Jay-Z disappoints, The Clipse deliver furious new album

Andrew Gaug


Credit: Jason Hall

Three years ago, Jay-Z promised in his song “Encore” he would come back from retirement “like Jordan wearing the 4-5.” With his latest album, Kingdom Come, he has. Much like Michael Jordan after he came out of retirement to play for the Washington Wizards, Jay-Z’s skills have diminished.

Throughout Kingdom Come, Jay tries to remind fans why they should still love him and how he’s still the best. On the chorus of “Oh My God” he claims “but I ain’t crying/ what didn’t kill me/made me strong as iron.” Unfortunately, statements like this aren’t backed up as the album features surprisingly bland production from Dr. Dre, Just Blaze and the Neptunes, as well as the most uninspired lyrics Jay-Z has ever rapped.

Even when Jay-Z is given good production such as the horns-tinged energetic “Oh My God,” Kanye West’s bombastic work on “Do U Wanna Ride” and Swizz Beatz’s “Dig A Hole,” his flow and wordplay seem to be on autopilot as he raps in a monotonous tone using the same inflection and timbre on each song.

Even if Kingdom Come appears to be a uninspired venture for the Def Jam CEO, there is the occasional track that shines through such as “Anything,” one of the few songs that switches up Jay-Z’s lethargic flow and shoots some adrenaline into a rather plodding album where Jay makes the cheesy claim “30 is the new 20” on “30 Something,” as well as a great combination of Dr. Dre and Coldplay’s Chris Martin producing the closing track “Beach Chair” where Jay-Z lets down his guard and reflects on his life.

But while it took Jay-Z three years to come out of retirement and create a disappointing CD, the brothers Thorton, better known as The Clipse, have been fighting to release their latest album, Hell Hath No Fury, after their record label Jive Records deemed it unmarketable.

The Clipse re-team with megaproducers The Neptunes, the same people who produced their last album, Lord Willin’, for some of the most intelligent gangsta-rap songs released in the past five years.

The Clipse’s subjects don’t stray far from cocaine-dealing and street violence, but it’s not so much what the group is rapping about the way it projects the words they’re rapping with charisma, flow and sincerity.

On “Momma I’m Sorry,” the Clipse rap about their evil ways of selling cocaine and killing. But unlike the braggadocio of most current gangsta rap where rappers boast of how many people they’ve killed or how much drugs they’ve sold, The Clipse still hope to find a way out of the streets as they rap “Even my baby mama/I can’t look you in the face/cause I can’t do enough/you’re a symbol of God’s grace” and “When I’m gone/ I hope it’s said/ I gave structure to the youth/by the example I lead.”

Even when The Clipse brag about their street life, their inventive wordplay is a step above clich‚ boasts such as “Ride Around Shining”‘s lyrics “The black Martha Stewart/ let me show you how to do it/break down pies to pieces/make cocaine quiches/money piles high as my nieces.”

Similar to The Neptunes’ current production, most of the tracks are minimalist containing bass lines and odd instruments such as looped harmoniums, harps, blips and synths yet sound more interesting than most of the popular multi-layered productions of today’s rap songs. It also becomes the album’s saving grace as it sounds nothing like the popular hip-hop song -ÿin other words, there’s not one song that will be the next club dance craze.

If there’s any weakness on Hell Hath Not Fury, it’s that a lion’s share of the songs feature weak, repetitive choruses on “Trill,” “Keys Open Doors” and “Chinese New Year.”

Jay-Z once bragged “This is nothing to me/difficult takes a day/impossible takes a week,” but recovering from the blandness of Kingdom Come may take longer; however, The Clipse have taken over the reins with Hell Hath No Fury.

Contact ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].

Kingdom Come


Released on Def Jam Records

Stater rating (out of five): ??

Hell Hath No Fury

The Clipse

Released on Star Trak Records

Stater rating (out of five): ????