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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Most Slept On… Album of Jay-Z’s Career

Consider this article the christening of my “Most Slept On…” series; so feel free to use this as your excuse to drink on a weeknight. This series will convey my thoughts on the most slept on albums, songs, artists, or just about anything that can be slept on, even mattresses, so learn to expect just about anything. As much as I would like to expect that everyone reading this article would understand the colloquial phrase, I acknowledge that some people are just not beefed up on their slang terms, therefore I’m here to help. The term “slept on” is akin to overlooking or ignoring something, i.e., you slept on that class your friend swore was an easy A, until you got a C. With that said, it’s with sheer enthusiasm that I present The Most Slept On…Album of Jay-Z’s Career.

When Hip-Hop heads begin talking about the best MCs of all time, some of the usual suspects named include Tupac, B.I.G., Nas, Rakim, Eminem, Andre 3000, and of course Jay-Z. Jigga’s stellar catalog, which includes at least two classic albums, his legions of fans, and a net worth somewhere north of $400 million, all attribute to his claim that he’s the best rapper alive. When Hov dropped Reasonable Doubt in ’96, it was an instant classic, but lacked commercial success. Therefore, he faced many issues regarding his sophomore album. Not only did he have to dismiss any sophomore slump theories, but he also had to introduce himself to mainstream audiences. With this in mind, I would like to present Jay-Z’s most slept on album, In My Lifetime Vol. 1. In an attempt to create a crossover sound that appeases mainstream audiences and long time fans, Vol. 1 fell directly in the trap that many sophomore albums fall into: some tracks were just too mainstream. With most of the album being produced by Diddy (or whatever he calls himself these days) it’s no surprise that some tracks seemed to commercialize Jay-Z’s sound. With the exemption of only a few tracks, Vol. 1 had the possibility of being yet another classic album under the Hov’s belt. While on the CenterStage show Jigga mentioned that if there were one thing he could do over in his career it would be this album: “[Vol. 1] was this close to being a classic, but I put like, a few songs on there that ruined it.”

The obvious tracks that he was referring to are the very skippable “I Know What Girls Like” and “(Always Be My) Sunshine”. But other than that, Vol. 1 has stood the test of time and stands out as one of Hov’s prominent albums. When speaking to many Jay-Z fans and Hip-Hop heads, I found that many people dismiss the entire album as a commercial sellout, even though only a limited number of tracks can actually be considered “selling out.” These people also fail to realize the significance of this album. This was Jay-Z’s first album released after the death of his mentor, Biggie. Although he doesn’t pay homage to his late friend, Hov is quick to try to fill his shoes. In what would escalate to a battle over who is the true king of New York between Nas and the Jigga man, Jay-Z claims on Vol. 1 that the “City is Mine” and is quick to brush off any “Imaginary Player[s].” And if you think this album fails to inspire, look no further than the current hot boy, Lil’ Wayne, who payed homage to Hova on Mr. Carter. If the first verse of Vol. 1’s “Lucky Me” sounds familiar, Weezy borrows a few of the elder Carter’s bars to close out the Mr. Carter track. The greatest tracks off the album come as it ends; “Where I’m From” and “You Must Love Me” are some of Hov’s finest tracks in a career that spans over 11 albums. “Where I’m From” finds Jay-Z showing love for fellow NYC native Nas as he spits, “I’m from where niggas pull your car, and argue all day about who’s the best MC’s, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas.” And in “You Must Love Me”, Hova talks about how even though he sold his own mother crack, shot his brother, and put his female friend in the position to smuggle his work, they all must still love ’em for forgiving him.

All in all, this album finds Jay-Z attempting to establish himself as an artist. Therefore he takes several chances and while some work (“You Must Love”) and some do not (“Sunshine”), the album as a whole does work. Essentially, this album finds him stepping out of his comfort zone, something he wouldn’t do again until his ninth studio album, Kingdom Come. The fact of the matter is that while majorities of people have criminally slept on this album, it’s about time you revisit this near classic.