The Black Album: Naked Truths of HOV-By Timilehin Salu
The Black Album is the eight studio album by Shawn Carter a.k.a Jay-Z. It was advertised as his final album before retiring which is a recurring theme throughout the songs. It was released on November 14, 2003, through Roc-A-Fella Records and The Island Def Jam Music Group.
Jay-Z draws us into his life story and the circumstances that shaped his life. The album contains his grass to grace story from living the hard knock life to selling out records and getting royalties. He also tells the story what it’s like to be black and be in the game. This 14 track album is haunting yet so beautiful.
The album opens with an interlude more like an inspirational parable. Blake shows his prowess in storytelling in this track. This isn’t the first time that Jay-Z used an intro to an album that he doesn’t appear in. He reflects on how life is a cycle and all things must conclude. He compares life to a tree growing in Brooklyn among steel and the concrete, one day it too will pass but its legacy goes on through its seeds that will be directed by the wind to a new place for them to begin their legacy (this part gives me a vibe from the Lion King cartoon).
The interlude puts his listeners in a state of euphoria. It’s not loud or energetic, you just zone out and reflect.
This song begins with Gloria Carter giving a dizzy tale about how she had Jay. Z. She tells us the date she received her special child and how she knew he was a special child. This song progresses to Jay telling us about his parent & how he metamophosized into a different person when his father left. He claims he was making up for not causing her pain during birth. He takes us on the journey of a hustler and how he had to pay the price. All that changed when his mum got him a boom box and he embraced the rap life
What more can I say
This was the first song off the album that was released to the general public. On what can I say, Jay Z addresses the accusations that he steals lyrics. He claims he is a writer as well and goes on to quote another artist. To him, stealing an artist lyrics is a way of hyping up the artist.
Jay never fails to remind his listeners about his Brooklyn background. This song makes you feel like you’re in Barkely Hall watching him perform live. He further reiterates that he is the best “he came, he saw, & conquered”. He reflects on his record sales & sold out concerts. If you ever need the motivation to keep going, this is your song and remember that record Labels told Jay he “couldn’t cut it” but now he’s ‘star studded”.
With a new status comes a new fashion style, at least that’s what Jay Z says. Jay advises that you ‘throw on a suit & get it tapered up”. The impact of this song is so powerful that the then NBA commissioner David Stem had to beg HOV to tell people to “change clothes back” due to a decline in jersey sales.
Dirt off your shoulder
No long talk. Here Jay tells us about his luxurious lifestyle & how the ladies show him love. He doesn’t care about the negative comments, he just brushes it off his shoulders.
If you ever the urge to “wet” someone, you should at least listen to this single. He addresses the 2001 stabbing incident and he reminds niggas not to fuck with him or look at him wrong or he’s coming for you at 5am in the morning.
Moment of Clarity
In moment of clarity, Jay Z considers his “Hard Knock life” a gift & a curse. He shares with his listeners a vulnerable part of him, talking about his dad’s death (which did not affect him) but he is glad they got to make up and elated for the moment of clarity as he forgives his dad. This song is more like a daddy issue song.
I hate the police, I’ve always hated the police and this song tells you why you should too- especially if you’re black (Don’t take my word, take Jay’s). This song flows from a conversation between Jay Z and a police officer. He talks about how he refused to get searched and how that ends for a black man. He addresses the abysmal state of the prison & huge cost of bail because he’s black.
This is a public service announcement. Jay Z takes a break to reintroduce himself in case you have forgotten. You may now proceed to the next track.
Justify my thing
This song is about loyalty and how we all need a loyal crew. Jay Z tries to justify his thug life, he tells the audience about him not being a snitch- sorry 6ix9ine. He believes in honesty, loyalty &friends. He will do anything for his crew. “You kill his dog, he kills your cat” (if you know what that means)
Put your shades on and imagine you are on your way to kill the villain in an action movie. You also have no choice than to bop your head while at it. This song was produced by Kanye West and Jay doesn’t fail to hype his nigga in it. This song also contains a lot of bible references hidden in innuendos you can attribute to gang fights and killings.
Jay Z makes reference to a movie in this song while hinting to the audience about how he got the name HOV. He talks about dealing with addiction. This song is haunting yet so beautiful.
My 1st Song
Jay Z closes the album with this song. This song opens with a quote from the Late B.I.G. He uses different flows to draw the audience into his life story. He ends the track as well as the album with a shout out to his friends, family and the Roc-a-fella crew.