April 23, 2008

For Promotional Use Only: Jay-Z - The S. Carter Collection Mixtape (2003)


Prior to the release of The Black Album, Shawn Carter was working his ass off promoting what was originally intended to be his final CD (yeah, right), an autobiography (which was never released), and a line of athletic shoes for Reebok. Back in 2003, this was actually a big deal, considering Jay-Z was not an athlete of any kind (unless you think that Hov running from the cops while they were chasing him off them corners qualifies him to be a track star), and yet, he had his own tennis shoe. Flash forward to today, when even fucking Tony Yayo has his name on some flip-flops (so that they can be easily returned when he loses them), and you'll realize the impact that Reebok's bold move had on hip hop in general.

True to form in our chosen genre, Jay decided to market his initial foray into the shoe stores with The S. Carter Collection Mixtape, which I believe was included with the first batch of orders. This was intended to get fans into the stores the first day the shoes hit the shelves, and it worked, sort of; exactly five minutes after the first pair was purchased, that one guy uploaded the mixtape to the Interweb, thus rendering the need to run out null and void. Don't feel bad for Shawn, though; those shoes sold out pretty quickly.

Shawn actually commissioned this mixtape himself, and provides his own vocal drops over some of the songs, which, wisely, he doesn't do during the actual verses. (I get why mixtape deejays do that shit on their own tapes, but even they have to understand how fucking annoying it is.) The S. Carter Collection Mixtape features several new freestyles over some surprising beat choices, regular songs handpicked by Hova, and celebrity shout-outs to feed the ego.

(Side note: Considering that this blog originally started with Jay-Z's first album Reasonable Doubt, I figured it was best to stay consistent and introduce this new category on HHID using Shawn Carter. Let me know what you think in the comments below; who knows, this may open up the blog to a lot of different types of reviews.)

(Or not. We'll see.)

1. YOUNG, BLACK, & GIFTED - FREESTYLE
In one of the most bizarre instances of beat-jacking I've ever encountered from a mainstream rapper, Shawn Carter swipes Prince Paul's "What U Got (The Demo)" (from A Prince Among Thieves), and proceeds to rhyme as if Paul Huston specifically designed the beat for him. (But would he ever actually pay Paul to make him a beat? Of course he wouldn't, because, sadly, hip hop doesn't work that way.) Mariah Carey pops up at the end to say random nice things about Hova; this is a running theme throughout.

2. PUMP IT UP - FREESTYLE
A lot of people probably don't know (or maybe you do, I don't care) that Just Blaze's beat for Joe Budden's "Pump It Up" was given to Jay-Z first, for possible inclusion on The Black Album. Shawn rejected it, but then decided to rhyme over it anyway for this mixtape. Weird. Anyway, all of the Joe Budden stans out there (and I check the other blogs; there's a lot of you out there) will be angry with me when I tell you that Hov rips this track to shreds.

3. ONLY A CUSTOMER
Shawn used this officially-sanctioned mixtape to expose his newer fans to some of his older, pre-Reasonable Doubt material, a tactic which I appreciate. Jay's well-known conversational flow was already locked in at this point (he recorded this track after growing out of his speed-rapper phase he developed while alongside Big Jaz), but this track overall is pretty average.

4. BEYONCE (INTERLUDE)
Sounds oddly sweet today, considering they're now hitched and all.

5. BUMP BUMP BUMP - FREESTYLE
This is just Shawn acting like an ass over B2K's inexplicably popular track, which was released long before various members of the boy band were (allegedly) sexually assaulted by their manager. What the fuck did B2K stand for, anyway? It's too close for comfort to the BTK Killer, which is probably not the demographic the second coming of Immature was shooting for.

6. I DON'T WANNA BE ALONE (REMIX) (SHAI FEAT. JAY-Z)
A really early Hova remix to a Shai song that, admittedly, I have never heard the original version for. (However, "Comforter" is still the shit, you all need to stop lying to yourselves.) This may be a remix to an R&B track, but it doesn't sound as out of place as you would think.

7. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. (INTERLUDE)
Nostalgic in a surreal way, possibly because Biggie is talking about the much-hyped rap supergroup The Commission, which never materialized. Sigh...

8. FLAVA IN YA EAR - FREESTYLE
Shawn decides to take on the distinctive flows of almost every rapper that appeared on Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)", with mixed results. Stealing Biggie's flow doesn't do any favors for the man that has to constantly field criticism regarding stealing Biggie's rhymes; on the other side of the coin, swiping LL Cool J's rhythm is fucking hilarious, considering the beef they were (are?) entangled in while Hov was still president of Def Jam. I'm curious about the fact that Shawn wants all of his chicks to look like Mya in the waist (good call, Hov), but like Shania in the face? Nothing against Shania Twain, but that shit ain't gangsta!

9. YOUNG G'S (PUFF DADDY FEAT. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. & JAY-Z)
In case you're new to the blog, this is the exact same song that appeared on Puff Daddy's No Way Out, which I reviewed a very long time ago (you can read that review here). The song itself still sounds alright today, but it's clear that it's only sequenced here because of its proximity to Biggie's shout-out.

10. RUSSELL SIMMONS (INTERLUDE)
I understand the inclusion of the former head of Def Jam, but if the idea was to include praise from someone that actually had an impact on Shawn's career, I would have gone with Lyor Cohen.

11. IF I CAN'T - FREESTYLE
Shawn jacks Curtis Jackson's Dr. Dre-produced beat flawlessly. In fact, the only fault in this song is the inclusion of Curtis's vocal on the hook, which was just fucking inappropriate.

12. THIS LIFE FOREVER
An old Hova song, recorded around the Reasonable Doubt era, that I somehow missed. It was originally exclusive to the Black Gangster soundtrack, which, if I recall properly, was not a soundtrack to a movie, but to the collection of Donald Goines novels. Ty Fyffe (who is now best known for producing Curtis's "Straight To The Bank") provides the beat, Shawn supplies the rhymes, and the end result fucking rocks.

13. OG (INTERLUDE)
Useless skit, in which "motherfuckers" are put to task for "fucking with Hov". Groan.

14. ROCK STAR - FREESTYLE
Can't say I saw this coming. At least, back in 2003, when the mixtape dropped, anyway; I clearly saw it coming today, when I listene dto the fucker. It kind of makes you hope for a Jay-Z cameo on the next N.E.R.D. album.

15. YOU ROCK MY WORLD (REMIX) (MICHAEL JACKSON FEAT. JAY-Z)
A meh remix to what was a bad Michael Jackson song to begin with.

16. IT'S LIKE THAT (FEAT KID CAPRI)
The inclusion of this song doesn't make any sense, since it first appeared on Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life. Maybe Shawn just really loves this song, I don't know.

17. BEWARE OF THE BOYS (REMIX) (PUNJABI MC FEAT JAY-Z)
Leave it to Jay-Z to somehow get Panjabi MC played on American airwaves. Hov adding himself to Punjabi MC's "Mundian To Bach Ke" resulted in a minor hit, probably only because of the Knight Rider beat, but don't let that deter you; this isn't bad, if you're open to this sort of thing.

18. BEAUTIFUL HUSTLE (BLEND) (FEAT MARY J. BLIGE & 2PAC)
A pretty fucking terrible mash-up, one that doesn't belong on this mixtape at all. I never really wanted to know what Shawn, Mary, and 2Pac sounded like over the Snoop's Neptunes-produced "Beautiful", a beat I've always liked. However, I have to admit that, if he were still alive and/or not in hiding in the Bahamas, Pac probably would have sounded decent over some Neptunes blings.

19. IN MY LIFETIME (REMIX)
One of the best songs from the pre-Reasonable Doubt catalog, although this won't be new to you if you've heard the Streets Is Watching soundtrack.

