Jay-Z, Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter

Jay-Z, Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)

Jay-Z’s fourth album Vol. 3 was, along with Dr. Dre’s 2001 and a handful of others, one of the most highly anticipated records of 1999. But most of the hype surrounding Jay-Z’s album had to do with how many copies it would sell; profits, it seems, is as much a part of the story as the music. Like Too Short, his rhymes are all about how much money he’ll make and how many bitches he’ll fuck when you buy his record. Caught in the vortex of success, his lyrics are a reflection of the privileged superstar life he leads. “The game is ours, we’ll never foul out/You better hope we gracefully bow out,” he brags on “Do It Again.” Still, Jay Hova is one of rap’s better stylists. He twists his lyrics into strange patterns, repeating his rhymes, only to drop wicked metaphors that’s “on some other shit.” “Think Jigga’s a joke, nigga/Har de har!” he notes on “So Ghetto” over a DJ Premier beat. Vol. 3 is undoubtedly well-produced and well-written. In addition to Premier, there are beats from Rockwilder, DJ Clue, Swizz Beats, and Timbaland. Swizz Beats uses his keyboard like a melodica on “Things That U Do,” one of the album’s nicest cuts; elsewhere, Amil joins Jay on “S. Carter” over a track from newcomers Flawless Beats. Jay-Z is an ill rapper, but does he have the courage to write meaningful lyrics? They’re clever, but tend to be emotionally hollow, as if he were a cold-hearted assassin, his infrared beam aimed at the charts. Roc-A-Fella Records, with distribution from Island Def Jam.

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