Jay-Z: The Black Album – [Record 16]
The Black Album: is the eighth studio album by American rapper Jay-Z, released November 14, 2003, on Roc-A-Fella Records. It was promoted as his final studio album, which serves as a recurring theme, although Jay-Z returned to solo recording with Kingdom Come in 2006.
The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 463,000 copies in its first week. The Black Album has sold 3,516,000 original copies in the United States as of July 2013. It produced three singles that attained Billboard chart success, including Hot 100 top-ten hits “Change Clothes” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”.
Upon its release, The Black Album received acclaim from music critics. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 47th Grammy Awards, ultimately losing to Kanye West’s The College Dropout. The album was ranked #349 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Record 1, Side 1.
2, December 4th.
3, What More Can i Say.
Record 1, Side 2.
5, Change Clothes.
6, Dirt Off Your Shoulder.
8, Moment of Clarity.
Record 2, Side 1.
9, 99 Problems.
11, Justify My Thug.
Record 2, Side 2.
14, My 1st Song.
Release and promotion: Jay-Z said the album would have a different producer for each track, and early magazine advertisements listed a series of numbers (representing tracks) and a producer for each number. Dr. Dre and DJ Premier were originally supposed to be among these producers however did not make the final cut. The final album did feature a variety of producers, although Roc-A-Fella producers Kanye West and Just Blaze produced two tracks each, in addition to the two produced by frequent Jay-Z collaborators The Neptunes.
Remixes: An a cappella version of the album was released to provide material for remixes and mashups. Such albums included Kev Brown’s, The Brown Album, Kno vs. HOV by Kno of CunninLynguists. These were followed by Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album. The latter gained attention due to unauthorized use of samples of songs by The Beatles. Subsequent remixes have mashed-up the a capellas with Prince (The Purple Album) and Dr. Dre (The Black Chronic). Further mashups have been created using the music of alternative bands Pavement (“The Slack Album”) and Weezer (“The Black and Blue Album”).
The only officially released remix album is Collision Course, Jay-Z’s collaboration with Linkin Park. It was produced by Mike Shinoda and included a DVD featuring the two acts performing together.
Critical Reception: The Black Album received acclaim from contemporary music critics; it holds an aggregate score of 84 out 100 at Metacritic. According to The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), The Black Album is “old-school and utterly modern”, as it showed Jay-Z “at the top of his game, able to reinvent himself as a rap classicist at the right time, as if to cement his place in hip-hop’s legacy for generations to come”. Steve Jones of USA Today stated, “He enlisted beats from an all-star cast of producers, who come through with top-shelf work. But it’s Jigga’s trademark lyrical dexterity and diversified deliveries that put him on a level all his own.” Dave Simpson of The Guardian was less enthusiastic and dismissed the music as “an aural equivalent of that old American favourite, the schmaltzy biopic.” In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album a three-star honorable mention, indicating “an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure.” He cited “99 Problems” and “My 1st Song” as highlights and quipped, “Raps like a legend in his own time—namely, Elvis in Vegas”. In a retrospective review, Christgau gave the album an “A”, noted how each track benefits from different producers, and wrote of its legacy:
History has vindicated this album. On a meticulously hyped valedictory no one believed would be his actual farewell, the fanfares, ovations, maternal reminiscences, and vamp-till-ready shout-outs were overblown at best. But on an album where the biggest rapper of all time announces that he’s the biggest rapper of all time, they’re prophetic. Bitch about Kingdom Come and American Gangster if you must, but not The Blueprint 3 or Watch the Throne, and not his label presidency, amassed fortune, or close personal relationship with Warren Buffett. He’s got a right to celebrate his autobiography in rhyme because he’s on track to become a personage who dwarfs any mere rapper, and not only can he hire the best help dark green can buy, he can make it sing.
Accolades: Pitchfork Media ranked The Black Album at number 90 on its list of the top 200 albums of the 2000s, and Slant Magazine ranked it number 7 on its list of the Top 100 Albums of the 2000s. According to Billboard, the album is Jay-Z’s top selling album of the 2000s and the 136th highest selling album of the decade in the United States. In 2012 Complex named the album one of the classic albums of the last decade.