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Jay-Z delivered his sophmore effort in 1997 which ended up going platinum and reached number 3 in the charts. He managed to cross over with this effort and enlarged his fanbase. Though not as thought provoking as his debut, this CD delivers some memorable hits. Highlights include Who U Wit, Where I'm From, Rap Game/ Crack Game which show off his great wordplay and excellent flows. I Know What Girls Like is probably Jay's worst song ever as it makes him sound very uncomfortable and out of his depth. Sunshine is a decent commercial cut but does not suit his style and would have been better suited if it had been Foxy Brown ft Jay Z instead of vice-versa. Jay Z is a master at lyrics which amaze you as well as engage you and this is why he is often regarded as the greatest of all time. This effort is very solid apart from the few minor glitches and is up their with some of his best work.
After bursting on to the scene and turning heads with Reasonable Doubt, (see previous review of mine) this second album came in the aftermath of the killing of Notorious BIG who was a close friend to Jay-Z. However that did not derail Jay-Z and he quickly released this which was to be his second album.
The production on this album which unlike his previous album has much more of a mainstream appeal to it and seems apparent that it was very much a focused effort to garner more sales. This is apparent from the style of the production to some soft hooks. In fact this presentation is prevalent throughout the album and is quite a contrast to the previous one.
The lyrics consequently are very much dumbed down on these songs and consequently the songs feel empty. That is not to say that there are not some lyrical gems on offer on this album. However even at this moment I am greatly disappointed, the first song which does display a more serious, lyric driven Jay-Z is Streets Is Watching, the song is very rugged but is marred by the unexplainable censoring of some lyrics. This would not be a problem if the words had been replaced but instead there are gaps in the music.
Thankfully despite this disappointment there are some other gems on this album including Where I'm From, Rap Game/Crack Game and You Must Love a song in which he reminisces about the unwavering love of his family despite all of the trials and tribulations he has put them through. It was obvious at this point that Jay-Z was looking for a happy medium between his talents and success but unfortunately this album seems too cynical and almost sickeningly poppy at times.
After his first effort this was a great disappointment and only hints at the talents of Jay-Z penmanship. Overall while not being terrible, it is certainly one of the worst albums in Jay-Z's catalogue. One to avoid if you want examples of his best work.
Jay-Z dropped his second album, "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1", just over a year after debuting. This 1997 work had the New Yorker step his game up and advance whilst keeping the Mafiso Rap to a minimum this time around, he attempted to show a lot more than the fairly limited display on his first solo record.
1. "A Million And One Questions/ Rhyme No More" (Intro)
2. "The City Is Mine"
Here you have a track which makes a big change to what you typically get from Jay-Z as its opening is so flamboyant and over-the-top that it doesn't even sound like something he would do. This is partly down to the fact it is the R&B group BLACKstreet how provide the hook and from this they have Teddy Riley doing the production and performing mildly Voice Box-ed vocals to guide them. Interestingly Chad Hugo of The Neptunes is one of the beat makers here too, and it wouldn't be long before his partner, Pharrell Williams who accompany the rapper in many tunes later on.
3. "I Know What Girls Like"
Here you have an exciting track from Jay-Z which has him doing things in a big way as he hooks up with both Puffy and Lil' Kim. This collaboration is likely to be a result of Biggie death bringing them together , but there choose not to dwell on this for this case, and instead rap on some of Puff's lively beats to do a club tune.
4. "Imaginary Player"
This is a fun one from the rapper and has him doing a track where he puts his complex rhymes into action by choosing to use them when rapping about something which everyone has heard before, but doing it in a way so that he is able to show just how far ahead of others he is. It is den well with him comparing himself to those up-and-comers who are merely stating what they wish to accomplish, rather than how they are actually living at the time.
5. "Streets Is Watching"
Here you have him describing how at all times the streets monitor what you are doing, and at any time could cut all your progression down to the level of the majorities to suit the crab bucket society they live in. It is one backed with some funky and engaging beats and you makes you want to get into his work as he shows just what he means by this.
