Jan 29, 2007

New Music Review

Jay-Z "Kingdom Come"

The recently unretired Jay-Z seems more like an elder statesman -- at 36, he's the president of Def Jam Records, has sold tens of millions of records, is head of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty, part owner of the New Jersey Nets pro basketball team and a living rap legend. Yet the release of his comeback record, "Kingdom Come," may be the biggest challenge of his career.Jay-Z is once again working with the trendiest hitmakers -- The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Kanye West and others.

But whereas "Show Me What You Got," the first single, is a definite party jam, Jay-Z calls the record "very mature."But whether fans want to see the vulnerable, emotional Jay-Z remains to be seen. Tracks from "Kingdom Come" have been leaking on the Internet for weeks, and the response has been mixed. A few have even boldly wondered whether Hova has lost his edge.In addition, some of his rap peers have been jabbing at Jay. Method Man and LL Cool J, both on Def Jam, complained about his skills as a record exec when their albums bricked. DMX insinuated he was getting soft because of his romance with Beyoncé, while Cam'ron and his buddy Jim Jones -- who is on fire with the hit "We Fly High" -- are taking pot shots at the king.But others are there to laud Jay-Z for his involvement with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and the rapper himself -- looking positively collegiate in a jacket, sweater vest and button-down shirt -- implores more action on the issue. No, this is not the same Jay-Z who once bragged about bling, sipping Cristal, hustling drugs or one-night stands. But it is still Jay-Z. Just on another stage, in a more adult phase.

-- By Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press