Hard Knock Life

Hard Knock Life

4.2 7
by Jay-Z
     
 

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Although he's still quite young, Jay-Z is a hip-hop veteran with roots in the music dating back to the late '80s, when he was a protégé of Big Jaz and a friend of Big Daddy Kane. Seeing how label troubles hampered Kane's career, Jay (née Shawn Carter) started his own imprint, Roc-a-Fella, and began working his way up theSee more details below

Overview

Although he's still quite young, Jay-Z is a hip-hop veteran with roots in the music dating back to the late '80s, when he was a protégé of Big Jaz and a friend of Big Daddy Kane. Seeing how label troubles hampered Kane's career, Jay (née Shawn Carter) started his own imprint, Roc-a-Fella, and began working his way up the platinum-Rolex-and-diamond-bracelet encrusted ladder. On VOL. 2:HARD KNOCK LIFE, he expands on the methods -- and successes -- of its predecessors, REASONABLE DOUBT and IN MY LIFETIME, VOL. 1. Jay-Z brings superior rhyme skills to the table, and though his lyrical playing field of gangstas, shorties, and playa hatas is hardly groundbreaking, his tales feature rare depth. In his stories of crime and violence, the shady characters aren't stereotypes but thinking, breathing, almost sympathetic personae, and his take on a hard-knock childhood in the title track is poignant cinema verité. Musically, Jay-Z boldly pushes the envelope into areas that would make a lesser rapper seem soft, with the title track sampling a song from the Broadway play "Annie" (leapin' lizards!) and the hit "Can I Get A..." wearing the cheerful veneer of a '60s packaged-food commercial. This recording won a Grammy in 1999. Jay-Z, however, boycotted the ceremony, citing a lack of hip-hop representation among the featured performers.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Coming on the heels of two strong records that revealed the extent of Jay-Z's talents, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life (it may be titled Vol. 2, but it's his third album, arguably his fourth if you count the Streets Is Watching soundtrack) is a little bit of a relative disappointment. Jay-Z had established himself as a savvy, street-smart rapper on those two records, but with Hard Knock Life he decides to shoot for crossover territory, for better and for worse. At his best, he shows no fear -- witness how the title track shamelessly works a Broadway showstopper from Annie into a raging ghetto cry, yet keeps it smooth enough for radio. It's a stunning single, but unfortunately, it promises more than the rest of the album can deliver. Jay-Z remains a first-rate lyricist and MC, but too often his subjects are tired, especially since he winds up with no new revelations. Unfortunately, the same could be said for his music. For every "Hard Knock Life," there are a couple of standard post-gangsta jams that don't catch hold -- and that's really too bad, because the best moments (including several tracks produced by such stars as Timbaland, Kid Capri, and Jermaine Dupri) are state-of-the-art, R&B-inflected mainstream hip-hop. And that's the problem -- before, Jay-Z wasn't trying to play by the rules of the mainstream, but here he's trying to co-opt them. At times he does, but the times that fall flat have less strength or integrity than their predecessors, and that's what makes the entire record not quite as effective, despite its numerous high points. [Shortly after its initial release, Hard Knock Life was reissued with a pair of bonus tracks: "It's Alright," pulled from the Streets Is Watching soundtrack, and "Money Ain't a Thang," a catchy collabo single from Jermaine Dupri's Life in 1472 album.]

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/29/1998
Label:
Roc-A-Fella
UPC:
0731455890228
catalogNumber:
558902
Rank:
19263

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Jay-Z   Primary Artist
Foxy Brown   Track Performer
Kid Capri   Track Performer
DMX   Track Performer
Jermaine Dupri   Track Performer
Too $hort   Track Performer
Big Jaz   Track Performer
Sauce Money   Track Performer
Jake Carter   Guitar
Ja Rule   Vocals,Rap,Track Performer
Memphis Bleek   Track Performer
Amil   Track Performer

Technical Credits

Tony Black   Engineer
Jimmy Douglass   Engineer
Jermaine Dupri   Producer
Joe Quinde   Engineer
Eddie Sancho   Engineer
Erick Sermon   Producer
Doug Wilson   Engineer
Tony Gillis   Mastering
Mike Rew   Engineer
Damon Dash   Producer,Executive Producer
Shawn Carter   Executive Producer
Kasseem Dean   Composer

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