This is often seen as Rapper JAY-Z’s best album. The lyrics were written in two days and the whole album was recorded over a two-week timespan. With future legendary artist Kanye West producing several tracks on this album, this should be a Rap classic. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and strong sales during the 2000s, which indicates how important this release is. Let’s hear it and see if it still holds its classic status to this day.
The Ruler’s Back begins with some bongo drum rolls, before launching into a wah-wah guitar inspired piece. JAY-Z sounds very optimistic and decent, and thanks to his fans straight up. JAY-Z sounds super confident and euphoric here, and he Raps in a confident way. Talking about usual Rap subjects such as ghetto crime and other direct subjects, this is a great pastiche of sound and production with raw and rough Rap subjects to hear. It has some horns and other musical touches throughout that sound really awesome. For Hip Hop and Rap fans, this should be decent and exciting listening from the start. A mission statement, but nonetheless, a decent one for a Rapper, this is a good introduction to the music at hand. It fades out well.
Takeover begins with some screamed vocals, before launching into a simple groove-based piece with snatches of vocal samples and instrumentation. JAY-Z delivers a tune that is intense and has more ghetto based Rap talk. It is confrontational and raw in its delivery, and JAY-Z sends out a rather abusive message to those who try and match him. This is rather repetitive and not the best, to be fair. Still, one can say at this point that JAY-Z is putting in a good effort, despite the backing track not being so good. A really interesting tune lyrically, even if the backing track isn’t the best. A very confrontational piece of music, this is good for what it is, even with its flaws. Good but not great, it is a good combination of lyricism and image evoking statements. Anyway, if you like Rap music, you will likely like this tune.
Izzo (H.O.V.A.) begins with an interesting combination of music and vocals. This is another simple and fairly repetitive tune, but nonetheless is an improvement on what has come before. Fairly repetitive music, but it’s only okay, not great. A good piece of music that is more focused on lyrics rather than the tune itself, it sounds reasonably decent and gorgeous anyway. This tune talks a lot about drugs and their use as well, which is different. A catchy piece of music that although fails in quality, is made up in quantity. It ends with repeated vocals before a long fade out. It’s okay.
Girls, Girls, Girls comes next, with some French spoken at the start, before launching into an unusual sounding piece with sitar in the background. This is typical Rap music that is about male sexual desire. It’s fairly repetitive and not mixed overly well. The lack of imagination is present here in this tune about women, but it’s okay for what it is. The music is okay, but not terrific. In any case, it is a good piece but quite clearly not a great one. Some interesting lyrics are present about having more women than one can ever imagine, which is rather weird. Anyway, there is a subtle sense of humour about it, but aside from that, there is nothing overly amazing or innovative about this tune. Rather disappointing a tune, it ends with JAY-Z rapping alone.
Jigga That Nigga begins with some more foreign language speaking and sounds like the previous track before it, it is almost identical sonically. Once again, this is another piece about male sexual endeavours and other deeds, like getting high. It’s okay, but all the same is unimpressive. The repetition of the track is annoying to hear, but all the same, it’s okay. For all the acclaim that this album gets, it is actually fairly disappointing. Unlike other rappers such as Eminem, JAY-Z lacks an impressive listening experience and a sense of humour. Anyway, Rap fans will love this, and very much everyone else won’t. It ends quickly.
U Don’t Know sounds melodically awful from the start and quickly launches into a piece about Gangsta Rap subjects and it sounds really generic. Anyway, for a piece such as this, it is deeply disappointing. Fortunately, it is only three minutes or so long. JAY-Z may be a great lyricist and a good Rapper, but the music present does not match that. Rap is the thing in western society in the 21st century, but this is lacking interest and just sounds ordinary. Forgettable and awful, this is a disappointing listen. Avoid.
Hola’ Hovito begins with some loose bass guitar parts, some strange wordless vocal parts and an overall better track than the previous one. More sexual talk is throughout and it sounds really misogynistic. The chorus is supposed to be a singalong part, but there is no point unless you are a hardcore JAY-Z fan. Anyway, it’s an okay listen but this is still very ordinary music with little appeal to the mainstream masses. A good listen but definitely a failure hearing this many years after release. It is certainly difficult to get through, but all the same, it is good for those who like Rap music. Otherwise, once again, this is disappointing. It ends with a nice instrumental section which is cool and has some realistic drums and interesting sound samples there.
Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love) begins with some pretty instrumentation and JAY-Z Rapping about his own life. This is, once again, quite unimpressive and the match of sounds of samples isn’t perfect. This is about urban ghetto life, which is not impressive nor interesting listening. The backing track is very repetitive and the lyrics are way too serious about ghetto life to be taken seriously. A backing vocal in the chorus drives this well, before going straight back into the music at hand. This music is fairly appalling and makes one want to roll their eyes upon listening. The old fashioned African-American based backing track is nice, but the awkward fusion of lyrics and music does not serve well. Pretty pathetic to hear.
Never Change comes next, which is another JAY-Z mission statement. By now, the plastic experience of this album wears thin and the drug references and violence are neither imaginative nor appropriate. JAY-Z Raps about committing crimes and other awful things, which isn’t either funny or appealing. One wonders if the music present on this album would have been better not being so repetitive or stupid sounding. Kanye West may have assisted with this album, but even his music is better than this. It is a lowest common denominator experience of music that really fails. This music lacks magic and soul, just avoid it.
Song Cry begins with some female soul vocals and some backing symphony strings that actually sound quite good. JAY-Z then introduces a better song that is an improvement and is a deeply romantic piece of music. It sounds quite good but all the same, it is a fairly ordinary musical piece in line with the rest of the album. The mixture of musical history and romanticism makes this a better effort than what came before, but all the same, this is a drag. A more powerful statement but a rather ugly lyrical piece to listen to, this is a drag for a five-minute piece of music. It ends with some beats and the rather pretty backing section of music, which is different. Another good tune, but not an instant classic, sadly.
All I Need begins with some nice bongos and percussion, before launching with some terrible music with an awful backing vocal sample. This song is neither impressive nor wonderful, and JAY-Z Raps about what he needs in life. Seriously, there is little musical appeal or magic here. The whole thing sounds really trashy and awful. This album is only really a good idea to hear if you love Rap and JAY-Z. This is a generic piece of rubbish that is a bad combination of music and lyrics. Surely they could have spent more time working on the music and lyrics rather than just two weeks of recording? Anyway, it is not worth listening to at this point this album, just ditch this repetitive music straight into the bin. Avoid.
Renegade features Eminem. It begins with some melancholy melodies and a string part that is interesting. It quickly goes into a more serious tune that is really ordinary and as equally awful as what came before it. It’s supposed to be a piece about the problems in urban life and a message to those who don’t think things through, a very pretentious Rap statement in other words. Eminem’s presence is a breath of fresh air. Despite that, this is not as good as Eminem’s own material, although his guest presence is welcome here. Rap still had a while to go before being widely accepted as a mainstream genre of music at this point, but this has not aged well. An ordinary piece of music with lyrics that you really don’t want to hear, this is bland music. Eminem’s appearance is fairly lengthy, suggesting that JAY-Z was either out of inspiration or bored. It is an okay piece that is good for an average song, but otherwise, does not lift the album up. It ends with a very Eminem style outro section of music with melancholy melodies and beats. Disappointing.
Blueprint (Momma Loves Me) begins with some simple beats and JAY-Z making some random chanting over the top. Soon enough, it launches into a surprisingly good piece that is quite autobiographical. All the same, it is fairly standard stuff by JAY-Z. Anyway, this lounge-style groove is different but still, this album drags even a song like this down somewhat. It does lack magic to it, which is very unusual for an album of this sort. Anyway, this is an improvement over other songs but again, it could have been better. It ends with the lounge groove instrumentation again.
Lyrical Exercise begins with some sampled speech over a weird backdrop, before going into a moody and awful piece of music once again. This is yet another street life piece that is really ordinary. It sounds like the musical equivalent of being screwed out of the money (or streaming percentage of your subscription) that people used to hear this album. It refers to lyricism as being the equivalent of physical exercise, which isn’t too far from the truth but is an overly too much information broadcast. A really pathetic piece, but fortunately it isn’t too far away from the end of this album. It ends with the instrumental backing track, yet again.
Girls, Girls, Girls (Part 2) is thankfully the last track on this album. It begins with the lush instrumental backdrop with female singing as well, before JAY-Z gets Rapping. This is surprisingly upbeat and fortunately is a good piece to end this album with. In any case, this is an interesting piece of music to finish a very ordinary album with and it does sound like an improvement on what has come before. In any case, this sounds like a strange listen with samples and banging beats. It has some interesting lyricism about it about sexual endeavours with women, but all the same, is a fairly generic listen for Rap music. It ends with the sampled instrumental section, before concluding this fairly awful album.
This is Rap music that should neither be experienced nor heard. JAY-Z may have made something he is proud of, but having said that, he is a one-man army. The album overall is full of poorly written and poorly created music that is best left alone. Only highly recommended if you love JAY-Z or love most Rap music. Otherwise, steer clear of this disastrous album musically. It did sell well but is not up with the greats of Rap music. Avoid it if you can.