By: John Kennedy
At this point, Jay-Z’s mythical Rain Man recording process seems secondary. His greatest skill has been his ability to simultaneously be everything to everyone: He’s lyrical without zipping over your head too often, progressive without leaving you too far behind, flamboyant without leaving you depressed (thug aspiration 101). Jay has narrated his life and times so candidly that there’s a bar tailored for every life situation (adultery is for adults). On a larger scale, Hov knows a hit. That he’d lift Annie’s beautiful struggle for his own breakout anthem (“Hard Knock Life [Ghetto Anthem]”) is a testament to the New York King’s platinum-plated ear, the same lobes that helped the Neptunes, Kanye West and Just Blaze become household names.
A godfather of East Coast trap rap, Jay's raps burrowed into the intricacies, ironic addiction and loneliness of a hustler’s psyche all the way to the top of Barack’s speed dial. Just imagine if he started writing this stuff down.
Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park rapper/guitarist and Jay-z collaborator, says:
“Jay has a sensibility about him [ beyond] rap music. It’s probably from age—you use the tools you pick up along the way, and he has experience from working with Linkin Park, Coldplay, Rick Rubin. While we were recording Collision Course, Jay rolled the beat for ‘Numb/Encore’ and spit for eight minutes, all album-quality material. When most people freestyle, there’s an obvious moment when they leave the written and jump into stuff off the top; with Jay there was no telling where that began and ended. It was fucking crazy. I haven’t heard anybody do anything like that.”