This collection of hits really is 'The Blueprint' of hip-hop of the new millennium.
Jay-Z really is the undisputed king of hip-hop (Sorry Kanye, Wayne, Em, Drake etc, etc, I need a separate post for all this). Normally Shawn Carter dominates the fall fourth quarter, it's just hip-hop tradition. He did last year with 'The Blueprint 3' and that wasn't even a classic (still a great album though) and it was released in early September. Still this year there is no new Jay-Z studio album. Fear not however he's still writing rhymes with his lyrically insightful book 'Decoded' hitting shelves. Plus a highly anticipated, real 'Best Of Both Worlds' collaboration with label mate and protegee Kanye West ('Watch The Throne') is expected as soon as they take that day it's going to take to finish it. Until then fans and Roc Nation sales figures will have to rely on 'The Hits Collection Vol, 1' Jay-Z's actual second greatest hits compilation that is aimed at the newer audience he has garnered over the years. Those post 'Blueprint' trilogy, pre Glastonbury fans (this guys older than you think you know).
Jay's public service announcement starts with 'PSA' and what a better introduction to allow him to reintroduce himself. After this brief interlude comes last years hit 'Run This Town' , as the Brooklyn bomber steps up with label mates Kanye West and Rhianna to prove the city of New York is his. It's on the classic 'Empire State Of Mind' however where the king of N.Y is joined by the queen, Alicia Keys for an instant Big Apple anthem that is a core hip-hop/R&B duet for the ages. Also, although it may have no B.O.B.'s on the 2Pac original, Jay-Z's duet with his real queen, Beyonce ('03 Bonnie & Clyde') is a ride or die, top down in your car classic.
The Neptunes helmed 'I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)' and the Kanye produced 'Izzo (H.O.V.A.)' highlight the best of the Carters club ready partying best, but when it comes to popping bottles nothings more basic or better then, 'Big Pimpin'' with UGK. It's been a long time and a different Jay-Z since then but the tune still hits.
For those new to Jay-Z it's where he's at his lyrical best however when the G.O.A.T is at his greatest. Tune into 'D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)' for a lyrical assault on throwaway, electronically assisted sing/song chart fodder. The Timbaland produced collar popper 'Dirt Off Your Shoulder' shouldn't be brushed off either. While the flossy, 'Show Me What You Got' and 'Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)' are upmarket, ashy to classy celebration joints. Get out those cigars and trumpets, Hovies back home on the charts.
Jay-Z's true classics however come when he pushes the envelope. The 'Annie' sampling 'Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)' is timeless, creative introspection at it's best. Also the Rick Rubin helmed, Beastie Boys esque, guitar solo swagger of '99 Problems' built Jay-Z a new audience, some work with Linkin Park and mo' money but no problems.
For those hardcore, collectors who see nothing new here than fear not the deluxe editions for you. With 32 pages or rare, classic black and white, Rat Pack esque photo's the Sinatra of hip-hop has some more to show. Plus 'What More Can He Say'? Well with a bonus disc it appears a few more rare gems. Such classics like the 'Young, Gifted and Black (Freestyle)' where Shawn Carter goes back to his lyrically, talented roots or the remix to Young Jeezy's 'My President Is Black' where Jay further captures the euphoric Barack Obama inauguration into words.
Also on Joe Budden's 'Pump It Up' Jay takes his basketball references and the song to a whole new level. "I'm not Mike Jordan/of the mic recordin/hovi baby you Kobe,/maybe Tracy McGrady/matter fact you Harold Miner, J.R. Rider/washed up on marijuana/even worse you a Pervis Ellis/you worthless fella/you aint no athlete you Shawn Bradley", (OUCH!).It's a classic, slam dunk battle with the former Def Jam artist (Budden handles the Roc legend well though though on the extended mix). Also despite some ill advised Heath Ledger references the DJ Khaled, Kanye and T-Pain remix of 'Go Hard' displays some lyrical prowess, while the closer, 'This Life Forever' is a true Carter classic from the vault made available for his catalogue.
This greatest hits collection should have been labelled 'Volume 2', but for a guy who's given us volumes of classic work in the past it doesn't matter. Sure this compilation knocked the hustle and could have had some 'Girls, Girls, Girls' but it still displays the boys best. It may be lacking some 'Heart Of The City, 'Where's The Love' but overall this collection is a 'Blueprint' of Jigga's best work. An ideal stocking filler this Christmas for new fans getting to know the MC or those die-hard fans yet to 'Watch The Throne'. The king is back. Long live the hits. TIM DAVID HARVEY.