In a remarkable run of consistency that may never be approached again, Jay-Z released an album for eight straight years that made him accessible to suburban teenagers but at the same time kept him real enough for urban hustlers. So when the announcement came that a 9th solo album was on the way the streets and Wall Street began buzzing with anticipation. Now that day has arrived and there are times that Jay reminds hip hop fans why the game needs him but unfortunately on Kingdom Come those reminders are fewer and less frequent than any of his previous albums.
Like any other album from Mr. S. Carter, Kingdom Come opens with a strong introduction as Hova summarizes his view on the quality of hip hop and takes some shots at bootleggers along the way. In a strong contender for verse of the year, Jay spits over the soulful B-Money beat,
"The game is fucked up....
Nigga's beats is banging nigga your hooks did it
Your lyrics didn't, your gangsta looks did it
So I would write it if you could get it
Being intricate will get you wood critics
On the internet they be like you should spit it
I'm like you should buy it nigga, that's good business"
Just Blaze comes through to lend his production skills to the next two tracks, the energetic "Oh My God" and the album's best song, "Kingdom Come", where Jay ends each verse with a Super Hero reference and proclaims himself New York's and Hip Hop's savior. After the first three tracks it is hard to argue with Jay-Z's self assessment but the following song, the uninspired "Show Me Watch You Got", offers plenty of support that to those who believed he may have slipped a bit.
Sadly most of the album sounds too much like "Show Me" and not enough like "Kingdom". While his flow on songs like "Hollywood" featuring Beyonce and "Anything" featuring Pharrell and Usher is impressive, the lyrics and the concepts sound like something for a Justin Timberlake album. To his credit though, some of his experiments work well including his collaboration with his good friend from Coldplay, Chris Martin, on the introspective "Beach Chair".
Although it is good to expand one's horizons, Jay seemingly neglects his hip hop fan base. The two Dr. Dre tracks , especially "Trouble", will not make any listeners forget about the "Watcher" songs. On "Trouble" Hova raps, "So I ain't going to make a move unless I got a plan B / That will happen the day I have a baby by Free / Not to say that anything is wrong with Free / Just to say that ain't nothing wrong with me" and sounds like he is catering to the TRL and 106 crowd.
Although most of the songs are not what fans expect from Jigga, there are plenty of moments on the album that will make fans glad that he is back. Even a bad Jay-Z album is a good album.