It’s June 29th, 2017, about 8pm on the west coast and about an hour away from the release of Shawn Carter aka JAY-Z’s 13th studio album, 4:44. At this very moment, I’m nervous as fuck to say the least. I was a fan of his last album, MCHG and the last few albums before that, but I also know that none of those albums were what the hip-hop masses would consider a “classic.” In fact the last solo album he released that was hands down considered a classic was 2003’s, The Black Album. Some would argue that the Diddy executive produced American Gangster is a classic, however, it’s not as widely heralded as some of his other releases. It had been 14 years since his last truly flawless work and at age 47 with hip-hop looking more and more like the young man’s game people say it is, does Hov have anything of relevance to give hip-hop culture and his legions of fans?
Finally, the album dropped and I could breathe a sigh of relief. Jay had done what he’s done countless times throughout his life and career. He proved that the doubt was unwarranted. Immediately the internet was set ablaze with almost every critic and fan alike calling the album a masterpiece. Mr. Carter had dropped a classic and one of the best albums in his storied career just years before he will turn 50 years old. To say that we’ve never seen anything like this before would be an understatement.
At this point in his career, he has 4 clear classic LP’s and maybe a fifth if you’re on the American Gangster train. He has more number one albums than any solo artist in any genre of music…ever. And he is still in top form after 20 plus years in the game! We can literally form a check list of things that we believe you need to do to be the GOAT and JAY-Z will have checked off every box, some multiple times. Classic debut album? Check. Multi-platinum sales? Check. Longevity? Check. The list goes on. In 2001 JAY-Z was in the middle of the biggest battle in hip-hop history with another MC who has captured legendary status. QB’s own Nas. Regardless of who you feel won this competition between the two titans it can’t be denied that both MC’s came out better on the other end.
For every person out there that loves to dance to Jay’s commercial bangers, there’s a drug dealer who feels he’s made the soundtrack to their lives. For every aspiring rapper who goes over his lines like they’re verses in the bible, there’s a supermodel walking down the runway to one of his hits. JAY-Z touches everyone in all walks of life.
Now at age 47 years old, Jay is in uncharted territory. Eminem and Nas as well are both prime examples of other artists that are still very relevant at this age. However, I don’t think anyone would argue that neither Marshall nor Nasir have dropped an album as potent as, 4:44, in over a decade. It’s a shame Pac, Pun or Biggie didn’t get to see the full potential of their artistry but unfortunately, we can’t rewrite history. And while the Drake’s, Cole’s and Kendrick’s of today are all off to starts destined for hall of fame finishes, they just haven’t done it long enough to be compared to a man who is still competing at their level and has been for the better part of three decades now.
JAY-Z – Song Cry
I understand that everyone has their own preferences and I fully understand that “favorite” and “best” are not the same thing. This is not an argument to make JAY-Z your favorite rapper. This is just an attempt to try to put his career into some form of context. I will say this though. If you can make a case for someone else being the GOAT, I’m all ears…I’ll wait…
FOLLOW EVAN B CULTURE ON TWITTER: @EvanBCulture