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January 17, 2008 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-17

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2B - Thursday, January 17, 2008
Picking one and one apart.

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com 0

Wine and cigars: real street living.v
LIFE' (1998)
The lost'Volume'

Daily Arts Writer
Ask a rap music fan to
name Jay-Z's best album and
most of the time you'll hear
Reasonable Doubt. It makes
sense - after all, it's a great
album and, more importantly,
it's Jigga's first. Others will
point to The Blueprint, undoubt-
edly a classic that features
some of Jay's most memo-
rable songs. Still others will
tell you it's The Black Album,
Jay's supposed final album. Rare-
ly will you come across an indi-
vidual who selects Hov's third
album, Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life,
as the rapper's greatest accom-
plishment. And there's no rea-
sonable explanation for this.
Vol. 2 came a year after In My
Lifetime, Vol. 1 and two years
after Reasonable Doubt. While
his first two albums boast well-
known tracks like "Can't Knock
the Hustle" and "(Always Be My)
Sunshine," it wasn't until Vol.
2 that Jay scored his first huge
hit, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto
Anthem)." Aided by a sample
from the musical "Annie," the
song reached no. 15 on the U.S.
Billboard singles charts and no.1
in the U.K., the highest-charting
single of his career at the time.
It's a brilliant contrast to hear
the high-pitched orphans sing,
" 'Steada kisses, we get kicked /
It's a hard knock life," while Hov
spits lines like, "From stand-
ing on the corners boppin' / To
drivin' some of the hottest cars
New York has ever seen / For
droppin' some of the hottest
verses rap has ever heard / From
the dope spot, with the smoke
glock, fleein' the murder scene."
Listening to Jay-Z flow is like
watching Larry Bird rain threes
or Jack Nicklaus sink putts, and
on "Hard Knock Life," Jigga
rides the simple piano tinkle to
perfection, effortlessly deliver-
ing lines like, "I put my money
on the long shots / All my ballers
that born to clock / Now I'ma be
on top whether I perform or not /
I went from lukewarm to hot."

On Vol. 2, for the first time
in Jay-Z's career, he found the
perfect balance between street
and mainstream. It's a lesson he
never forgot and one that helped
him dominate the charts for
years to come.
He also assembled a stellar
supporting cast on this album.
There are guest spots from the
likes of Beanie Sigel, The LOX,
Too Short and Ja Rule - and they
all deliver. Hov put some thought
into the selection of his produc-
ers as well, calling on hitmakers
like Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri,
DJ Premier and Swizz Beatz to
create the album's varied yet
cohesive sound.
The breathy percussion and
pitch-shifting synths on "Ride
or Die" make it a standout track,
but, even there, Jay steals the
show. "Niggas don't want it with
Jig cause somethin' got to give/I
got homes where you hide, I hus-
It's a hard knock
life. Ain't no joke.
tle where youlive." Other rappers
could say it, but you wouldn't
necessarily believe them. You
believe Jay-Z.
So maybe it's the album cover
that turned off some listeners
and caused Vol. 2 to get lost in
the shuffle of Jay-Z's classics.
The top hat and cigar on the
ReasonableDoubt cover display a
"gangsta" image, while perhaps
the plain, white t-shirt and black
leather jacket on Vol. 1 displays
more of an "everyman" persona.
Maybe Jay-ZleaningonaBentley
in a fancy suit presents an auraof
wealth and prestige that strayed
too far from the street image
that launched Hov's career. Or
perhaps it was the mainstream
success of Vol. 2 - it sold over
five million copies in the U.S. and
over eight million worldwide -
that prevents fans from identify-
ing it as his best work when, after
careful analysis, Vol. 2 is clearly
just that.

The Daily Arts guide to the best
upcoming events
Today 1.17.08
Zell Visiting Writers Series:
Jaswinder Bolina and
Margaret Lazarus Dean
5 p.m.
At the Rackham Assembly Hall
Distinguished Visitor
Series: Chaz Maviyane-
At the Michigan Theater
Tomorrow 1.18.08
The Neutral Zone 7th
Annual Poetry Night
7 p.m.
At the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater
$12/$7 with student ID
6th Annual Michigan Tango
9 p.m.
At the Michigan League Ballroom
$15/$10 with student ID
The Macpodz with
9:30 p.m.
At the Blind Pig
$7/Under 21, $10/18+
Saturday 1.19.08
Collage Concert
8 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium
Bill Bynum & Co.
8 p.m.
At The Ark
Sunday 1.20.08
"The Sounds of Music"
presented by the Ann Arbor
Concert Band
2 p.m.
At the Michigan Theater
Yuja Wang on piano
4 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium
DANCE2XS Hip-Hop Class
4:30 p.m.
At 2275 CCRB
$10 perclass
Comedian Suzanne
7:30 p.m.
At The Ark
Please send all press releases
and event information to




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