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Jay-Z - Kingdom Come

Jay-Z, Kingdom Come

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE hip-hop scene is currently awash with releases from some of the biggest names in the industry. The Game has recently put out his sophomore album, while Snoop Dogg is set to release his eagerly-anticipated follow-up to R&G.

Another iconic figure, Jay-Z, has also returned to the fray after an absence of three years with Kingdom Come, a heavyweight collection of hip-hop songs that feature some of the biggest names in the industry as both producers and vocal guest stars.

Needless to say, with an artist of Jay-Z’s stature (he is the President & CEO of Def Jam Recordings among many other things), the release of Kingdom Come is being hailed as something of a second coming.

Its name alone is a nod to the 1996 DC Comics miniseries about Superman returning from retirement to save the world. Set some 20 years into the future of the current DC Universe, it deals with a growing conflict between “traditional” Superheroes (such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League) and a growing population of largely amoral and dangerously irresponsible new vigilantes. The book draws heavily on biblical apocalyptic imagery, especially that of the Book of Revelation.

Whether this is designed as a commentary on the gangsta culture currently sweeping mainstream hip-hop at the moment, or the battle to become the artist with the most bling, is open for debate – but Kingdom Come isn’t quite the hip-hop saving album it sets itself up to be.

When it’s good, it’s great and certainly worth £10 or so of anyone’s money. But it’s nowhere near a masterpiece and sometimes feels quite formulaic.

The middle section of the album, in particular, disappoints with tracks such as the Dr Dre-produced I Made It and the distinctly urban sound of Trouble capably reproducing the sound of any number of mainstream hip-hop artists. The beats are slick, there’s an air of menace and plenty of attitude but it just falls someway short of the majesty of Jay-Z in his prime.

Far, far better are tracks that feature high-profile collaborations. Another Dr offering, Lost One, is built around some really subtle piano chords that lend it an old-skool, almost Jurassic 5 inspired vibe, while the soulful support vocals from Chrissette Michell are simply delicious.

Kanye West stamps his quality all over Do U Wanna Ride, another highlight featuring a characteristically stylish support vocal from John Legend. The beats and basslines combine to create a genuinely funky vibe that Legend’s husky vocals enhance to perfection and the whole track just feels like a great listen.

The inevitable duet with Beyonce on Hollywood is as radio-friendly and hip as you might expect – and a track that’s clearly destined to become another massive radio and club hit. The two work well together and their keen sense of fun is utterly infectious, combining to create a full-blown booty-shaker capable of appeal to both sexes.

In contrast comes the more hard-hitting rap of Minority Report, which begins with news footage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and includes samples from George W Bush. It’s an angry piece of political point making that reflects on the poor level of support for the people of New Orleans that many have accused the US government of providing.

Changing pace again, the album them drops the incendiary Beach Chair featuring, of all people, Chris Martin and Jon Buckland, of Coldplay. It’s a fine collaboration and possibly one of the boldest on the long-player, given the gulf in musical composition that generally separates these three artists.

But Beach Chair is a phenomenal effort that casts Martin, in particular, in a different light – his vocal collaboration barely noticeable unless you’re really paying attention. It recalls the brilliance of Jay-Z’s bolder collaborations, which take the hip-hop genre and combines it with the likes of Linkin Park.

Elsewhere, The Prelude kicks things off in fine style, amid a subtle backdrop of strings and low-key beats, and there’s a really gutsy fusion of soul, funk, Motown and brass on the energetic Oh My God.

It’s just disappointing that the album as a whole fails to maintain such consistently high standards and sometimes ends up sounding fairly generic. From an artist of Jay-Z’s stature and social standing, we had the right to expect the very best. Kingdom Come, while good, falls some way short of greatness.

Track listing:

  1. The Prelude [Produced By Ghettobot]
  2. Oh My God [Produced By Just Blaze]
  3. Kingdom Come [Produced By Just Blaze]
  4. Show Me What You Got [Produced By Just Blaze]
  5. Lost One – Feat. Chrissette Michelle [Produced By Dr Dre]
  6. Do U Wanna Ride – Feat. John Legend [Produced By Kanye West]
  7. 30 Something [Produced By Dr Dre]
  8. I Made It [Produced By Dr Dre]
  9. Anything – Feat. Usher & Pharrell [Produced By The Neptunes]
  10. Hollywood – Feat. Beyonce [Produced By Scyience]
  11. Trouble [Produced By Dr Dre]
  12. Dig A Hole – Feat. Sterling Simms [Produced By Swiss Beatz]
  13. Minority Report – Feat. Ne-Yo [Produced By Dr Dre]
  14. Beach Chair – Feat. Chris Martin [Produced By Chris Martin]
  15. 44 Fours (Live From Radio City Music Hall) [UK Exclusive Bonus Track]

  1. Another critic jumping on the anti hip hop bandwagon. Please, please get a life. Kingdom Come is the second coming and it’s good to have Jay-Z mixing it with da likes of The Game and Tha Dogg

    Mikey    Nov 30    #