking about how there’s been so many women, one Kim felt like three? If he is telling the truth, how good are his approximation skills?). After he lists them all, he’s even bold/crazy enough to claim that “they were all treated fairly”. Indeed, Earl. Indeed.
  6. This video is clearly happening during the summer, and yet Earl refuses, in the street scenes, to be in anything other than a (seemingly) velour jumpsuit. Granted, no t-shirt but come on. Ditch the tough guy, for once.
  7. This is one of the many songs in DMX’s rhetorical, question-based genre. (“How’s It Going Down”, “Where My Dogs At”, the next song in this list…)

General takeaway: Earl, if you’re question is, “What do these ladies want from me?”, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the answer is to not be having random intercourse with at least 45 other women at the same time, regardless of your touring schedule.

What’s My Name – This song is hopelessly idiotic. It could’ve very well been a 27 second song. That’s how long it takes for him to answer his own question, one I’m sure no one was asking. You know, honey, I bought this CD but the artist’s name is no where to be found on the packaging, CD art, or tracklisting. If only there was a whole four minute song dedicated to solving this conundrum…

You see, to me, Earl Simmons missed his true calling. Sure, he did fine in the music game, but what he should’ve been doing was voice work, reading books on tape. His voice, along with Christoph Waltz and Christopher Walken, turns just about anything into a more enjoyable anything (See above: Red Nose Reindeer, Rudolph the).

DMX is like Dave Chappelle, in that everything that he says, no matter what the intention, is almost always humorous. The difference, of course, is that Chappelle is a comedian and Simmons is not. But, I can’t help but wonder if this whole thing, this whole career is some sort of Andy Kauffman-esque rouse. That, in fact, Earl Simmons, is just a nice boy from Mount Vernon, NY who wanted to be in show business but didn’t have the chops for it. So, instead of trying the endless, often fruitless cycle of busing tables and hustling to auditions, he decided he’d create a persona that would allow him to live his life as a never-ending drama played out in front of the world.

Or, maybe he’s just Dark Man X.

*The only people that benefited from D’Angelo’s parenthetical title were deaf people, I’m convinced.

White Suburban Kid Reviews Classic Hip Hop Albums

As seen on Kevin Reviews Things last week…

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about this. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure what the first step was.

Let’s go back a bit, shall we. First off, after taking down Doctor Dre and Shawn “Z” Carter, I knew I wanted to go in a slightly different direction for part three. That direction, as fate would have it, was R. Kelly*.

To me, there’s more to the R. Kelly story than simply one album. It’s a story, not just a review. And with that in mind, I found it hard to simply write one review about one of his albums and keep the scope to just that one album.

That all said, I could’ve done it in parts. A part one (the rise) and part two (the fall) for Mr. Kelly, but I ultimately settled against the idea of a series having a series within it.

So, buckle up, because we’re doing it all in one.

The Rise of Robert Sylvester Kelly

Robert had already released three albums (the seminal “12 Play”**, the creatively titled/beginning of outrageously sexualized style “R. Kelly”, and the personally inaccurate, though eerily foreshadowing “Born Into the 90s”) by the time 1998 rolled around.

However, it would be “R.” that would be the beginning of his true peak as the R in R&B***. I’m not sure how many of you actually know about this album, because in telling a few friends of mine that I’d be featuring this next in my series, I was met with one or both of the following:

  1. You write a series? About what?
  2. R. Kelly had a double album?

So, with that confusion in mind, here are a few other facts about that album:

  • It was, in fact, a double album which is incredibly bold and rare. Most artists don’t attempt double albums because they either can’t do it, are afraid of doing it, or know that it won’t work. 
  • It was the first time in his career that Robert let other people (in this case, the Trackmasters—who fell off the face of this planet around the turn of the Millennium) produce his records.
  • It was also the first time (and the beginning of a trend, more on that in a moment) that an R. Kelly album was heavy with features.
  • It set the record for longest list of personnel ever recorded on an album. Check it out.
  • The biggest single from the CD (and arguably of Robert’s career) was “I Believe I Can Fly”.

That last one is particularly interesting because the single had been released literally two weeks after his previous album, two years prior. That song alone won him his only three Grammys. Three. On one song. Think about that for a second… OK, let’s keep moving.

