The Underrated: Jay-Z- Vol. 1: In My Lifetime

By @TrueGodImmortal 

1. Intro: A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More
2. The City Is Mine
3. I Know What Girls Like 
4. Imaginary Player 
5. Streets Is Watching 
6. Friend or Foe '98
7. Lucky Me
8. (Always Be My) Sunshine 
9. Who You Wit II
10. Face Off 
11. Real Niggaz
12. Rap Game/Crack Game 
13. Where I'm From 
14. You Must Love Me 

After the release of his epic debut Reasonable Doubt, things would change for Jay-Z. Armed with his Roc-A-Fella team, as well as a new deal over at Def Jam Records, Jay set out to release his second album and continue his streak. Some would say that his second album, Vol. 1: In My Lifetime was very unfocused, and it even gets thrown into the pile of very few lackluster Jay albums, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I honestly think Vol. 1 is probably a top 5 Jay-Z album, just behind RD, American Gangster, Blueprint, and just maybe The Black Album, but that's debatable.

The opening song, an intro of sorts, features Jay spitting some of his most concise and best lyrics, supplying them with a bravado that was unmatched. The production from DJ Premier on both "Rhyme No More" and "A Million and One Questions" is flawless and Jay does his absolute best to do that beat some justice. Jay has a moment of reflection through success, and a bit of glossy thoughts on "The City Is Mine" where he stakes his claim for the King of NY backed by a Teddy Riley/Chad Hugo production and Blackstreet on the hook as well. The biggest misstep comes on "I Know What Girls Like", which is completely out of place, and isn't a good song at all.

However, Jay recovers instantly with the classic track "Imaginary Player", one of his absolute best songs ever. The beat is smooth, the sample floats on the hook and Jay drops some of my favorite verses from him. Not to mention the question of "what's the difference between a 4.0 and a 4.6", with the hilarious answer. Everything about this song is perfection, and it might be my favorite song on this entire album. While "Streets Is Watching" and "Friend or Foe '98" are both solid tracks, I think another epic moment comes in "Lucky Me", as Jay gets a bit personal and talks about his fears with women he encounters and the drama that surrounds him. If I was making a list of my favorite songs on this album, "Lucky Me" would easily be top 5. Maybe even top 3. A very underrated Jay track.

Now, this is where the album takes a small hit with "Sunshine" and "Who You Wit II", and as a younger True, I appreciated both songs as singles, more so "Who You Wit" because of the fact it was featured in the movie "Sprung" and promoted a bit more. However, they both feel a tad out of place here, although neither is actually a bad track(both are better than "I Know What Girls Like", which is the only true bad track on this album). Jay gets right back on track with "Face Off", as he and Sauce Money trade verses back and forth. Jay lyrically was in his bag, and Sauce managed to keep up as usual. The slow, knocking bump of "Real Niggaz" featuring Too Short is another solid track, as both MCs do what they do best. Jay, who had just been involved in a minor beef with 2Pac before he passed away, closes out the song with "I want Biggie to rest in peace, as well as Pac, how real is that". Real niggas do real things.

The closing of the album is the strongest period throughout, as Jay provides us with three classic tracks in a row, starting with "Rap Game/ Crack Game", which compares the hip hop music industry to the corners and the streets. It is an analogy that still holds true to this day, especially with Indie artists on their hustle(word to DAR). He gives Brooklyn, and more so Marcy Projects an anthem on "Where I'm From", where he coined the iconic line "who's the best MC, Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas". The beat is sinister, Jay is at his best lyrically and the song is classic. A top 5 song on the album. He closes the album with the reflective and brutally honest "You Must Love Me", where he details a chick that was ride or die who got caught up in the game because of him, his mother and her relationship with drugs, and the time he shot his brother over jewelry. The song is eye-opening and completely emotional, something Jay doesn't do often in his music. It is also a top 5 song on this album.

When looked back on, Vol. 1 still holds up very well as an album and in Jay's catalog. It showed depth to him, allowed him to show he could take a risk or two musically and set the foundation for what was to come commercially. It is my favorite of all the Vol. albums and it is definitely one of Jay's best. Take a moment to revisit one of Jigga's greatest.



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