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1 January, 2002@12:00 am

 It’s hard to feel sorry for Jay-Z, isn’t it? After all, every time he releases a record, it’s treated like a national holiday. But if you think its easy being the king, you better pump ya brakes! Reason being, as Jigga lamented on “Where’s The Love” — “I got young rappers getting at me, old-timers spitting at me…” However, being as sagacious as he is talented, Jayhovah is well aware that if history proves anything, its that his reign will eventually come to a screeching halt and even more cognizant that the next “big thing” is somewhere furiously scribbling in a notepad
“praying on his downfall.” However, those waiting with baited breath to pounce on Jay, or thinking that his return to earth would be expedited by his Best Of Both Worlds extravaganza with R. Kelly will have to bide their time a while longer—because not only is Jay conquering hip-hop, he’s after R&B too!

After the highly scrutinized beef with Nas, Jay’s collaborative effort with R.Kelly, The Best Of Both Worlds, plays out more like a leisurely day at the office then actual work. Over the hydraulic funk of the Trackmasters undeniably catchy “Take You Home With Me (aka Body)” Jigga asserts, “I’m not an R&B dude.” And you know what, he’s half right! Whether, it is the mo money, mo problems shtick of “It Ain’t Personal” the emotive “Best Of U”, or the jiggy “Honey”, where Jay ends each bar with an exaggerated crooning twang, Best Of Both Worlds once again reiterates that few emcees in hip-hop can interchange styles as well or as effectively as Jigga.

Yet, there is one proverbial thorn that prohibits Best Of Both Worlds from living up to its advanced billing—R.Kelly. Minus Jay and Devin The Dude’s salacious, “Pussy”, R.Kelly’s contributions leave you with the taste that most of these tracks sound like typical R&B remixes—that just happened to be exclusively blessed by Jayhovah. And while Jay-Z asks Kelly to “take em to church”, the self-anointed king of R&B repeatedly takes it to sheets, exemplified by the pleading “Naked” and the sexually charged “Spend The Night” (no word on if Kelly has started carding potential candidates).

Surely, the mention of an R.Kelly and Trackmasters tag-team behind the boards is enough to warrant red flags. But both parties do an admirable job of charting this LP down a steady course, which is light on substance, but heavy on Billboard darts, as you could take a handful of candidates (“Shake Ya Body” f/ Lil Kim & “Shorty”) throw them on the radio and watch things bubble.

Jay has proven time and time again to be the ultimate salesman “I am a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a whale.” Yet, there is no denying that his awkward attempt to spin this union into something its not on the LP’s title track, “Martin and Malcom, this is bigger then an album” is certainly as laughable as it is presumptuous. But the inconsistencies do not stop there. While Jay slides a clever Nas diss “don’t know you know I eat Ether and spit acid, weak bastards?” on that very same title track. Even R.Kelly joins the party by dissing Sisqo on three different songs. Is the Platinum haired “Thong Song” model viewed as a threat to Kelly’s supposed throne?

Don’t get it twisted, while Jay-Z continues to rip verses at an amazing rate, Best Of Both Worlds offers more excess then you can shake a stick at. The thugs who relate to Jay for his ability to take a snapshot of their lives, or feel a connection to the brilliant manner in which he encapsulates the PJ’s on wax will view this endeavor as nothing more then overkill. Yet, with our minds still firmly entrenched in a post 9-11 hangover, those who use this aesthetic effort for what it is designed for (escapism) will find an LP that is just too slick to be denied. After all, can’t rap music be fun?

  Mixtape D.L.
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