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 Jay-Z: What More Can Say







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Hov started talking about his last LP before he even started recording his last LP, 2002's The Blueprint 2. Jigga said his game plan would be to spread his gift of gab mainly through word of mouth. Yes, he intended to sell millions of records, but a little differently this time. No heavy promotion by Roc-A-Fella/ Def Jam, no videos, no singles. He was going to drop the album and let the music speak for itself.

Thematically, The Black Album would be a prequel to Reasonable Doubt. Hovi would talk about his life from birth to the release of his first album. Imagine, an entire album filled with graphically honest and poetic first-person accounts of his pre-fame existence. More classics in the vein of records like "You Must Love Me," "Song Cry" and "Soon You'll Understand," where Jay is devoid of arrogance and swagger, showing a little vulnerability and disclosing his insecurities and missteps.

  Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z
"Change Clothes"
Video Shoot
Long Island City, NY 10.28.2003

Obviously, given the fact that Jay decided to put out a single and make a video for the party record "Change Clothes," where he rhymes about the latest fashion trends and rides around in the new Phantom Rolls Royce, Hova hasn't stuck to the original script.

"I think some people wanted 'Star Wars Episode IV,' " Jay's longtime friend and album engineer Kimel "Young Guru" Keaton assesses. "That's not exactly where the album is. It still has to be current to sell records. 'Change Clothes' is the type of song where you know exactly what it is and how it's going to be perceived. It's an ' '03 Bonnie & Clyde,' another big radio record."

"In a way," Jay answers about whether the project turned out the way he initially envisioned it. "I mean, just as far as the attack of it, what I'm saying. The approach of it is introspective — this is probably my most introspective album — but it has a lot of current things in it. A lot of things that I wanted to happen really didn't happen with the album, but then again, it's music. I didn't want to overthink it and make it boxy. I didn't want to make it programmed — it should just flow the way it flows. I just got to go with what feels good."

Listening to his records, there is no indication that Hov needs to be put out to pasture. He doesn't sound like he wants to leave, either. This isn't a 33-year-old man who's bored with the hip-hop game as a whole and is now only competing with his own established greatness — this dude's fire is burning. 

"I don't know if Jay-Z's going to retire," Wyclef Jean opines. "Every time I see Jay-Z, it's like he keeps getting better and better at his craft. I think Jay-Z is probably going to put out The Black Album and he's probably going to sit back, run the company, and then the Jones is gonna hit him. The art is his passion, you can see it when he grabs the mic."

What felt good for Jay while recording the LP was reliving some hairy moments from his past as a hustler, like on "Allure" and "99 Problems" ("The year is '94 and my trunk is raw," Jay raps with bluster, "In my rearview mirror is the mutha----in' law"), his place as the "best rapper alive" on "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" and "What More Can I Say," and expounding on his most personal issue, his relationship with his father, on "December 4th" and "Moment of Clarity." 

"Pop died, didn't cry, didn't know him that well/ Between him doing heroin and me doing crack sells," Jay's recorded voice seethes out of the speakers at Baseline during a listening session for The Black Album hosted by Hov.

While the Eminem-produced track, "Moment of Clarity," plays on, catching the ears of his guests, including Pharrell Williams, DJ Clue and President of Def Jam Kevin Liles, Hov sits stoically bobbing to the beat.

  "99 Problems"
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "Moment Of Clarity"
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "What More Can I Say"
(Roc-A-Fella)


 "It just came from me being real about those feelings," he explains later in the night about the seemingly callous lyrics about his dad, Adnis Reeves, who passed away on June 18 due to liver problems. "When I went to the church [for his funeral] and I seen him, my first thought, it was a smirk. I was smiling a little bit, like, 'Yo, this guy looks so much like me. We look just alike.' "

Jay and his father had been estranged until earlier this year. Reeves left the household and his family's life (Jay has an older brother and two sisters) when Shawn was just 12 years old. The separation had served as a major "block" for Jay over the years. He struggled with being hurt and harbored resentment, yet deep down, he still yearned for that connection with his pops.

His most vocal tongue-lashing toward his dad was on the Dynasty: Roc La Familia cut "Where Have You Been," where he rapped "F--- you very much/ You showed me the worst kind of pain." A few months later on Beanie Sigel's "Still Got Love For You," a more remorseful Jay rapped about still feeling neglected, but being ready to forgive: "N---a you did me wrong/ But the love is strong, let's move on."

In January Jay got his wish when his mother, Gloria Carter, orchestrated a meeting between her son and her ex-husband. The heart-to-heart would kick off a six-month-long reconciliation process until Reeves' death. 


Next: A few young, Young Hovas on the way? Plus, Jay doesn't want to end up like Mike ...
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Photo: Roc-A-Fella

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  "Change Clothes"
The Black Album
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "Excuse Me Miss"
The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse
(Roc-A-Fella/)


  " '03 Bonnie & Clyde"
The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "Song Cry"
The Blueprint
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)"
The Blueprint
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)"
The Dynasty: Roc La Familia
(Roc-A-Fella)


  "Big Pimpin'"
Vol. 3 ...The Life and Times of S. Carter
(Roc-A-Fella)


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