Kingdom Come fails to meet high expectations
December 4, 2006 —
From Michael Jordan to The Simpsons, leaving the medium you have left a mark on while still fresh is almost unheard of.
With Kingdom Come, hip-hop legend and CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records Jay-Z snaps a three-year retirement that saw him pop up on more artists' songs than ever before.
His alleged swan song, The Black Album, was a fitting end to a short but dynamic career. Of course, only about four people actually bought into the retirement thing, although most others played along and sent one of modern hip-hop's biggest forces off in style. The LP offered a mixture of memorable beats and heartfelt insights from an artist who had traditionally drawn from a shallow pool of topics for most of his career.
Kingdom Come offers some of the same, though it plays out like a weaker companion piece to its predecessor.
The reality is, the man also known as Hov has seemingly recorded everything he has to say. "Minority Report," a track about the injustices of Hurricane Katrina is the only fresh topic Jay covers. He spends the rest of the album reiterating his successes and importance to hip-hop, occasionally breaking to do something like pay tribute to his mother or address the aforementioned Hurricane Katrina disaster.
With that idea in mind, Jay-Z wisely chooses to bring in some of the genre's biggest producers like Just Blaze, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre to supplement his vocal offerings.
Jay's so-called retirement hasn't diminshed his ability to manipulate language, even if his flow has regressed to a lethargic cadence.
Although the title track is four minutes of self-congratulation, the clever wordplay and comparisons make it an enjoyable listen.
Referring to his absence from hip-hop in favor of other business ventures, Jay proclaims, "I been up in the office, you might know him as Clark/Just when you thought the whole world fell apart, I/Take off the blazer, loosen up the tie/Step inside the booth, Superman is alive." Just Blaze's lethargic altering of a sample from Rick James' "Super Freak" completes the package.
With that said, the album does have some glaring weaknesses in the form of "Anything" and "Hollywood."
The former features a Neptunes beat that reiterates how stagnant the once-innovative duo has become. Thanks to the upbeat tempo and an appearance by R&B superstar Usher, it wouldn't be surprising to still see this track eventually garner some radio play down the line.
"Hollywood" is a Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles collaboration that further breaks up the album's flow, but is also likely destined to see love on the airwaves - right now, it's got 102.5 written all over it.
"Show Me What You Got," brings a barrage of drum fills, horns, and piano notes, but the hollow lyrics and redundant hook keep it from being little more than glitz over substance.
Jay-Z's matured outlook shines through on tracks like "30 Something" and "I Made It," although the self-professed savior of hip-hop doesn't resist the urge to prolong his growing feud with fellow rapper and former Roc-A-Fella artist, Cam'ron.
"Dig a Hole" is a more concise and factual response to Cam'ron's "You Gotta Love It," a bloated song released earlier this year that addressed their business disputes, took jabs at Jay's age, and compared his appearance to Joe Camel.
Taking a shot at Cam'ron's record sales away from the Roc label, Jay declares, "He's selling low twos, only time you went plat/My chain was on your neck, that's an actual fact." Producer Swiss Beatz provides one of the album's best beats to back the attack.
Kingdom Come ultimately falls short in the sense that its release was not a necessity. As tough as it may be for Jay-Z to leave an industry he helped take to another level, he has ultimately said his peace.
The insights and maturity are there, but the hunger is not. Kingdom Come hardly seems like an album three years in the making, especially in light of a classic farewell album that promised an exit while on top.