I remember originally purchasing this CD from Blockbuster, which dates me in two ways. One, in the obvious way that any Blockbuster reference will and two, harkening back to the days when they actually sold compact discs at Blockbuster. Anyway, in listening to this record again, I forgot about how much fun R&B was. A thought I couldn’t get out of my head while listening: “Man, I wish I had sex a lot in 1998, because it would’ve been great to do that to these songs.”****

I recently had a girl I was engaging in sexual intercourse with tell me, just as we were getting into it, that we should do it to music. I wanted to put on some old school R&B, basically this R. Kelly stuff—the stuff you’d joke about having sex to but never actually would. Except, I didn’t want it to be ironic. I wanted to literally pretend as if it was the late 90s. Sadly, she wasn’t into it (or old enough to remember R. Kelly as anything less than what he’s become).

Before we move on to the Fall, let’s pick a few great tracks from that album, shall we? The CD’s first track, “Home Alone” might be its best party song. “Half on a Baby” was actually a single (which shows you not only where we were, but where we’ve gone) that, shockingly, is enjoyable. “We Ride” is basically a vehicle for R. Kelly to sing the hook while Jay-Z, Cam’ron and Noreaga destroy each verse. You probably also remember “Did You Ever Think”, but the album version inexplicably doesn’t have Nas on it. That song, by the way, needs a question mark in its title and does not have a chorus that follows with “…that you would urinate on a girl, get videotaped doing it and get away with it?”.  Lastly, I’d recommend “Money Make the World Go Round” with Nas. No joke there, that’s just a good old school R&B song.

The Fall of Robert Sylvester Kelly

It didn’t happen right away. You could lazily look at things and point to his, shall we say, sexual indiscretions with underage girls and say that it all came apart then. That’s not 100% true. That was the start of things, but keep in mind, that nonsense came out in early 2002 and he went on to release some of his most successful albums after that point.

No, friends, it all came apart between 2004 and 2008. Two specific events can be pointed to:

First, he pissed off Jay-Z (an ironic turn of phrase), which is a huge no-no in the game (ask Chris Brown or Beanie Sigel about that).

Second, this is America, so sh*t (another ironic turn of phrase, I realize) didn’t hit the fan until the verdict on his case came down in ’08. He was, somehow (skip to 1:51), acquitted on all charges. Take a look at his albums from that point on. “Untitled”, “Love Letter” and “Write Me Back” had all of one rapper featured (some clown named OJ Da Juiceman. Seriously). Point of reference: “Double Up” had 8 rappers on it. So, there you go.

That part is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a generally held opinion in contemporary American society that you can do basically anything (drive drunk, cheat on your wife or sport, murder or maim someone, etc.) and you can be forgiven in the right circumstances. F*ck around with kids in a sexually deviant way? As Biggie once said, “Ain’t no comin’ back from that.”

The real issue was that he (and Jay-Z, honestly) screwed the pooch on what should have been a no-doubt-about-it home run. Of course, there’s the accusations that R. Kelly was basically a whiny, unprofessional bitch (made by Jay-Z and his camp) during their tour, but honestly, everything was screwed up long before then.

There was no reason for “The Best of Both Worlds” to be anything less than superb… because, frankly it was what the album said it was. Except, it didn’t come out that way. The verses sounded repetitive, the production was spotty at best (tracks like “Take You Home” were the exception, not the rule), and it had a feeling like it was all done over e-mail. A feeling, mind you, that was actually brought to the forefront when the two released “Unfinished Business”, one of the more blatant pieces of lazy trash you’ll ever see. You know when an artist will re-release his album with a few more remixes and call it something like “Title, Reloaded”, and try to pass that off as a whole new album? This was worse than that. “Unfinished Business” succeeded where “Best of Both Worlds” did not, in that it was exactly what the title promised.

Made up of songs and bits and cuts that didn’t make the first album, “Unfinished Business” was almost literally slapped together in a studio. It was as bad as it sounds.

Conclusion: An Alternate Ending

Sometimes, I like to imagine what would have happened had each of these men lived the other’s life, if things didn’t play out quite as they did in real life.

Jay-Z attempts to write and star in a 15-part, off-broadway hip-hopera about a confusing web of relationships and homosexual priests. His on-again, off-again girlfriend Beyonce dumps him, unable to be seen with such a loser. More than ever, coming off the critical and commercial bombs of his play(s) and most recent album (an untitled solo project attempting to refashion him as a sort of throwback to Motown), he needs Kanye West to reinvigorate his life/career. Mr. West, uninterested in affiliating himself with such a pathetic has-been, turns him down, ending his career and instead, Kanye instead pairs with Nas, Jay’s one-time-enemy.

