December 25, 2008

Reader Review: Jay-Z - The Black Album (November 14, 2003)

(As a way of celebrating the wonderment that is the Christmas spirit, here's a write-up for the so-called "retirement" album by the first rapper I ever wrote about on Hip Hop Isn't Dead. The difference between this write-up (for The Black Album) and the others that I received for this week is, simply put, the feminine perspective, provided today by Lil' Venki. Although from some of the comments I've received about my other shit, I'm sure some of you two already think this blog is written from the feminine perspective. If that's the case, then you can go fuck yourselves. Happy holidays!)

Hey Max, long time listener, first time caller. Anyway, here's my blog.

Let me preface this by saying that I have never cared about hip-hop. (I'm sure I just lost most of my two readers right there.) I never knew shit from shinola when it came to the hip-hop. However, that all changed when I met my boyfriend. I’ve always drawn music snobs to me like little moths floating toward a bright destructive flame. And sure enough, after cycling through emo, rock, alternative and the rest (no death metal?), eventually I met a guy who claimed to know the difference between hip hop and rap. (Apparently, there’s a difference. Who knew?)

Anywho, when we began to date, I still didn’t give two fucks about hip hop. Who the fuck cares about hip-hop, anyway? Last time I checked, it was dead. (Close.) After my beloved gave me a mix tape (which I admittedly paid lip service to), I finally decided, a few years in and on my own terms, to listen to something just to shut him the fuck up.

So, I picked up The Black Album.

You know how the smallest thing can sometimes open up your whole world? It can be a person, or maybe a traumatic experience, or possibly watching Michael Jordan for the first time in his heyday, scoring like a motherfucker when he’s sick with the flu during the playoffs, or it can be your fourth DWI. Occasionally, it’s music (cue jazz hands!), and on even more rare occasions, it's music by Shawn Carter.

Unbeknownst to my fella, I popped The Black Album into the car stereo and drove around town, running errands. And then I played it again. And then I played it again. By the end of the afternoon, I knew 80% of "December 4th". By the end of the week I was still spinning it. And I just got it. I finally understood what he liked about hip hop. (I mean good hip hop, not that atrocious shit you hear on the radio. Oh God no, not that.) As for the boyfriend, well, I married the bastard.

Ok, brass tacks. For me, music is 90% lyrics and 30% beat. (Also, 64% fat-free.) Luckily, this has both. So, from a former hip hop outsider (and a female), I present The Black Album.

Oh shit, it’s an interlude! Run! Oddly, the instrumental reminds me of the music on old PBS shows. I feel like Morgan Freeman is about to pop up and teach me about numbers. (Side note: I have a theory that this album could easily be seen as a companion piece to Jesus Christ Superstar. The musical, not the Christ. Just me, then?)

My favorite by far. Happy Belated Shawn! I’m not so sure about the high pitched guidance counselor (sample), but I really like this song. I have to admit that for me, on this particular song, it’s lyrics over beat. How can you not relate to the broken home and wanting a strong male role model? Aww, poor Shawn. From humble roots…well, at least the wavy light skinned girls love you now. (For the record, I still personally find this track boring as shit. Just Blaze's instrumental has this uncanny way of making me want to fall asleep regardless of my surroundings, and that tends to only happen when I'm listening to ambient ocean sounds or watching Street Kings. My God, that movie's fucking hilariously awful. Anyway, I have to agree with the whole 'lyrics over beat' thing, since Shawn's words actually sound really fucking good on 9th Wonder's remix of this track.)

I am totally entertained. This beat is just good. Plus, awesome lyric: “I don’t wear jerseys, I’m 30 plus, give me a crisp pair of jeans, n---a, button up.” See boys, you don’t have to wear your homophobia on your sleeve, you can just be a man by, are you ready for this, showing and proving. Now ditch those saggy ass pants. No one, and I mean no one, wants to see your nasty ass skid marked boxers. Plus it makes your ass look flat and ladies like to dig their nails into something while grinding, and no girl is gonna rock ya if she thinks she has nothing to hold onto. The more you know (cue rainbow and NBC jingle.) (Fuck, that was a weird rant. Probably a lot of truth in it, though.) Also, nice dig at the young bloods, Jay. He may not have been shot the fuck up (like a certain...oh, fuck it, you two know who I'm talking about by now), but he’ll probably outlast a lot of these young cats. And he ends the track by reminding us that we will eventually miss him once he retires. Kind of like Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Jay, as most rappers tend to do, spends an entire song reminding us that he is, lyrically, the best. Good beat, good lyrics, good God, let’s eat. And then he brings it down just a bit toward the end. Tender.

OK, I'm starting to sense the pattern of conceit, proving that all rappers are insecure. (You start by reminding everyone that you are the best, and end by reminding everyone that this retirement is for keeps. This time I mean it. OK, I'll release Kingdom Come, but the next retirement might be the ONE. Is that really necessary?) For some reason, whenever I hear this song, Skateboard P's chorus gets stuck in my head, except in my head, the creepy ass bear from the Snuggle commercials is singing it. “...And girl I promise you no substitutes, just me!” Cue sadistic giggle. And it puts a smile on my face.

Your lady will move her ass to this. And isn’t that really all that matters? (In a word, yes. I could also come up with two words, but all that come to mind are "fuck" and "yes".) Also, Hova cares about you, folks; he wants you to look your best. Now get that dirt off your shoulder. Shit, this beat is tiiight. (I made sure to include all three "i"'s so that you two will know exactly how good this Timbaland beat actually is. Also, try to track down Royce da 5'9"'s freestyle over this beat when you get a chance; that motherfucker makes it seem like Timothy crafted the instrumental for his own needs.)

I fucking love the build up to this shit. Hova can, apparently, kill you in a thousand easy ways. Lyrically, this is just hot. Shit, I wish I could build the Sands on some motherfucker. Wish I had a casino to build in the middle of nowhere that hid my enemies’ corpses. Lucky.

Honest. Raw. He admits that he dumbs himself down for his audience. I can understand that. Also, it was awfully clever of him to name-drop all of his previous albums in the chorus. Buy me! Poor little insecure Shawn. Will someone please buy one his of cot damn blockbuster-selling albums already? Please?

I'm loving the return to the roots of classic hip hop. The video for this is also pretty cool. (Rick Rubin's Billy Squire-jacking actually holds up even better today than it did five years ago.)

I love the opening verse. It just flows so easily like your first bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 into your junior high lips. No? Just me, then? (Mad Dog? Don't the kids in junior high start off with fucking Boone's Farm?)

OK, the first few lines of this, where Jay gets lazy, just singing Bill Haley’s song almost word for word, puro pinche flojeria! I like the underlying beat, but the fact that he (meaning producer DJ Quik) uses "Justify My Love", which has to be up there as one of my least favorite Madonna songs, makes this song almost unbearable. OK, maybe just the chorus. No, wait, actually, for me, the chorus makes this song unlistenable. That Madonna song fucking sucks. I loathe that song (and its blatant jacking of Public Enemy) and its asinine lyrics: "I want to make love with you in Japan. I want to eat sushi with you in Delaware. I want to take out a payday loan with you in Taiwan. I want to listen to fog with you in my shower in Duluth. (Come on, that's just fucking funny.) I want to wrestle a bear wearing a Jell-O bikini while whistling in a vat of spaghetti with you at a Little Caesar’s in Milan." I want to blow out my brains when I hear that song. (I'm almost twenty-three percent certain that most of those lyrics aren't in the actual song.) This is by far the worst track on the entire disc. Let’s just skip to….

The other Kanye West song on here is pretty good, but the hook just sticks to your ribs, and I lose the lyrics.

Admittedly, I don’t usually get this far in The Black Album. But the instrumental (provided by The Neptunes) is very clean. It sounds like the music at the end of the last scene of a 1960's TV dramedy, where they freeze frame on the scene right before the end credits flash by. It’s nice, but for me, forgettable. Actually, now it's definitely sounding like the end of Mahogany. (DJ Green Lantern actually mashed up this song's lyrics with the beat from Kanye West's "Flashing Lights", a move that finally made me like this song, as I never gave much of a fuck when I first bought the disc. Speaking of the disc, does anybody know what happened to the autobiography that Shawn was writing, an excerpt of which appeared in the liner notes? Does he keep it under his pillow at night?)