1. "Friend or Foe '98"
Here you find him doing a track where he performs on some pretty typically beats from the then Gang Starr member DJ Premier. Here he chooses to extend the original concept of a short recording from his debut. I wouldn't have said tha it was all that good, but it's not bad so you can't complain too much about it.
2. "Lucky Me"
Here you get a rap from the artist which has him exploring how exactly he feels privileged by the way in which he is able to live his life. I found that it was rather plain, and it sees that he takes the pace right down to a level where you aren't really that interested as he compares himself to others he knows.
This track has an Old School feel to it, and I expect that many will feel this way due to the choice of samples picked as have Kraftwerk's "Man Machine" used for the main loop of the thing, and a little Alexander O'Neal to guide the hook. It is Babyface who sings this part of things, and makes sure that Hov is put in the correct frame of mind when rhyming to the girls.
9. "Who You Wit II"
A track found on the 'Sprung' soundtrack before crossing over onto his second album, this one finds Jay-Z dropping something big as he talk about exactly what he represents and who he is. It stands as one of the better tunes on here, and I felt that although it took a little time to get into, once you do find it, you will certainly enjoy what he comes up with.
10. "Face Off"
It is rather interesting that here you find that Jay-Z performs a track where he is backed by Poke and Tone, who had just been renamed as the Trackmasters. This is significant as this duo had just come directly off Nas' second album, and the pair engaged in one of the fiercest Hip Hop beefs of the nineties and early '00s. here this isn't the topic of the flows, but it still goes down as something you need to listen to.
11. "Real N***az"
Nas directly took the hook from this one and adapted it to a diss directed towards Jay, and so this acts as a significant tune in of itself. You find that on this occasion you get him doing a pretty big collaboration as Jigga works alongside Oakland's Too $hort as they talk about what exactly they mean by what is said in the title and who they would consider to fit these specifications. It is a hard one and one duo you wouldn't expect to work together.
12. "Rap Game / Crack Game"
On this track you have Jay-Z likening the Rap Game to the Crack Game, and as he can say that he has experienced both of these fields, he knows what he' talking about as he flows about how closely they resemble each other in terms of who engages in it, and the results of it. Although not all that unique, (pointed out by samples in the hook which speak of this before he had) he does it well to make it sit as something fresh for himself.
13. "Where I'm From"
This is a track on the album which I would say certainly improves as it goes along as at first it doesn't really have much going on with it, but as things progress it brings the quality of things up. It found that this was partly down to the engaging hook and the dark beats from D-Dot.
14. "You Must Love Me"
Ending this album you have a track which I can't say I was particularly fond of. It finds that the rapper does an emotive one in dedication to those who he knows he must have really angered in the past, but have still chosen to show love towards him. I can't say that I was all that drawn into the feel of it with some pretty average beats and him not really doing a lot to get the listener interested in what he does.
I have to say that I saw this as a step up on his debut. It finds that he chooses to do less of the Mafioso Rap and more of the more general stuff. He is backed by better production in this one and I felt that allowed him to bring the best out of his complex lyricism.
In My Lifetime, Volume 1 is definitely a good buy. If you purchase this album your money will be well spent. The album is good from start to finish. It is full of hot beats and features other great artists such as Black Street, Puff Daddy, Lil' Kim, Too Short, not to mention the man himself, Jay-Z, along with many others. With songs like 'Imaginary Player', 'I Know What Girls Like', and 'Face Off', In My Lifetime, Volume 1 will certainly make you nod your head. I bought this album because I enjoyed Jay-Z's first album and I knew this one would be just as good. This album came out back in 1997 and I still listen to it (That's how good it is). So, If you don't have it yet, go get it!! You won't regret it. Peace
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Intro/A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More
2 City Is Mine - Blackstreet, Jay-Z
3 I Know What Girls Like - Jay-Z, Lil' Kim, , Diddy, Diddy,
4 Imaginary Player
5 Streets Is Watching
6 Friend or Foe '98
7 Lucky Me
8 (Always Be My) Sunshine - Babyface, Foxy Brown, , Jay-Z
9 Who You Wit II
10 Face Off - Jay-Z, Sauce Money
11 Real Niggaz - Jay-Z, Too Short
12 Rap Game/Crack Game
13 Where I'm From
14 You Must Love Me