My iPods consist of a variety of music from many genres, yet sometimes there will be one particular song that when played will stick to me more than others. So long story short, I decided to write about those songs. I don’t know how often I’ll be doing this given my schedule/propensity for being a lazy bum, so I invite all those who are interested in doing so to provide their own scribes as well. – Meka
With every song that has escaped the calculated mind of Shawn Carter throughout his decades-long career, some of his more harder lyrics have, understandably, ventured under the radar during his quest to become rap’s greatest monarch.
Jay’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life came during his career’s proverbial tipping point: known as a fully capable emcee, he too was caught in the same rapture that led to his former foe Nas donning a neon fuchsia suit for his own sophomore set in an effort to eschew the “street” rapper title-slash-curse. His 1998 album not only turned the hip-hop world on its collective ear, but also helped establish rap itself as a viable and – more importantly, financially profitable – commodity.
While the Annie-swacking “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and the “why did we ever let these Amil and Ja Rule through the door again” chart-topper “Can I Get A…” receive the most notoriety, nestled in between the glitz and glamour of HKL was “It’s Like That,” which unofficially marked the debut of Jay’s Mariano Rivera-esque closing capabilities. Saved as the “final” song on the album (excluding the bonus tracks “Money Ain’t A Thang” with Jermaine Dupri and “It’s Alright” featuring perennial underachiever Memphis Bleek) the Wet Willie-sampling, Kid Capri-produced cut (which was also featured in Kid Capri’s largely ignored second studio album, Soundtrack To The Streets) was the album’s true gem, with Jay in his then-finely tuned “one take” flow, ripping off bar after bar of controlled insanity:
Rappers y’all, runnin’ around like I won’t gun ya down
Last ni**a that fronted, two shots spun him around
Lord, accept this offerin’ here’s somethin’ for your crown
I meant no malice, I just met his challenge and won.
Unassuming yet loaded with braggadocio, this was Jay at his finest, something he would master on 2001’s The Blueprint It’s sad, really: nobody is able to duplicate that high quality level of lyrical precision anymore. Not even Jay.
DOWNLOAD: Jay-Z – It’s Like That f. Kid Capri