As I write this, Jay-Z’s 12th studio solo album, Magna Carta, Holy Grail just hit the culture. I think it’s cool. It occurs to me that it’s been four years since a proper Jay-Z solo record—the longest lapse of his career. Previously that gap had been the three years between 2003’s Black Album and the corner office, Jordan-wearing-number 45 Kingdom Come album that dropped in late ’06.
Since 2009’s ambitious but mostly ridiculous Blueprint III, Jay has kept busy though. He’s rubbed elbows with world leaders; bought and sold stake in the Brooklyn Nets; had a baby daughter with his somewhat famous spouse; and musically, found time for high profile releases that weren’t solo albums.
He’s one of the most consummately professional dudes in music and that’s been kind of a curse because it’s just about impossible for the guy to take a breather with an Outlook calendar so stuffed with appointments. I can’t even imagine how many times Swizz Beats has had to leave a voicemail.
I’ve blogged this into a void before, but I consider Jay-Z to be the greatest rapper of all time because he has made the most good rap music. That is attributed to considerable poetic and storytelling abilities, coupled with an ear for beats and the sharp taste needed to write great songs. He’s a brilliant poet obsessed with thinking about his surroundings and it’s made for stellar art.
But you can draw a clear line with respect to his albums between–to borrow a phrase from Blueprint 2’s dueling CDs–“the gift” and “the curse.” Here, we examine the misfires, starting with the least offensive.