Has Jay-Z given up? In the prelude to his most recent effort, Kingdom Come, Jay reiterates his career-long choice to dumb down his lyrical content in the interest of mass appeal. He lets us know that in place of “so we parted ways like Ben and J-Lo,” he could have given us the darker “now I’m knee deep in the concrete, like the streets are made of quicksand.”
In spite of this, Kingdom Come survives on its crisp, cinematic beats courtesy of super-producers Just Blaze, Kanye West and The Neptunes. Jay shines brightest on the thumping, twisting autobiography, “Oh My God” and on the self-reaffirming “Beach Chair,” with Chris Martin of Coldplay. But, he misses badly on the requisite girlfriend-track “Hollywood,” with Beyoncé, and on the inexplicably aggressive “Dig a Hole.” Jay-Z tells us, in the album’s opening track (“as you see I can’t leave, so I do love you”), his love for the music pulled him out of retirement. I’m just not sure I believe him.