20. PUFFIN' ON BLUNTS & DRINKIN' TANQUERAY - FREESTYLE / OUTRO
Jay mentions that the original concept of The Black Album was for it to sound like a prequel to Reasonable Doubt, an idea that was quickly abandoned, although a handful of the songs on the final product reflect this line of thinking. (The Black Album was also supposed to feature twelve tracks by twelve different producers, including DJ Premier and Dr. Dre, but whatever.) Hov hands us this trivia factoid while talking/rhyming over one of the more rare Dr. Dre beats, one that was utilized by Tha Dogg Pound and The Lady Of Rage to spit freestyles over while Dre, stoned out of his mind, laughed his ass off.

21. OUTRO
And we're out.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is actually a pretty good compilation of Jay freestyles and rare tracks, made even better when you realize that Jay actually put this out himself, and not some random mixtape deejay that felt the need to shout his name over every fucking song. I wish it were more obvious that he didn't record every freestyle in one afternoon (every single one seems to reference his plan to "drop The Black Album and back out", and a couple reference an odd nickname, Just The Facts, which never stuck), but otherwise, it's entertaining enough.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? Yes. Shawn Carter's hardcore fans probably already downloaded this mix (and the few that actually ran out to cop the shoes have an original copy), but the rest of you may be shocked to find that old-school Jay and the Hova of today have a lot in common. If you Google it, you'll find it quickly enough.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read all of the Jay-Z write-ups by clicking here.

8 comments:

  1. Jay Z cock sucker.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Such an amusing and entertaining read. I do read but dont always comment cause my work doesn't let me onto your page, i can read through my rss though

    ReplyDelete
  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessApril 23, 2008

    This is a good mixtape. Some strange beat choices for the freestyles but I like the final product.

    As for reviewing mixtapes, I support the idea because a lot of quality rappers have never officially released some of their best material. You'll undoubtedly run into trouble deciding which mixtapes are worthy but this could certainly be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. actually, jigga didnt beat jack paul, both of em jacked big daddy kane from the classic young, gifted, and black...(hence breeze saying he would rhyme like kane at the beginning of the track)

    this was also used by lace da booms for the og version of cut that weak shit

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice catch. Truth be told, I never paid any attention to Big Daddy Kane; I started off as a West Coast kid and quickly made my way East, but I think this was around the time that Kane appeared in that Madonna 'Sex' book and I looked elsewhere. For that reason, it'll make sense when I mention that the Prince Paul bit is the only version of the track I had ever heard, up until today, when I looked up the Kane song on Youtube. It does make more sense that Jay would bite Kane, but I can dream, right?

    Of course, this means that I will probably have to recitfy this misstep by actually trying to review ane's discography. We'll see how long that will take me, given the sporadic updates.

    Thanks for the info, and thanks for reading!

    ReplyDelete
  6. thanks for the response bruh, you got a real good thing goin over here...

    peace

    ReplyDelete
  7. Double thumbs up for more mixtape reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I played this CD over and over for months before the black album dropped and then I played that non-stop for three months straight.
    Sex book, or not you should be familiar with Kane's catalog. There's a handful of MCs that anyone claiming to be a hip hop head needs to be familiar with and Kane is pretty close to the top of that list. So, I'd check him out. Plus a guy like you would appreciate hearing the original Kane lyrics and thinking, "I know who jacked that line." It'll happen again and again.
    Also, I would have liked a little more comentary on Jay's amazing flow and wordplay on some of these tracks.
    By the way, I'm a Joe Budden stan (though not as much as I am a Jigga stan), but if you haven't checked out Budden jacking the beat back, and using a similar basis for the flow (Ball players) it's amazing. I'm guessing it appeared on a Clue tape shortly after this was released, but I couldn't be sure. It helped make hip hop a lot of fun that year. Nothing like some friendly competition. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete