February 20, 2009

Reader Review: Jay-Z - In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (November 4, 1997)


(Today’s author, Alex, apparently could not be bothered to attach a nickname to the bottom of his review (or respond to an e-mail requesting such a moniker for this post). Hope he’s alright. Anyway, he looks at Jay-Z’s Puff Daddy-influenced In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 from a different perspective, apparently that of someone that actually liked the album. All I can say is, if you hated the Tribe review yesterday, then you may as well turn around now, and try your luck again tomorrow.)

Jay-Z and Nas are often referred to as the two best rappers still alive, even though I'd personally put Ghostface Killah a step above Shawn. The two men have one thing in common within their respective discographies (other than the fact that both of their albums were formed out of plastic and shipped in a circular shape): because their debut albums, Reasonable Doubt (hey, why isn’t there a Reader Review about that?) and Illmatic (ditto) were so highly acclaimed, their follow ups, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 and It Was Written were dubbed sophomore slumps, which is actually completely wrong. (Especially since both sophomore albums built upon the sales of their predecessors by a wide margin.) In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 contains some of Jay's best work, contrary to what Max says. (I know he just wrote “contrary to what Max says”, but I believe I wrote in my original post that there are some really good songs on here: it’s just the majority of the album that sucks.) With that said, on with the review.

1. A MILLION & ONE QUESTIONS/RHYME NO MORE
One of the best ways to start off an album. Jay-Z kills the beat discussing his current status and all the questions surrounding him. (Hence the first half of the title.) Primo shows why he is one of the best, if not the best, producers in the game with these two (drastically different and, yet, complimentary) beats. I do agree with Max (you’re goddamn right) when he says the remix might be superior. One of his best songs in his catalog.

2. THE CITY IS MINE (FEAT BLACKSTREET)
And its followed up with this shit. This could have been a great song (I very strongly and respectfully disagree), but the Blackstreet hook is just cheesy as fuck.

3. I KNOW WHAT GIRLS LIKE (FEAT PUFF DADDY & LIL’ KIM)
Another pop dud from Jay-Z. This solidifies the fact that the only two good things that Puffy has done for hip hop are exposing the world to Biggie Smalls and starring on a reality show in which he is essentially a slave master over some entirely untalented rappers.

4. IMAGINARY PLAYER
I really like Jay-Z's lyrics, but I have to say the beat is just boring, nothing more, nothing less. The lyrics make it iPod worthy, but the beat is kind of bland and too slow. Still, a pretty good song none the less. (And you two readers wonder how I can review albums with seemingly negative comments and then still recommend a purchase.)

5. STREETS IS WATCHING
The second classic song on the album. The Ski-produced beat has a grimy cinematic feel. I have to agree with Max: Jay-Z dropped the ball by not collaborating with Ski anymore. I disagree with Max, though, when he claims Just Blaze does not mesh well with Jay, but I’ll save that for a different review.

6. FRIEND OR FOE '98
The sequel to one of the best tracks on Reasonable Doubt. This is the second production credit by Primo and he doesn't disappoint. This track really showcased Jay's storytelling skills.

7. LUCKY ME
A little too glossy, but it's a great song. Jay-z's lyrics sound very genuine. The hook is kind of meh, but it's too short to truly hold a grudge against.

8. ALWAYS BE MY SUNSHINE (FEAT FOXY BROWN & BABYFACE)
Apply whatever I said about "I Know What Girls Like" to this song. The only thing more ridiculously stupid about this track is the video. (You mean the one where Foxy is wearing some bizarre mesh top and no bra? Or am I remembering that wrong?)

9. WHO U WIT II
And the album picks itself back up. More floss rap by Jay (in this sequel to a track from the Sprung soundtrack), but he does this incredibly well. (And you two say that I’m on his dick.)

10. FACE/OFF (FEAT SAUCE MONEY)
If you have any reason to remember Sauce Money, have it be for the ridiculous name or "Bring It On" off Reasonable Doubt. (Other than adding a comma, I left that sentence as is, because even I couldn’t quite figure out exactly what he was going for there.) Not a bad track, but nothing really memorable besides the music video (which, yes, there was a video). Too clubby for my tastes, I guess.