R. Kelly, meanwhile, continues his string of commercially viable albums and singles, each one churning out at least one or two club bangers. As his fame escalates and he moves from lone R&B crooner to icon, he does songs with everyone from Justin Timberlake to Linkin Park and John Mayer. People forget that he once sang about having sex with basically any woman in any position on any planet in this galaxy and instead focus on his new success and girlfriend (the newly single, Beyonce Knowles). He befriends a junior senator from Illinois and ultimately cozies up to him enough to gain clout to buy a piece of the New York Knicks and sing the National Anthem at the presidential inauguration.

…if only…

*Fate, in this and basically all instances as relates to this series, is also known as Spotify. I’ll be honest, I originally couldn’t fathom the point of such a program. Now, I find myself using it basically every day. Cap tip to you, dude that Justin Timberlake played in the Facebook Movie (I’m aware of both his name and that the movie isn’t called that).

**Am I the only one who had no idea that the TP of TP-2.com and TP.3 Reloaded stood for Twelve Play? I can’t be.

***For a guy who birthed the totally ridiculous/albeit original “Trapped in the Closet” series (side note within the side note: I could do a whole post on just those, but we move on), the names of his albums show an impressive lack of creativity. Two albums were his name, one was untitled, and three were based off the same name.

****For the record, I was 11 when it came out.

White Suburban Kid Reviews Classic Hip-Hop Albums

As seen on Kevin Reviews Things, earlier this month…

Well, Mr. Brown, I must say, I wasn’t aware you’d be influencing me, but alas… here we are. After reading your closing remarks on our last “White Suburban Review”, I’ll admit I was convinced I’d have to do my next one on the good doctor. And in so doing, I’d have to expand the “series”, if you will, to include not just the albums but the rappers behind them.

You could argue, for hours if you were so inclined and jobless, over which of Dre’s albums, Chronic or 2001 was the better record. I’d personally vote for 2001 for a number of reasons (didn’t sound as blatantly “West Coast”, was more in my wheelhouse of youth, had more enormous singles on it), but I think that’s missing the point.

The bigger point… in fact, the one I’ve tried to make to anyone that would listen when Andre Young’s alias would come up… is that Dr. Dre could be one of the most overrated artists in the rap game.

Dr. Dre – 2001

We should have all seen this coming, honestly.  The signs were everywhere on this album.

Seen what coming, you ask? Well, that Dre would basically disappear after 2001 to head back to his roots as a producer (artistically, good call) and taunt us with an album that’s never coming out (Detox) and become a peddler for overpriced, not-as-good-as-Bose headphones (financially, good call).

The truth is that Dr. Dre is an artist with a garbage flow and rhymes he doesn’t write himself. What does that leave? It leaves a guy who redefined the sound of music a few times over, brought out guys like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg and Eminem, and produced two of the most classic albums in the genre’s history.

All of that is well and good (great, even)… but almost none of it happened in this century. Despite the title, this album came out in 1999. Eminem (who actually discovered 50 Cent) had two albums out by the time we got to the millennium. Curtis Jackson released his breakthrough album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, almost literally 10 years ago.

Imagine if Kobe Bryant won a ring in his rookie year, then one more 7 or 8 years later and that was it. Say in those two seasons, he was the MVP and the back-up players on the team went on to become great players under his tutelage.  However, that’s all he did. How would we remember his nearly 20 year career, at this point?

Anyway, rant aside, the signs were all over this album. A song called “Forgot About Dre”? That’s basically him saying, “Listen, do yourselves a favor and forget about me, because I’m not going to be doing much of anything after this, and especially after 2006″*.  The arrogance doesn’t stop there. There’s the taunting “Next Episode”, when we all now know there never were plans for any further episodes. Or, how about the blatantly obvious “Fuck You”? Has there ever been a clearer disregard for your fans?

What was it like when they went in to record this album, I wonder? Was this masterpiece created purposefully to piss fans off when nothing else ever came out again? I’d imagine Dre delivered a message to his team upon the recording of this album, something probably similar to this:

Hey guys, listen… I know we’re all really happy about that last album.  No, not the one with the bomb blowing up on the cover. What’s that, Calvin? Very funny. Yes, the album wasn’t commercially or critically successful, so the cover was, in fact, appropriate. ANYWAY… I was referring to my first solo effort… You know, the one about my chronic back problems. For some reason, the themes we stressed… understanding the importance of proper posture, the value of stretching before athletic competition, et. al… seemed to resonate with the kids. And with that in mind, I think it’s time we get together and make another really fantastic album. I don’t want to tell anyone, but I’d like this to be my last substantive effort for a while. No, scratch that. Forever. I’ll lie and say I’ve got another project in the works, we can call it Detox, as in, getting off the pain medications for my back. But you guys and I will always know that won’t ever come out. Every few years, we can have one of you do an interview and say it’s almost ready, or that you wrote a few of the tracks. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind releasing a few fake tracks**, but that’s as far as it’ll go.

