November 2023 – Alain Dupuis
Jay-Z – The Black Album
Hey Sonic Collective fans, thanks for tuning in! This is Alain, here for the Sonic Collective, and it’s once again it’s my turn to pick the album we are reviewing in November, 2023.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that in the nine, going on ten years we’ve been doing this whole sonic collective thing, we’ve never featured this artist or any of his albums. But, I would be willing to bet that most people not only know who he is, they can even name one or two songs from the album I’ve chosen for review.
Jay-Z, born Shawn Corey Carter, is a globally recognized American rapper, producer, and entrepreneur. He initiated his journey in the music industry in the late 1980s, but his breakthrough came in 1996 when he co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records and released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Known for his distinctive flow and honest storytelling, Jay-Z’s journey from the Marcy Houses of Brooklyn to the pinnacle of the hip-hop world is a testament to his talents, perseverance, and business acumen.
In 2003, Jay-Z released his eighth studio album, The Black Album, which he initially presented as his final album before retiring from music altogether. Obviously, that retirement didn’t really last all that long. This masterpiece, The Black Album, was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, and number 12 here in Canada. It has since been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It spawned 3 singles, including Change Clothes, Dirt off your Shoulder, and 99 Problems. It can be said that these songs not only topped the charts for weeks, but also left a lasting impact on the hip-hop industry, sealing Jay-Z’s legacy as a legend. The Black Album is celebrated for its introspective lyricism and refined production featuring many other legendary artists and producers. It encapsulates Jay-Z’s life experiences and musings on his presumed retirement, thereby marking a significant milestone in his career.
In 2003, I had just purchased my first car and naturally, I spent some money to install a decent sound system. My friend Brian loaned me his Black Album CD, and I have very fond memories of driving around, loudly jamming Jay-Z’s music until I damn near blew my subwoofer. Eventually, I gave Brian back his CD, and I haven’t listened to The Black Album since. So this month’s pick is absolutely and selfishly coming from a place of nostalgia. While it’s possible that I’ll be biased for the review, it may also turn out that the album doesn’t hold up quite as well as I remember in the 20 years since I last crushed it. (God, that makes me feel old…) We all know people’s tastes change over time. Mine most certainly have! So I’m curious to see if I can still cosign this album being as good as I remember it being back when I was a teenager with his first taste of freedom.
So friends, this month, let’s dive into Jay-Z’s The Black Album and see if it’s still worthy of our time, attention and affection two decades on. As usual, the members of the Sonic Collective will get together at the end of the month and discuss how we feel about it. We would love for you to join along in the journey. Let us know how this album resonates with you. You can find us on all the usual social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and of course you can always go leave a comment on TheSonicCollective.com