That guitar sounds good, but once again, I’m reminded why I don’t spin this far back. It’s good, but it doesn’t grab me quite as much as I want it to. It doesn't help that Jay just starts talking to random people in the room, reminiscing. Just stop talking. Don’t just keep throwing in random chores that you’re doing later. I don’t give a fuck that you’re going to go golfing and then getting a cappuccino, and then you might go to Home Depot if you have some time. Then I’m gonna holla at my boy and walk down the block and then I think I’ll stop at a Which Wich? cause I really like their number 9 sandwich, no wait, is that the meatball marinara? 'Cause I’m thinking tuna would be good too. Oh snap, I forgot, I gotta drop my moms off at work. (All seven of them, apparently.) Ok, new plan, let’s take care of moms, then Which Wich?, then we might squeeze in Home Depot. Then a round of golf, get me some new kicks at the Payless, then we head on down to the studio, finish off this album by reciting my grocery list, and then pick up Beyonce, head to the crib and I’m in bed by 9:30, 10:30 tops cause I have an meeting in the morning with the head of Island Def Jam and I already moved it twice …STOP! I don’t need to hear your fucking itinerary!

FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, I think The Black Album was love at first listen. Lyrically, it is so tight. The beats are good. You can shake your ass to at least 85% of it. (Seriously, that's all that matters.)

BUY OR BURN? Alright, I know you already own this. Unless, of course, you’re Amish, and you’re going out into the world for the first time. If that's the case, then I should tell you that this (waves an upturned hand toward the computer screen) is the internet. You’re going to want to close this window and go look for some porn. You’ll like that, since you’re probably just used to high collars and long skirts. A thrill for you might be a gander at a woman’s ankle (if she’s so inclined). Don’t waste your time trying to roll with this, young Amish dude, as you won’t get it. For all you non-Amish readers who are familiar with this, and for some reason have yet to own or feast your ears on this, of course you should buy this. What the fuck is wrong with you?

-Lil’ Venki

(Getting tired of this whole 'reader review' thing? Or do you want to see more of them in the future? Drop me a line and let me know. Also, feel free to read through my original review of The Black Album when you get a chance.)


  1. i like the review, but december 4th is fucking awful.

  2. the female perspective talks entirely too much

  3. Don't buy it! Buy Step Into the Arena buy Follow The Leader buy Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z and get off the nut sack of JZ.

  4. i agree with the anonymous (not the one who says toget of jays nuts) this girl talks too much srry

  5. I wonder what would have happened if she accidently grabbed another album for her experiment. Like, if she grabbed some Spice1, would she have gotten it? or is Spice1 not hiphop in the wise words of her newly hunted hubbie?

    I must be amish. I have been avoiding Jay Z since day 1. No burns, no buys, no shit.

  6. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessDecember 26, 2008

    I thought the review was pretty funny even if I disagreed with a lot of it. As for her talking too much, I think it's pretty hard to just shut up and look hot on a blog. I do feel like her general approach in the review is going to turn a lot of people off. Using Jay-Z as the embodiment of real hip hop is not going to be a popular choice. To a lot of people Jay-Z is "that atrocious shit you hear on the radio." What really annoys people is that he's been claiming to be the best rapper of all time for the past 8 or 9 years and many people find the claim as ridiculous as Lil' Wayne's and LL Cool J's. So to seemingly infer that you're now one of us, a hip hop head, because you and your husband enjoy The Black Album is going to rub some people the wrong way.

  7. I find it a bit odd that people are complaining about her "talking too much". I don't see anybody complaining when I go off on my own fucking tangents. Besides, isn't that what people come here for, to actually read stuff, as opposed to downloading an album and moving along?

    As for the other main complaint, I agree that Jay-Z isn't the embodiment of real hip hop (although I am a fan and am not afraid to admit it), but after reading through the write-up myself, I noticed something: she actually paid attention to the lyrics. And starting off with Jay-Z is a hell of a lot better than, say, Curtis Jackson or MC Hammer.

    Regardless, I want to see her tackle the Wu-Tang Clan's first album. That might make for some hilarious rections.

  8. Lil' VenkiDecember 26, 2008

    Most Felonious- Never meant to imply that I was a hip hop head. I'm not, I'm just saying I now know the difference. The scope of my hip hop knowledge has expanded thanks to my hubby, but he by no means would have given me that to get my feet wet. I chose the artist I was most familiar with and because it was the first, it's sentimental.
    To all you 'anonymous'haters, fuck off, at least I tried.

    1. Well, I enjoyed your review. Not your maths though "For me, music is 90% lyrics and 30% beat". That makes 120%!!

    2. It's called a "joke". We have fun here.

  9. Well, What more can I say (ha ha ha)to this??? ...

    Lil' Venki, a promisful and imaginary name you wear there. Who pointed you Jay-Z?

