By Justin Lee
Jay-Z and DMX are easily two of the most successful mc’sin hip-hop today, having risen victoriously from the underground-status to the forefront in the last couple of years. After a couple of multi-platinum albums each, headlining the most successful tour in hip-hop history (1999’s The Hardknock Life Tour) and dabbling in acting, "Jigga" and "Y" now face the inevitable backlash from once loyal fans accusing them of "selling-out". Fortunately, Jay-Z and DMX have each released new discs that prove to the player-haters out there that just because they’re not exactly clipping out food stamps every week, doesn’t mean that they’re not keeping it real.
On Vol. 3…Life And Times Of S. Carter, Jay-Z manages to outdue himself yet again with an album that is a far more consistent than 1998’s Vol 2…Hard Knock Life but falls short of his classic Reasonable Doubt. Jay spits ridiculous rhymes in various flow patterns, alongside such mc’s as Dr. Dre, Beanie Sigel, Amil, Memphis Bleek, UGK and Juvenile. On "Things That U Do", which features the helium-injected vocals of Mariah Carey on the song’s hook, Jigga rhymes in a steady flow over a sweet-as-candy flute loop–that’s flute, not fruit. Meanwhile, on "Big Pimpin’" his vocals bounce rapidly alongside a Austin Powers-esque beat. Backed-up by production from such "beat-scientists" as DJ Premier, Timbaland and Ruff Ryder’s Swizz Beatz, Vol 3… possess beats that are tighter than Missy Elliot in spandex.
This disc is a must for all heads out there and should silence any skeptics who feel that Jigga lost his touch.
Like DMX’s two previous albums, …And Then There Was Y also deals with underlying themes of pain and redemption and the ability to conquer over sorrow when faced with troubled times. Unlike the high-profile guest spots on Jay-Z’s disc, …And Then There Was Y is modest in comparison, featuring fellow Ruff Ryders The Lox and Drag-On, Dru Hill’s Sisqo and newcomer Dyme, and as a result, leaves Y in the spotlight.
Like a pit-bull chained to a post, Y’s delivery conveys a sense of determination to get his point across to his audience. On "One More Road To Cross", "The Professional" and "Make A Move" he speaks of the lengths one can go to in desperate times, while the heartfelt "Prayer III" and "Angel" sees Y dedicating his success and ability to touch so many people to God.
The Ruff Ryder’s production team, along with additional production from Irv Gotti and Dame Grease, laced the albums with hard-edged, bass-induced beats that are sure to piss off your neighbors and anyone within a radius of 10 km. …And Then There Was Y is undoubtedly the Dark Man’s strongest album up-to-date and proves that Y will not be going away anytime soon.