The Pharcyde and J Dilla created a song entitled Something That Means Something. They wanted their music and lyrics to get inside of the listener. Their goal was to make you vibe out of course, but also think of your childhood, love your family, reminisce on mistakes and face the social issues of the day head on. They used Hip Hop as tool to uplift but also critique our society.
Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Sister Nancy, The Fugees, Raekwon, The Allan Parsons Project, The Clark Sisters and Jacob Miller all helped to create the sonic underpinnings of this album. Jay-Z and NO ID have created a body of work that means something. It touches me politically, makes me appreciate being a father, and gives me hope. The biggest name in Hip Hop is back to making sample based, age appropriate music that oozes soul.
I was critical of Watch the Throne album and Magna Carta, Holy Grail. I thought, “He can do better” ” I do not relate to this” “Really Hov?” However, this morning over Tennis, returning propane tanks, getting a car wash, spinning a set and studying for the GRE I became connected to this album. From discussing family issues on 4;44 and Family Feud, to letting us know what “They” really think of us on Story of O.J, he put his lifetime in between the papers lines, as Prodigy would say. I think he actually has learned to live with Regrets.
Lyrically he is on top his game. Flow is straight up Pocket as usual. But he also raps with a seemingly endless amount of different styles, vocal inflections and rhythm cadences. It’s just top notch music in every way. It feels good, it sounds good, makes you want to hear and see it over an over. With each listen small details are brought to the forefront.
Take Caught Their eyes, first of all The Nina Simone sample is chopped brilliantly. Lyrically Jay shows the apprehension the game has taught him and how he learns from his experiences. (“Memories may sneak down my cheek, but I can see side eye in my sleep“) Learning from experiences and reflecting on it? Yes, that is what a grown man does, and I applaud the vulnerability shown on this album.
Hip Hop has always been full of hyper masculinity and toughness. The hope is that as we age that attitude subsides. I know there is a man out there listening to 4:44 who decides, “you know what, I got to man up as a father” or to fight to make his neighborhood better like Marcy and Me.
Track for track I would say it is his 3rd best album behind Reasonable Doubt and the Black Album. This is a record for the 30 and over crowd for sure. It feels like listening to someone you have grown up with producing beats and writing lyrics with all their newly found maturity, accompanied by decades of practice and performance experience.
Beats, bars, ridiculous sampling, introspection, attacks on our racist society, family struggles, joy of Fatherhood. Dilla and the Pharcyde would proud.
So allow yourself to be reintroduced to a rapper name HOV!