    Why do you think that he's the MAN in hip hop?

    It's not unsual for girls looking up to him and be blinded by his his glitter teeth...

  10. "the female perspective talks entirely too much"

    batty bwoi sentiments...laou the ooman mek shi duh har ting... an entertaining read, kina funny even if you don't agree...she kept it moving with the humour

  11. I'm the first anonymous poster (the one talking shit about dec. 4th), I thought you guys were talking about shawn's mom until i got to 'Hip-hop's heartbeat.' Had no idea a woman reviewed this, not like it really matters.

  12. Max your blog would be better if you shut the fuck up put downloads up and we moved on. You bitch ass daddyfucker.

  13. I already own this album?

    The more I found out about myself the more I hate what I've become.

  14. It doesn't matter that she's female...I don't EVER want to read a Hip Hop album review from someone that doesn't know what he or she is talking about. I have Rolling Stone/Spin/Pitchfork/Entertainment Weekly/The Smoking Section for that already!


  15. fuck this album,i dont know why ppl consider this shit a classic, ppl keep on bumping the classic jay z tracks!!!

  16. AnonymousJuly 29, 2009

    Hip Hop is not %85 about shaking your ass you stupid ass woman. If you wanna shake your litte ass, go down south with Lil' Jon "DROP THAT ASS TO THE FLOOR!! AYE! AYE!"..No one is going to shake thier ass to Pete Rock Nas etc. are they?? NO!...stupid cunt..........

  17. AnonymousJuly 29, 2009

    Ok I agree, 50 Cent is a terrible rapper now and basically sold out, but before that shit Curtis album, he was real talent (i think he was at his best during the mixtape game) now he just mumbles on tracks.He was part of Hip Hop. You are already put into question and borderline, excuse me....not borderline, YOU ARE RETARDED when you metion MC Hammer and 50 Cent in the same fucking sentence! I was starting to like this blog until I read that shit......

  18. Wow, the first Anonymous commenter on 7/29 clearly didn't bother reading the actual article. How can someone's point of view be bullshit? And how can you have the audacity to bring up Pete Rock and Nas for an album review that features neither artist? You obviously haven't read the blog long enough to know that sarcasm reigns supreme over here.

    As for the second Anonymous on 7/29 - clearly he didn't read that I'm not the one who wrote the fucking article. Don't lie and say you were starting to like the blog up until the reader's MC Hammer/Curtis comment: if you can't be bothered to read what is actually going on, then you never cared for the blog to begin with. Or is it too much reading for you?

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  19. Hey man, I totally agree with you on how Hip Hop isnt about shaking the woman's ass comment beacause it ISN'T. Max, you are clearly dumb for saying, "How can you have the audacity to bring up Pete Rock and Nas for an album review that features neither artist?" He can bring up Pete Rock & Nas if he WANTS to beacause it is stating examples of what NOT to shake your ass to and when she says that 85% of Hip Hop is about that, your basically saying every legend artist who has ever produced an album is an "ass shaking album". I don't think Pete,Nas, KRS-One, Little Brother, Common (the list goes on) main goal was for thier albums to be ass shakers for your girl.When I think of Hip Hop all those dudes come up, not your bitch's ass crack. He didn't bring Pete and Nas up, your bitch basically did. Have your girl review the Crunk Hits albums since that her music mood. Just don't sit here and defend her false statment while she shakes her ass MOMENT OF CLARITY. (well it has to be off this album right??)

    Don't tarnish what Hip Hop is, which is stating every day life, struggles in the black areas, it can be politics, bringing the races together, talking about how rough history was for African Americans in general,a white kid growing up in 8 Mile, Hip Hop really has no true meaning if you think about it. But I know know for a FACT that all the TRUE hip hop fans on this blog agree that the last thing they think about when Hip Hop comes thier mind, is for female to drop thier ass to any legend's music such as Pete & Nas and they agree on what I said about Hip Hop!

    And I also don't expect a response from either one of you............

  20. Oh I like your blog a little but why even say that? Just beacause you guys really don't like 50 and won't admit he is a icon? Look i'll admit I HATE!! Kobe Bryant but im not going to say he "he isn't that good and is overrated" (I'm not a 50 dick rider and I'm not even a huge fan but i'm smart enough to realize that comment was just stupid) MC Hammer is a one hit wonder...50 Cent is not a one hit wonder, he is more in the sense "gangster rap" legend in the future. It's like putting a nice ass BMW next to some broke down FORD.

