I’ll be honest: when I heard that Jay Z was possibly putting out an album a month ago, I didn’t care. When I heard that Jay Z was definitely putting out an album a few weeks ago, I didn’t care. When the minutes trickled after learning that the album had actually gone live, I still didn’t care. It’s just how I felt. Kingdom Come jaded me, Blueprint 3 hurt me and Magna Carta tarnished my ability to ever trust again.
Yet, we live in an age where opinions fly as fast as the wireless connectivity that transmit them, and as many with connection to the human race quickly heard, the word had come in: J-Hova was back.
So I listened. And listened. And listened more. This process reoccurred not continually through the whole album, but through every single song. It was like watching a movie and re-watching it just to realize how much shit you missed, and there was plenty. The wisdom, the wordplay, the ripe vulnerability and the punchlines to match — they were peak Jay, albeit in an entirely new form. The legend was not just back, but powerful enough to make you forget that JT is probably still out there somewhere adorned in his Barney’s suit and tie.
So, to commemorate this grand moment in rap music, I can only do one of the things rap fans loved to do the most before RapGenius made it all too simple: decode the fuck out of fire ass bars. And so we begin.
– – –
“Y’all on the ‘Gram, holdin’ money to your ear.
There’s a disconnect, we don’t call that money over here.”
– “The Story of O.J.”
“Drug dealers and abusers, America likes me ruthless.
My therapist said I relapsed,
I said, “Prehaps I Freudian slipped in European whips.”
God sent me to break the chain.”
“Slappin’ out of the toy, the separation is clear.
In my rear-view mirror, objects is further than they appear.
Oh yeah, I was born with a pair,
Playin’ for high stakes.
Norman caked, he looked up and out of the Lear.”
“Marcy me, streets is my artery,
The vein of my existence,
I’m the Gotham City heartbeat”
– “Marcy Me”
It’s no secret that Jay Z will go to any length to put on Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. He shouts the project building out in every record, and even goes out of his way to distribute toys throughout the houses every Christmas. To Jay, the Marcy projects are what Gotham City is to Batman. In his eyes, it his duty to protect the name and legacy of the place he called home. It’s sacred to him (hence the ‘Mercy Me’ flip).
Yet, at the same time, this acknowledgement works both as a statement of intrinsic love for his old tenements and also as recognition that the Marcy houses very much so represent his darkest days. No matter if the streets flow through him like veins and arteries, as they are what gave him life, the play on vein/bane/Bane is left purposefully enough to fuel the Batman analogy. Those same buildings he knows and love were the same that gave him his first job peddling crack and acted as a backdrop for the reoccurring violence he faced growing up. Like Bane to Batman, the houses could’ve very much presented him with untimely death, as they did with timely strength.
Make no mistake, Jay Z is a real life superhero.