So it’s here. We all knew it was coming. We’d seen the Def Jam 4th quarter release schedule, we’d heard the rumors, we’d peeped the ending of the NBA on TNT commercial, we’d looked at the cell-phone picture from his show in Slovakia, and now it’s upon us. Jay’s first single leaked on Friday. Greg Street plays it 9 times in a row in Atlanta and gets L.A. Reid to call him, I personally heard it about 17 times on Hot 97 in the last two days, it’s blowing up in the clubs (although the DJ at the party I attended Friday night didn’t play it – step your
download crate digging game up, kid), and apparently Def Jam is ‘bout to get some of them alphabet boys on the case, ostensibly to find the source of the leak and Abu Ghraib that motherfucker.
I don’t not like it. I just don’t love it.
But first things first, what I do love is the beat. While Just Blaze, the title of the song, and the Flavor Flav samples scratched in on the chorus suggests that the track is inspired and borrows from Public Enemy’s “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” (which, of course, is sampled from something else – no idea is original) I think I’m right in assuming that upon first listen, most folks will more readily recognize the opening horns as the ones from that seminal Virginia Beach classic “Rump Shaker.” I had neither heard, nor heard of, the P.E. song. This professed ignorance can most easily be chalked up to a generational thing. Although I do promise to go downsteal it and read my scriptures.
Anyhow, in recognizing it as a “Rump Shaker” reference, I immediately thought….it was kinda wack. “Rump Shaker” was cool, if mostly as sort of a novelty song, but I always distinctly remember being really annoyed by the horns. Although it’s obviously the most recognizable part of the song, for me, it was always the most grating part. However, I’m willing to step outside of personal preferences, if only for a moment, and give props where props are due. Besides my dislike of the horns, the beat is sound, and from a technical standpoint, pretty amazing. I think it’s fair to say that Just Blaze and the Blazettes have the best drums in hip-hop music today. As President Carter transitions from his customary beginning-of-song shit-talking to his first verse, Just Bleezy lets the drums lag behind the horns for just a second, and then makes them catch up just as quick. The way he constantly switches up tempo (3-4 different tempos, flip-flopped in probably 11-12 places) here, and in many of his creations, is masterful. If you’re not listening for it, you’ll easily miss it. Blaze’s drums are an organic, live-at-the-Apollo, amalgam of beautiful kicks, snares, bass hits, and cymbal crashes. Plus he goes a little nuts with all of it there at the end. Nice.
Hold on, it’s gonna take me a second to get down off of Just Blaze’s jock; alright, I’m back. This leaves us (more importantly) with Jay’s lyrics and what I guess you’d call the message, or the overall theme of the song. That’s the thing though; Jay doesn’t say much, the song doesn’t say much, and I’m left with nothing much to take away. Except a really good Just Blaze beat.
This is only brought into sharper focus by seeing how much I did have to say about Just Blaze and his beat, but….I just don’t have much to say about what Jay’s saying. Which, again, is not much. See a trend forming here? He’s got a couple of good lines (he is Jay, of course), but there’s just not much substance. Yeah, yeah, I can hear the excuses already: it’s just his first single, it’s for the clubs (kind of an odd choice for that, even), but fuck that – when have any of those stipulations ever precluded Jay from spitting before?
But I gotta pause here, and ask myself a question. Probably one we should all ask ourselves. And be honest.
Is there anything that Jay-Z could have came with that wouldn’t have brought us some level of disappointment?
The man has taken on such mythical proportions in the minds of most hip-hop fans, and most certainly mine, that, given the special set of circumstances (lead single off of “comeback” album, as opposed to, say, a guest verse on his girlfriend’s crappy R&B song), there’s just about nothing short of “Show You How To Do This” that he could have come up with to really blow cats away. With that being said, I’m not even disappointed on some “This shit is mediocre…..for Jay.” I’m disappointed on some “This shit is mediocre.” Period.
Although I’m still filled with that Christmas morning, first-day-of-school, tip-off for the ‘chip mix of excitement and anticipation for “Kingdom Come” — as I always am when someone tells me that Jay’s “got some words,” and as I always will be — this song just ain’t it. But whatever, I’ll be there bright and early on November 21. So will you.