So, with that said, here’s what I want to do. I want to load this album up with other people to hide my inferior skills on the mic. I’ll create some of the best beats around, we’ll call it 2001 so that when people look back on it years later, wondering what happened to me or my career as a rapper, they’ll think the album came out two years later than it actually did.

Alright, let’s get to work. Lunch is being catered by Salad Works.

Before we depart, I’d like to bring two tracks specifically into the cross-hairs

12. Let’s Get High (featuring Hittman, Ms. Roq, and Kurupt) – I want to say, first off, I love this song. Besides all the obvious classics on this CD, I think this is the one that gets missed most often. It’s not hard to figure out why. With a chorus of “All these n*ggas and all these hoes in here/Somebody here gon’ fuck!”, the song jumps off to an incredibly raucous start. The doctor’s verse isn’t much cleaner:

Yeah — I just took some Ecstasy
Ain’t no tellin what the side effects could be
All these fine bitches equal sex to me
Plus I got this bad bitch layin next to me
No doubt, sit back on the couch
Pants down, rubber on, set to turn that ass out
Laid the bitch out, then I put it in her mouth
Pulled out, nutted on a towel and passed out

Finally, Ms. Roq hops on to close the track out in what has to be her raunchiest (or, only) recorded verse. I honestly don’t want to even repeat any of it, because it’s that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I love this song and am not offended by a second of it, but I just can’t get over how over-the-top dirty this track is. It’s hard to listen to without laughing.

18. Pause 4 Porno (featuring actual pornographic actor, Jake Steed) – This one… what is there to say? It’s literally an audio track of an orgy. You get to hear the moaning, the cumming, the screaming, the panting. It’s quite possibly the funniest, most awkward track on a CD in the history of recorded music. Best part about it? When you’d be listening to 2001 on shuffle in the car with some of your friends and that track would come on. Always a fun time.

So, in closing: Great album, classic tracks. My issue isn’t with Dr. Dre or what he’s done, it’s with how he’s remembered.

*Go ahead, take a look at his production history and credits. Outside of a few noteworthy (albeit slept on) tracks on Eminem’s Relapse in ’09, the most recent big single he’s been behind was “Outta Control” with 50 and Mobb Deep. That came out in 2006.

**That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the following: “Under Pressure” with Jay-Z, “Kush” with Akon and Snoop, and “I Need A Doctor” with Eminem and Skylar Grey. Straight garbage, son. And, worst off, they’re barely even his songs.

White Suburban Kid Reviews Classic Hip-Hop Albums

As seen originally on Kevin Review’s Things last week…

I got the idea for this post (nay, series of posts) while jerking around on Spotify one afternoon. I have a playlist called “Mo Money Mo Problems” because that’s the name of the first song I put in there, way back when (mid-May ’12). The idea was for the playlist to contain all my favorite “old-school” rap and hip-hop tracks I grew up with. As this list expanded, I realized two things: that music was way (way) better back then and that I listen to an inordinate amount of hip-hop and rap for a white kid that grew up (post-4th grade) in as suburban an area (read: white) as is possible.

There’s always been this feeling, at least I’ve felt, that while it’s not outright a problem that I like rap, it’s not exactly for me. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I suppose it’s fine. I will say, I’ve always argued against this idea that the lyrical content of rap songs isn’t relatable for someone like myself and it’s really just about listening to what you enjoy. That said, I’m the same guy that will turn down “Shook Ones” from deafening to barely-audible-in-backseat if I’m driving through a city somewhere.

So, with this all in mind, I decided to review some classic albums. I won’t bore you with comments like, “Jigga’s hard flow melts over the pounding synths and rhythmic timing of the bridge.”  Not only do we not know what that means, but you get nothing from it.

Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt

I’ll say this, I reasonably doubt anyone could prove to me that this isn’t Shawn Carter’s best album. Ever. Limited in features, Reasonable Doubt runs just under an hour with 14 tracks. Of those, 13 are beyond listenable and 10 are classic. Let’s take a look at the tracklist.