11. REAL N----Z (FEAT TOO $HORT)
Jay-Z & Too Short? No, it couldn't be. It looks like a strange pairing on paper (especially on 24-pound goldenrod), but they pull it off very nicely. The hook is taken from a rare Biggie song, but Jay-Z has a way of swiping shit and making it seem like his own. (Okay, even I have to disagree with that comment. The lines that Hova steals from Biggie’s mouth always sound like he’s consciously paying homage to the man, as if he wouldn’t want the public to even believe that he wrote them. But, then again, I like Jay-Z. Sue me.)

12. RAP GAME/CRACK GAME
Here’s the second time Jay-Z has sampled Nas's voice. Nas = 2, Jay-Z = 0. (Apparently we were supposed to place bets prior to turning the album on.) The song is pretty clever in that it compares, well, the rap game to the crack game. It was produced by Big Jaz, who is, of course, the crackhead (huh?) that brought Jay into the game, even though Jay continues to shit on him at every opportunity.

13. WHERE I'M FROM
Another classic gem. Jay talks about growing up in the Marcy projects, "Where we call the cops the A-Team/cause they hop out of vans and spray things". Considering this was produced by two of Puff Daddy’s Hitmen (D-Dot and Amen-Ra, specifically), this happens to be the best Bad Boy collaboration with Shawn Carter since he teamed up with The Notorious B.I.G. himself for "Brooklyn’s Finest" (off of Reasonable Doubt).

14. YOU MUST LOVE ME (FEAT KELLY PRICE)
One of those introspective album closers where Jay-Z talks about the drama he caused and has dealt with in his childhood (and life). This is a very somber and reflective song, one of Jay's best, simply because of how personal it is. The soulful beat is also perfect, as it gives him room to vent. If this whole story is true, then Jay should definitely have a movie of his life. (Once again, even I have to disagree, but this time only because I feel a movie about Max’s life would be slightly more interesting. I kid!)

FINAL THOUGHTS: In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 isn’t exactly flawless, but Puffy is to blame (although, let’s be honest, Puffy didn’t produce the majority of the disc). If its predecessor wasn't considered to be one of the best hip hop albums of all time, this would be regarded as a solid effort. Jay-Z's lyrics stay top notch and the beats are usually suitable and good. (Nothing like a “suitable” beat to make me fork over my hard earned panhandling money.)

BUY OR BURN? Buy this shit. (Apparently he had nothing more to say.)

BEST TRACKS: “A Million & One Questions/Rhyme No More”; “Streets Is Watching”; “Friend or Foe '98”; “Where I'm From”; “You Must Love Me”

-Alex

(Um…yeah. I have an idea as to how the comments, if any, will play themselves out, but I’m inviting you two to contribute anyway. Here’s a link to the original post if you need help.)

8 comments:

  1. The soulful beat is also perfect, as it gives him room to vent. If this whole story is true, then Jay should definitely have a movie of his life.

    that made me laugh. also so did the "suitable beats"

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  2. See! Jay-Z fans can write.

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  3. I stopped reading once this once he said he didn't like "Imaginary Player."

    I don't even like Jay-Z and I can say that song is ridiculously hot.

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  4. Alex, I assume that you are a Jay-Z fanatic. It's ok, nothing wrong with that.

    But reading your review, I also assume that you have never listened to a better album than this here. It's like you are trying to glamourize Jay-Z's fake hustler come up.

    Especially this album, is a disappointing 2nd album of a "promissing rapper"...

    By the way: What happened on "Wishing on a star"???

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  5. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessFebruary 20, 2009

    So let me get this straight, Alex. If that is your real name. Jay-Z can rhyme, DJ Premier is a top notch beat maker, and Puffy's for chicks? That's it? Don't you know any jokes?

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  6. JAMMQ said...
    I stopped reading once this once he said he didn't like "Imaginary Player."

    Werd. Not my fave, but there's a handfull of gret songs here. I can agree that Puff is partially to blame for In My Lifetime's woes. Not only his production, but for the tone he set with "Life After Death", "No way Out" & "Harlem World". It forced every one else to switch their game up & led to decisions like the seizure inducing video for "Sunshine". Decent review, even if it was a little off.

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  7. Max, RD outsold vol. 1 if I'm not mistaken.

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