May 30, 2008

For Promotional Use Only: Jay-Z - S. Carter - The Re-Mix (2004)


Since the first wave of Shawn Carter's tennis shoes were such a huge hit (although I wonder if anyone still wears them today), it was inevitable that he would shoot for a second strike of lightning. Reebok was more than willing to fork over the money, so in an effort to maximize profits, Jay-Z decided to do the exact same marketing scheme with his newly designed kicks: he packaged a mixtape, S. Carter - The Re-Mix, in with the first wave.

This time around, The Black Album had already hit store shelves, and Shawn was attempting to live up to his threat of retirement (and failing miserably, I might add). He was still recording cameos on other artists's tracks, so he decided to include some of that material here. Also around this time, the Black Album remix craze was in full swing on the Interweb, with new remix albums dropping seemingly every six minutes, and even though he could never officially comment on the situation, it was obvious that Jay-Z supported the dreams of the assorted producers that tried their hand at a Jigga song (he is the guy that authorized the acapella release of The Black Album, after all), so he included a few remixes on the tape. Finally, he topped it all off with some freshly recorded freestyles (which actually don't sound like they were all recorded in one sitting), some A-list testimonials (and, for some reason, Puff Daddy, the only holdover from the first mixtape), and even decided to throw in the uncensored video for "99 Problems" for good measure.

Once again, this is an officially-sanctioned Jay-Z mixtape: this time, he paired up with producer Just Blaze to present his ideal mixtape to the masses. As with the first volume, songs are played in their entirety (with the exception of one, which you'll read about in a bit), with limited interruptions. Unlike the first one, this mixtape was also made available for purchase: I got mine from HipHopSite.com for like eight or ten bucks, I can't remember.

Did Max get ripped off? Turn the page and find out.

1. 99 PROBLEMS (VIDEO)
On purchased copies of this mixtape, you get to have your very own copy of the "99 Problems" video. If you're a fan of director Mark Romanek's work (One Hour Photo notwithstanding), you'll already have a copy of this video on his Director's Label contribution, as I do. Also, YouTube.

2. FLOW
A brief freestyle that is framed by snippets of Jay's appearance on 60 Minutes. I don't buy the fact that he was thirty-three at the time, but I do like the conceit that the beat was crafted around Jay's weird attempt at beat-boxing.

3. PSA (REMIX)
Not as good as the original version, but Just Blaze provides an original beat, and Shawn Corey Carter's lyrics start off the same, but take a sharp left turn midway through the first verse, so at least it's interesting. Listen closely for a pot shot at Nas, which occurred at a time when the beef was supposed to be on the backburner.

4. DECEMBER 4th (REMIX)
Shawn included the definitive version of "December 4th" on this mixtape: the version produced by 9th Wonder. I really didn't like the original (although my wife loves it), but this version provides some depth to the autobiographical lyrics, I feel.

5. P. DIDDY INTERLUDE
...

6. WARM IT UP (FREESTYLE)
It would happen that I say (on multiple occasions) that Just Blaze isn't the best producer for Jay to work with, so of course Jay and Justin combine their superpowers to provide this mixtape. Sigh. Anyway, Jay spits to "Warm It Up Kane" on this track, and makes a reference to Terrence Trent D'arby that's fucking hilarious.

7. MICHAEL JORDAN (INTERLUDE)
...

8. ENCORE (REMIX)
The original, Kanye West-produced version is much much better.

9. HELL YEAH (REMIX) (DEAD PREZ FEAT JAY-Z)
After an unnecessary intro by Puffy, we're presented with a collaboration that nobody saw coming. It's not the best dead prez song, but I'm blinded by the fact that Jay-Z has just proven he's cognizant of hip hop that lies outside the mainstream.

10. LOOKIN' AT MY S DOTS
A short freestyle that fades out while Jay is still rhyming. Why, oh why, do rappers do that shit?

11. MOMENT OF CLARITY (REMIX)
The beat is more engaging that what Marshall Mathers was able to come up with for The Black Album, but it's still not that good of a song.

12. 99 PROBLEMS (REMIX)
What was wrong with the original? Not a damn thing, that's what. However, this remix uses an older Rick Rubin backing track, and since Rick is the guy that produced the original, this still meshes well.

13. WHERE I'M FROM (FEAT BEANIE SIGEL)
What, did Beanie Sigel record his verse using two cans and four feet of string? Ever heard of mixing a track? This song pales in comparison to his original, which was on In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.

