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Rap - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal Music Division Barclay

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
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Rap - Released August 12, 2011 | Universal Music Division Def Jam Recordings France

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Ideal Audio Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
£17.31
£12.86

Rap - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal Music Division Def Jam Recordings France

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks

Rap - Released July 7, 2017 | Universal Music

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
If Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z, has found himself a target for clashes throughout 4:44, it's not with Kanye, or Kendrick, or any other fellow musician. No: the Brooklyn rapper's struggle is entirely with himself. At 47, having nothing to prove to anyone, Jay-Z is not out to gauge the competition or battle the new generation. Rather, he is hitting the psychoanalyst's couch. And 4:44 makes for a beautiful couch to do just that. Solid, robust and nicely designed. The album was produced by Ernest Dion Wilson a.k.a. No I.D. (it's rare for Jay-Z to hand the keys to a single producer) and it remains true to the fundamentals of Jay-Z's work. No vaguely electro sounds, no contemporary beats. Jay-Z has made a classic album, a true Jay-Z album, with groovy and erudite choices of samples (Fugees, Stevie Wonder, Funk Inc., Donny Hathaway to name a few) over which he lays down introspective rhymes on the turpitudes of conjugal life with Mrs Carter (who features on Family Feud), and reflecting on his status and ego. He is restrained in his choice of other artists who feature, inviting only Frank Ocean and Damian Marley to the album. But after listening to the album several times over, 4:44 impresses with its precision, its workmanship, and a certain kind of perfection. Jay-Z made the revolution years ago. What's important to him now is to continue to rule and be respected. Mission accomplished. © MD/Qobuz

Rap - Released January 1, 2004 | Def Jam Recordings

If The Black Album is Jay-Z's last, as he publicly stated it will be, it illustrates an artist going out in top form. For years Shawn Carter has been the best rapper and the most popular, a man who can strut the player lifestyle with one track and become the eloquent hip-hop everyman with the next, an artist for whom modesty is often a sin, and yet, one who still sounds sincere when he's discussing his humble origins or his recurring doubts. After the immediate classic The Blueprint found him at the peak of his powers, and The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse came as the most deflating sequel since Star Wars: Episode I, his follow-up (and possible siren song) impresses on the same level as the best of his career. As he has in the past, Jay-Z balances the boasting with extensive meditations on his life and his career. The back history begins with the first song, "December 4" (his birthday), on which Carter traces his life from birth day to present day, riding a mock fanfare and the heart-tugging strings of producer Just Blaze, along with frequent remembrances from his mother in This Is Your Life fashion. The other top track, "What More Can I Say," opens with Russell Crowe's defiant "Are you not entertained!?" speech from Gladiator, then finds Jay-Z capping his career with another proof that he's one of the best of all time, and a look into what made him that way: "God forgive me for my brash delivery, but I remember vividly what these streets did to me." He also goes out with a few words for underground fans who think he's sold too many records for his own good. On "Moment of Clarity," he lays it out with an excellent rhyme: "If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be lyrically Talib Kweli/Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense/But I did five mil, I ain't been rhyming like Common since." The first single, "Change Clothes," is much more interesting than the lightweight club hit it sounds like, a keyboard-heavy pop sequel to the Neptunes' "Frontin'" (the anthem that rocked the summer of 2003, and his last collaboration with professional beat-maker and amateurish falsetto Pharrell Williams). And he can rock with the best as well, working with Rick Rubin on a cowbell-heavy stormer named "99 Problems" that samples Billy Squier and outrocks Kid Rock. The only issue that's puzzling about The Black Album is why one of the best rappers needs to say goodbye -- unless, of course, he's simply afraid of being taken for granted and wants listeners to imagine a rap world without him. ~ John Bush

