I knew it. The album I was least excited to hear is out and its every bit of the self indulgent narcissim that I expected. While there are always going to be shining moments when you have two artists of this caliber, there is also potential for disaster when you have two superstars who have in the past displayed a tendency to do whatever they want with no one saying nary a negative word even when it would seem necessary. The best thing was that the two could drop the album randomly to prevent bootlegging and get sales based upon their name recognition.
The album starts off well enough with a funky track for "No Church in the Wild" which features a hook by Frank Ocean. Jay has obviously taken some style from Rick Ross as the manner of his description sounds vaguely familiar at points. The song really isn't about anything, but Jay and Kanye can talk about nothing better than most rappers because while their verses don't relate to one another, they're not bad, but there is way too much of the hook. "Niggas in Paris" is the requisite Kanye and Jay ball to another level track but Kanye fails to deliver and is over shadowed by the slightly overproduced track. Then there is "Otis" which has been out maybe two weeks and has been used more than the In the Club beat was.
"Gotta Have it" has Jay and Ye going back and forth over a sample more annoying than the 'A milli' beat as they talk about how they need that money. "Lift Off" which is early in the set is possibly the worst song ever to feature Jay-z vocals, and yes that includes 'Sunshine' from volume 1. It also features Beyonce and has Kanye doing his rendition of singing. The verses on "New Day" are pretty good as they both send verses to their unborn sons but once again the sample is way too loud and repetitive which is odd since it is produced by The Rza. Jay takes the time to describe how fly Beyonce is on "That's my Bitch" and Kanye is busy describing his romance with Amber Rose. I have to ask really though, "Thats My Bitch" after a dozen albums Jay couldn't have a better title? After all of the explaining he did in his book.
Swizz Beats produced "Welcome to the Jungle" where Jay gets off on a old school throwback track (Kanye is there but Jay greatly overshadows him) as he spits in the memories of himself, Pac, Michael Jackson and others, and I am vehemently against Swizz ever being heard on tracks he produces. "Who gon' Stop Me" isn't about anything and the worst part is near the end of the song Jay seems to be stumbling over the beat at times. "Murder to Excellence" has a decent concept and the best overall verses and cohesiveness of the album, though it sounds like Kanye is recycling samples from his last album. Frank Ocean handles the ridiculously long hooks and pre-chorus' on "Made in America" which could be a good song but fails under the weight of over-production. This is a case where simple could have been better. The album ends with "Why I Love You" with Mr. Hudson handling the hook on the pop-rock-rap track where Jay talks about how he has love for the same people who want to bring him back down. It actually sounds like leftover angst from the Blueprint 3.
Look most people are going to eat this pretentious drivel up because they'll feel awkward for criticizing something that will be so spectacularly successful on the popular level. However this album is massively over-produced with too loud samples that are too repetitive and have too much going on. Most of the verses are about nothing in particular, though you get less about just tossing money than with most other artists. This still isn't up to the standards just recently set by Kanye on his latest album which was a gem and Jay-z as recently as Kingdom Come and American Gangster. The biggest problem I see with the album is that there was no filter to tone things down at any point and thus the result is a muddled and middling album that doesn't reflect their talents although consensus based on reputation alone will probably trend otherwise.