    I also have a very curious question?? Didn't someone that writes album reviews on this blog say they were influnced by Coolio to listen to Hip Hop??? LLLOOOOOLLLLL!!!! wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwoooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww!

  21. I have to appreciate how a review that was posted seven months ago still has the ability to elicit these types of responses. Like it or not, hip hop has grown from a niche art form to something much more universal, and one person's perspective on the genre isn't any more or less valid than someone else's, even if the life experience informing one's point of view is as far removed from another's as possible. If someone wants to shake their ass to a rap song, then it doesn't affect me one bit. If an artist writes a song specifically to get someone to shake their ass, then it starts to annoy me. But that's only my opinion: for all I know, every other reader loves to dance to fucking Nas songs.

    The point is, the post was one person's concept of what a Jay-Z album meant to them. If you want to comment on that, fine, but you should probably try becoming familiar with the blog before you start making assumptions as to how someone thinks and what they believe. When I edited the post, I didn't get the feeling that this was someone who absolutely had to dance to music in order to fully and properly enjoy it: I saw it more of a running sarcastic commentary, which, by the way, is a thread that tends to run through most every other post on the blog. You think someone is really fucking dancing to "Moment Of Clarity"? Even if that song was any good, no dj in the world will ever get chicks to shake their asses to THAT. Now, if the post specifically mentioned songs from Pete Rock, Nas, Common, Little Brother, and every other conscious rapper in the fucking universe and mentioned that their music was awesome to dance to, then you two would have a valid argument for your comments, but because it didn't, those statements have no merit, especially if you took the "85%" comment as I did: a fucking JOKE.

    In closing, I appreciate the comments that this review has drawn, but it seems that everyone has more of an issue with the gender of the author than with their take on the fucking album. Which is really fucking disappointing. Why haven't you two commented on the other reader reviews where the authors list their own personal biases against other artists? Just because someone happens to be female doesn't make their viewpoint any less valid than yours.

    And to the last Anonymous commenter: this is only my opinion here, but Curtis Jackson has sold a lot of records; the motherfucker is no hip hop icon. He's a good businessman, I'll admit (at least, he used to be), but music-wise, none of his shit will stand the test of time, even the few songs of his I actually like. And, yes, one of the Reader Review authors mentioned that they liked Coolio at one point, which was actually quite ballsy, since even I wanted to make fun of that, but everyone has their reasons for liking what they do. But to clarify your point, it wasn't "someone who writes album reviews on this blog", it was one person who, thus far, has contributed exactly one review, and if you have a point of view that you wish to properly express, an album you want everyone to know about, or if you truly feel the need to justify your 50 Cent stanism ("gangster rap legend"? Seriously?), you're also more than welcome to submit a review for publication. I published a fucking Lil' Wayne review, so I wouldn't be adverse to another Curtis write-up.

    1. Hey! I love to dance to New York State Of Mind!! I totally agreed, it's a shame her gender is slated, I fully support her and would like to hear her opinions on other hip hop albums as the different perspective was fascinating.

  22. Also, MC Hammer wasn't a one-hit wonder.

  23. Ok all in all, your behind a keyboard and it's hard for someone to take that as a joke when they are reading a message from a computer.

  24. 14 Year Old Lil' Wayne FanAugust 01, 2009

    Well I agree with you on 50 on how he is good bizness man and how he is not a Hip Hop icon. If he isnt that and if he is not a "gangsta rap" icon,(all before he sold out) then what is he? A pop legend? Do you think im 14? I hate Lil' Wayne's albums, his mixtape game is ok.

  25. Shit was funny.
    What the hell more do you people want from a review?
    Max, did she review anything else?

  26. @ david - Not yet, but the door's always open, if she's reading this.

  27. Tile GroutJuly 29, 2011

    I really enjoyed her review too. With your additional commentary you seemed a bit like a married couple. Was this actually written by your wife, whom you've mentioned in this blog now and again? Just kidding (kind of)...

  28. Oh, if only it were that easy.

  29. Tile GroutAugust 26, 2011

    There was actually a married couple doing movie reviews once on public access television. Awkward doesn't begin to describe it.....