Rap - Released January 1, 2010 | Def Jam Recordings

Rap - Released January 1, 2000 | Def Jam Recordings

Rap - Released January 1, 2006 | Universal Records

Jay-Z's retirement from making albums was more like a working holiday. After he announced his retirement, released The Black Album, and threw the Fade to Black party, he collaborated with Linkin Park on Collision Course, teamed with R. Kelly for the abysmal Unfinished Business, and appeared on tracks by Beanie Sigel, Bun B, Memphis Bleek, Kanye West, Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco, and Beyoncé. He kept busy behind the scenes as Def Jam's CEO and president, and he also stepped up as a major philanthropist, donating a million dollars to the Katrina cause and actively addressing the global water crisis in Turkey and South Africa. In the midst of these and other well-publicized activities, Jay-Z recorded Kingdom Come, his eighth and weakest studio album. When placed in the context of his prolific discography, the greater part of the album wilts, and it's not a good indicator that Jay-Z continues to lean on a familiar cast of producers rather than actively seek up-and-comers. (The fresh talent here is limited to Syience and Gwyneth Paltrow's Chris Martin; they contribute one track each.) There's only a small handful of highlights. On the title track, Just Blaze's masterful contortion job on Rick James' "Superfreak" backs Jay's nearly top-form, Black Album/Blueprint-worthy boasts: "I been up in the office, you might know him as Clark/Just when you thought the whole world fell apart/I take off the blazer, loosen up the tie/Step inside the booth, Superman is alive." Two of the four Dr. Dre productions feature assistance from Mark Batson (Anthony Hamilton), and they both strike a fine balance between maturity and ferocity -- much more so than the clumsy "30 Something," where Jay proclaims that "30 is the new 20," which would actually make him 27 and a fourth-grader a zygote. (He might as well say, "You wear Huggies, I wear Depends/You drink from a sippy cup/I sip my solids.") Apart from the above-mentioned bright spots and a poignant, somber track about the Katrina disaster ("Minority Report"), the album is a display of complacency and retreads -- a gratuitous, easily resistible victory lap -- that slightly upgrades the relative worth of The Blueprint². ~ Andy Kellman

Rap - Released January 1, 2007 | Def Jam Recordings

"Y'all n*ggas got me really confused out there. I make 'Big Pimpin' or 'Give It to Me,' one of those -- that had me as the greatest writer of the 21st century. I make some thought-provoking sh*t -- y'all question whether he fallin' off." When you've built up a back catalog of eight studio albums and walk the earth as one of the biggest, most high-profile artists of the '90s and 2000s, you're bound to get some mixed signals from those who pay attention to you. However, the jury did not take long to reach a verdict on 2006's Kingdom Come: the consensus on it (as a major fall-off) was as swift and strong as the consensus on Reasonable Doubt (as a classic). Once used copies of Kingdom Come became easily attainable for less than two dollars, it was apparent the next Jay-Z album might not be so anticipated. He'd need to get some fresh inspiration and make some corrective maneuvers. Fortunately, both came unexpectedly -- rather than by desperate force -- after he saw an advance screening of the early-'70s period piece American Gangster, which played a direct role in nine of the songs on this album of the same name. While several tracks connected to specific scenes are also rooted in productions trading in the regal grit that made up so much '70s soul, the album is not a straight narrative, broken up by tracks like the boom-clap of "Hello Brooklyn 2.0" (produced by Bigg D) and the glitzed-out pair of "I Know" (a half-icing Neptunes layer cake) and "Ignorant Shit" (where Just Blaze transforms the Isleys' quiet storm staple "Between the Sheets" into a high-gloss anthem). Combined with the tracks laced with '70s soul -- including six produced by Diddy & LV & Sean C, one by Toomp, and two by a newly forged partnership between Jermaine Dupri and No I.D. -- it all adds up to an album that seems nearly out of time, at least when it comes to the years spanning Jay-Z's career, without resembling a true regression. "Success," for instance, takes its lead from The Black Album's "Public Service Announcement," with blaring organ over heavily weighted drum knocks, yet despite the likeness, it's one of the album's highlights. And while Jay mentions American Gangster and protagonist Frank Lucas directly, and intersperses some tracks with dialogue, the connection does not overshadow the album. It's not like he's yelling "Shaft's Big Score 2K7!" or "Leonard Part Six, Part Two!" It's all as natural as Scarface riffing off Scarface. And that might be the most common complaint about the album -- it's really just another case of Jay-Z being Jay-Z, albeit with different presentation. Unless you know each verse from Reasonable Doubt through Kingdom Come, it might sound like he's dealing with no variation on well-worn themes, the exact same thoughts and emotions that make up older tracks about his past as a drug dealer -- the rise, the arrogance, the conflictedness, the fall, and all stages in between. When he's in the right frame of mind, though, as he is throughout much of the album's duration (it is a bit sluggish in spots), he's as affective with his subject as Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye were with romance. Just as key, the level of insolence and spite on display here is as high as it has ever been. "I got watches I ain't seen in months/Apartment at the Trump, I only slept in it once/N*ggas said Hova was over, such dummies/Even if I fell I land on a bunch of money" has more of those qualities than all of Kingdom Come. One could say that's not really saying much, but regardless of context, this is a very good Jay-Z album. He is, for the most part, doing what he has done before: what he does best. ~ Andy Kellman

