Review Summary: A very poor grab for cash with untalented guest spots and uninspired rapping.
In his entire career in hip-hop music, Jay has retained a persona of a teacher. From "Friend or Foe" on Reasonable Doubt, to his decision to title his album releases as "blueprints", Shawn Carter has been telling us that he's confident if rap were a university, he would be a tenured professor. And at this point in his career, he took it upon himself to take the Roc-A-Fella family underneath his wing and make an album promoting their rapping skills and production. My general opinion is that the teacher needs to take a seat and learn to be the student for a couple hours. Mr. Carter, I invite you to take a seat. Grab a notepad and a pencil. We're going to be here for a while. In my book, when it comes to music, you're "guilty until proven innocent." Jay, apparently there's something you've forgotten that's quite integral when it comes to posse cuts: they don't make an album. That's what mixtapes are for. When you have a bunch of talentless rappers that don't compare to your admirable skills in the slightest, if they're a feature on the album it can make you look better. If you have these inferior artists for every song on your album, their mediocrity starts to make you look bad. Don't stoop to their level, Jay. You're better than that. I know you want to get a couple of your buddies together, make some easy filler, sell it, and get some more Rolexes and champagne to show off, but you have a fanbase to respect.
Jay's arrogant bragging is forgivable, because he deserves it. At this point he's made four albums which are more or less deserving of the hype they get. Unfortunately, Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek are horrible rappers who should have quit when they were ahead. Beanie, Memphis, I admire the fact that you think you're hot emcees, much in the same way that I admire little kids playing cops and robbers. It's fun to play pretend, isn't it? Now, you guys might be asking me when you were ahead. That's actually hard to say. Memphis, you could have dropped out after your guest spot on Reasonable Doubt. Beanie, you showed up on Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life. And unlike Memphis, you sucked the very first time I heard you spit on the mic. (I'm looking at you, Reservoir Dogs.) If Jay had removed you from every song on the album, it would have been an instant classic, but unfortunately you ruined things for everyone. Congratulations. It would be unfair to say you ruined this album because that would imply that anyone with half a brain wouldn't anticipate that an album with Beanie Sigel on almost every track would be drivel.
Jay-Z, his team of producers, and guest stars not associated in any way with the Roc-A-Fella record label are the only thing keeping this album from only being worthy of getting marketed as a mini-shiny-plastic frisbee. Kanye West, the Neptunes, Just Blaze and their compatriots craft some effectively interesting tracks, especially "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It To Me)", which is on the level of "Big Pimpin," lyrically and production-wise. Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly also make things interesting, keeping some good chemistry with Hova. It's quite ironic that Jay took on the role of a teacher for this album, as you would think a Hip-Hop 101 class from one of the all time greats would make the students have some basic knowledge of flow and structured lyricism. You would be wrong.