14. DENZEL WASHINGTON (INTERLUDE)
The dude from Virtuosity?

15. ALLURE (REMIX)
This song still doesn't work for me. In fact, it would remain an enigma wrapped in a paradox dipped in special sauce to me until DJ Green Lantern had the brilliant idea to set the lyrics to Kanye's "Flashing Lights". Now that version I like.

16. GET BY (REMIX) (TALIB KWELI FEAT JAY-Z, MOS DEF, KANYE WEST, & BUSTA RHYMES)
I wasn't really waiting with bated breath for Jigga to pair up with Mos Def and Talib Kweli, but I suppose after Shawn name-dropped the latter on The Black Album that it was a foregone conclusion. This remix just adds to an already great song, with its fantastic use of the Nina Simone "Sinnerman" sample, but the Mighty Mos Def's request for you to "get off of queer street and get with us" sounds out of place. Oh, and Kanye and Busta are on here too, but they appear too late in the song for you to give a fuck.

17. THREAT (REMIX) (INTERLUDE)
Madlib is one of my favorite producers, but I have to say that his remix to "Threat" isn't impressive at all.

18. REEBOK (INTERLUDE) (FEAT 50 CENT)
I think we've all figured out how Max feels about Curtis Jackson by now (he's a fantastic rapper and great man overall), but his verse on this freestyle is actually not unnecessary. Huh? Whuzzah? Well, I'll explain, my two readers. After Curtis tries his hand at fucking up the song royally, Shawn steps in and blows that motherfucker out of the frame, out of the studio, and into the middle of the street, where he narrowly avoids being hit by several buses and a nine-year-old paper delivery boy, who in this example is played by Dakota Fanning in a gender-bending twist.

19. MY 1ST SONG (REMIX)
Nope, still don't like this track either.

FINAL THOUGHTS: S. Carter - The Re-Mix is the closest we will ever come to an official Jay-Z sanctioned Black Album Remix disc, but that doesn't mean this is any good. It's almost as if Jigga gathered remix tracks from all four corners of the globe, but scrapped them all to include a bunch of inferior Just Blaze remixes. What a wasted opportunity, although to be fair, it's not like he would have been able to include the "real" remix tracks without having to pay out millions of dollars in sample clearances. Still, he could have at least made the effort.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? Naah. Some of the freestyles are pretty good, but really short, and not worth the effort. Your time would be better spent helping Max come up with a perfect Black Album Remix album of your own. Hell, I'll even start: 9th Wonder's "December 4th" and Danger Mouse's "Change Clothes". I'll even include DJ Green Lantern's "The Allure of Flashing Lights". Now the ball's in your court.

-Max

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

5 comments:

  1. For Max's Black album remix's PSA, I'd like to suggest Black album version first verse, a mix??? in the middle, then grey album version for the second verse.

    And why are commenters getting more heated over your burn recommendation of Mos Def than of Ironman?

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  2. I'd also like to see some Cunninlynguists reviews, if you haven't heard them i think you'll appreciate the fact that the production on their albums is fucking fantastic

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  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 05, 2008

    I had never heard the 9th Wonder's version of December 4th before reading this review. I would have to go with The Grey Album's version of that song anyday. Maybe I've spent too much time listening to ATLiens (a review of that album would be nice Max) but 9th's version just sounds like a blend to me.

    Also, Jay did a nice performance of PSA 2 in The Booth with Tigger when he was promoting The Black Album. Definitely a shot at Nas but applicable to so many less talented rappers. Especially those named Curtis Jackson.

    Warm It Up is all-around awful. He not only mentions Wishing Well, he references Qadry Ismail, a football player who was hardly relevant in the late 90's, and Cagney and Lacey. To top it all off, he says "who been getting dough since '89?" thereby discrediting his previous claims of spending money from '88 in '96. Hell, separating yourself from '88 in any way is apparently a serious blow to one's street cred. Sometimes I think the most important aspect of any 30+ rapper's career is what they were doing in '88.

    Hell Yeah with dead prez could have been so much better with a different beat and hook. There are some great verses on that song and it would have been nice for Jay to show a little concern for a rare collabo with credible rappers. An improved version of this could have made for a nice album track for The Jigga Man.

    As for Lookin At My S. Dot's rappers fade out their songs while still rhyming in order to make the listener wonder what he was gonna say next. The listener will often conjure up some mythical shit and thereby enhance the reputation of the rapper without the rapper ever even rapping. It builds mystique.

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  4. AnonymousJune 26, 2008

    You need to checkout Allure (Remix) again. I passed over it a lot of times before I figured out it had an extra verse! Definitely worth another listen.

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  5. Max, in this post you mention another Jay-Z mixtape, which preceded the one you review here. What's the title of that? Was it also connected with the S Dots? I need that.

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