Rap - Released November 30, 2004 | Warner Bros. - Roc-A-Fella

Rap - Released January 1, 2001 | Def Jam Recordings

Following the success of Blueprint, Jay-Z took a break from the studio productions of Timbaland and Just Blaze and stepped into acoustic surroundings for a taped edition of MTV's long-running Unplugged series. With the talents of the Roots as his backing band, Jay-Z fails to miss a step and feels just as comfortable in the unplugged arena as he does with drum machines and a mixing desk in front of him. The skills of Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson emulate even the slightest nuance from the originally programmed electronic beats, and Jay-Z fails to take this for granted, gently shifting from one song to the next in medley form with ease. With a strong track listing spanning his entire career of chart-topping hits, this album is the perfect introduction to Jay-Z's prolific catalog and a fun listen for the most dedicated of fans. ~ Rob Theakston

Rap - Released November 30, 2004 | Warner Bros. - Roc-A-Fella

Rap - Released January 1, 2008 | Shawn Carter

Rap - Released November 30, 2004 | Warner Bros. - Roc-A-Fella

Mash-ups -- two songs stuck together that were never meant to be stuck together -- have their roots in the bedrooms and basements of computer-savvy music geeks who spend countless hours sticking Christina Aguilera's vocals over the Strokes' chugging backbeat or Missy Elliott's raps over George Michael, Joy Division, the Cure, and about a thousand others. MP3s were the medium of choice, white-label 12"s a distant second. It seemed like it was time to put a fork in the pranky genre when collections like The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever and Soulwax's As Heard on Radio Soulwax series exposed the mash-up to a wider audience, but then Danger Mouse came along. His headline-making Grey Album -- Jay-Z's Black Album vs. the Beatles' White Album -- inspired a ton of spirited imitations, and most likely the MTV-spawned, artists-involved Collision Course. The fact that the artists are involved with the project totally goes against the mash-up philosophy, but luckily Linkin Park -- who are revealed through the DVD as the main architects of the EP -- have that pop-loving prankster spirit and don't let their high-profile, well-funded life ruin it. The liner notes talk of a "once-in-a-lifetime performance" and "music history," but Collision Course is just plain old fun and all the better because of it. Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" sits nicely on top of Linkin Park's "Lying from You" on the CD's studio version, but it's the fist-pumping live version on the DVD that really justifies Collision Course's existence. The Z-man -- who's "retired" from the rap game while being busier than ever -- has had his excellent "99 Problems" rocked up before, so the version here with Linkin Park's "Points of Authority" and "One Step Closer" isn't so much the revelation the liner-note hyperbole makes it out to be, but it's got an awesome beat and you can still dance to it. If the CD were released on its own, the collection wouldn't be as exciting. Linkin Park's genuine excitement about the project on the "behind the scenes" segment of the DVD is infectious, and watching the furious and fast teaming of "Jigga What/Faint" teeter on the edge of falling apart is gripping. Check the DVD first, and then throw the CD in the car for when you feel half-mack, half-punk. It's doubtful mash-ups will survive corporate handling this well again, and to paraphrase a post-show Linkin Parker, Collision Course is awesomely fun. ~ David Jeffries

Rap - Released July 4, 2013 | Universal Music

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