By Jay Park
Let me explain to everyone why The Black Album is one of my favorite albums. The beat selection for this album is impeccable. The track listing, song names, are on another level. For example, there are only a few songs in hip-hop where people can sing along to the whole verse and not just the hook. I feel like “Public Service Announcement” is one of those songs and the irony of it is, “PSA” doesn’t even have a hook!
Tracks on the album with incredible hooks: “99 Problems,” “Change Clothes,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” (which became a popular everyday phrase). When I first heard these tracks I was envious of how cool JAY-Z is and I wondered how he came up with these songs — and what I needed to do to be like him.
Songs like “Moment Of Clarity” and “Justify My Thug” gave me an inside look at what his morals and values were as a man and human being. Lines like “I ain’t never paid a ni**a to do some dirt for me that I was scared to do myself” and ”I ain’t never asked for nothing I don’t demand in myself” and “I’ll tighten my belt before I beg for help” are things that I often thought myself, so it made me respect him on a personal level, even though I did not know him at the time.
I think the track that impacted me the most from The Black Album personally was “December 4th.” Just the way he was so open and honest with himself in his lyrics. Told his truth and put it in such clever way, but also sonically made it sound so good. Talking about his family and how he grew up was something I could relate to: just being in high school at the time, skipping class, being passionate about breaking dancing and rapping, trying to get girls, having family problems, etc.
With The Black Album something really resonated. Also, it made it so much more real having JAY-Z’s mother narrate in between verses: “They never really miss you ’til you’re dead or you’re gone so on that note I’m leaving after the song. So you ain’t gotta feel no way about JAY so long. At least let me tell you why I’m this way hol’ on.” It’s like he’s telling you, “You can hate it or love it but I’m gonna be me and here’s why,” which is so dope ’cause that’s exactly how I felt at the time and still do, until this day, 15 years later. And “if you can’t respect that, your whole perspective is wack.”
The Black Album consists of everything. Hit songs, bars, swag, songs for the streets, songs for females — all the while staying true to JAY-Z and sounding so natural on every track. Always progressing, his albums never sounded like his last, and he’s always trying to push the hip-hop sound and take it further, all the while staying true to the fundamentals. That’s what my mindset has always been, so that’s why I can appreciate his artistry and this album that much more.
Back when I was younger, it was just a feeling, I was just drawn to his music and this album, but now that I’m an artist myself, I can see he was and still is so far ahead of his time. Not sure if it was just a marketing scheme or not, but listening to the album it’s as if this was going to be his last and final album ’cause you can tell he put everything into it. The Black Album still inspires me ’til this day, and the reason why JAY-Z is one of my favorite artists is because he’s not only talented, but stays true to himself and others.