  1. Can’t Knock the Hustle (featuring Mary J. Blige) – You want to talk about ingenuity, the opening shot from the album is the place to begin. Going in a direction no one could see coming, Jay-Z opens his debut album with a sampled conversation from Scarface. Rappers, prior to Reasonable Doubt, had been sampling Pretty Woman, Philadelphia, and Back to the Future almost exclusively. No rapper, then or since, has ever had the foresight to align him(or her)self with gangsters of any kind.  Kudos, Shawn.
  2. Politics as Usual – Here we have Jay-Z flexing his political muscle, expressing joy over the impending campaign season (and ultimate victory) for incumbent President Bill Clinton. Jay-Z predicts Clinton won’t have much trouble gaining re-election, because hey, it’s “politics as usual”.
  3. Brooklyn’s Finest (featuring Notorious B.I.G.) – Truly a pairing of the two greats to ever come out of Brooklyn, Christopher Wallace and Shawn Carter. You know, if I told you I had two friends with those names, would you ever guess the two of them were the best rappers of all-time (or in the conversation?) What happened to names like Kanye West and Led Zeppelin?
  4. Dead Presidents II – There’s been great debate about this track. Is Jay-Z openly and arrogantly talking about assassinating our highest ranking political figure? Would he be so brazen as to openly talk that way about such a serious crime? If he’s not talking about assassination, what on Earth is he talking about? Which came first, the movie of the same name or the song? If this is Dead Presidents II, has he already killed a president and we just missed out on it? Did Jay-Z kill JFK? Does he own a DeLorean? Trust me folks, I’ve heard it all when it comes to this one. I’m here to set the record straight: the song is about money (Get it? You see, on the face of every piece of US currency is the face of a dead… president… Clear?)
  5. Feelin’ It (featuring Mecca) – In yet another bold, unprecedented move, Jay-Z dedicates an entire track to bragging about his financial status. Cars, women, sex symbol status, rap prowess… nothing is off limits in this bragadocious track. Also, I believe there are several lightly veiled references to marijuana, or Mary Jane.
  6. D’evils – Honestly, this song is some deep shit. Check it out.
  7. 22 Two’s – In yet another interesting spin on things, Jay-Z devotes a track to honor his favorite number (2) and the top 22 athletes in rhyming order who have (or will) wear them. Kyrie Irving, Alex English, Eddy Curry, Derek Jeter, etc. At one point he even rhymes Thabo Sefolosha and DeShawn Stevenson. Remarkable, but true.
  8. Can I Live – This song can honestly be described as a cry for help. Literally. Legend has it the song was recorded and laid down all while Jay-Z and producer Irv Gotti were being robbed at gun point.
  9. Ain’t No (Racial Epithet) (featuring Foxy Brown and Big Jaz) – Jay-Z and Foxy Brown trade verses on a track dedicated solely to alerting society to a real problem: The lack of African-American men in the National Hockey League.
  10. Friend or Foe and
  11. Coming of Age (featuring Memphis Bleek)  I wanted to group these tracks together because as a kid listening to this album I remember loving these tracks. Looking back, the meanings of these songs really went hand in hand with what I was going through at the time. I was arguing with a kid in my social studies class, Daniel Friedman, about whether or not he should get to lead the line for recess after lunch. My argument was that he got to all last marking period and that I was taller, he argued that he was smarter and that his last (and first) name came before mine in the dictionary. After several weeks of vicious dispute (we didn’t pick the other in gym dodgeball once the entire time), we ultimately grew up and agreed to go every other day. We came of age, not too long after his status as my friend was in doubt.
  12. Cashmere Thoughts – Jay-Z talks right off the top about how he “talks jewels and spits diamonds”, which I have to hope (for both his and his intestine’s sake) is hyperbole. Outside of that, I know my mom would love this song as he waxes poetic about that softest and smoothest of fabrics–cashmere. It should be noted here, the song was supposed to be called “Expounding on the Value of Linen” but the song’s producer Clark Kent nixed that immediately.
  13. Bring It On (featuring Sauce Money and Big Jaz) – This was the one song I didn’t like. Sorry, nothing cute here.
  14. Regrets – Here we find Jay-Z at his most introspective, thinking back on living with regrets. Among the musings:  “Why did I think having Taco Bell for lunch before playing basketball would be a good idea?”, “Should I have named the album The Subpoena… or I Hold Myself in Contempt?”, “What am I going to say to  people when they find out my first name isn’t Jay and my last name doesn’t start with a Z?”, “Have I ever met anyone with a last name starting with a Z?”

There you have it. An incredible album, from top to bottom, reviewed honestly. I remember my older brother buying the tape and sneaking away during Hebrew School to listen to it as often as I could (which was pretty often, considering I only went to Hebrew School once a week for 3 hours, but that’s neither here nor there).  Jay-Z has had some pretty fantastic LPs since his debut, but as the saying goes, sometimes they save the best for first.

Or something like that. That can’t be right. I think it’s something about impressions? You get the point.