Songs in the Key of Z

"Some People Hate" gets no more specific than its title. Jay sets everyone straight with this choice tongue-twister: "Eight maniac cats strapped with gats/you can hate that!/Face facts/Fake rap cats can't take back what I took back to the Brook/look!" But sampled soul-singer Brenda Russell tips Jay's hand. After repeatedly unfurling the long, silky hook and punctuating proceedings with "I think they lost their mind," she slips, surrounded by bursts of drum sounds and falling chunks of funk bass, into a serious but still silky lament—not threat: "Some people kill their brothers."


The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse

"A Ballad for the Fallen Soldier," a rather conventional slow jam produced by the Neptunes, draws the crude parallel, like Nas's "My Country," between inner-city and international war: "Bin Laden been happenin' in Manhattan/crack was anthrax back then/back when/ police was al Qaeda to black men." It's Jay's observation that "Life ain't all rosebuds," Citizen Kane allusion or malapropism, that makes a much more redolent point about those who don't even have the luxury of pondering lost innocence. Meanwhile, "Guns & Roses," featuring a surprisingly supple Lenny Kravitz, finds Jay shooting off his mouth again, to a hopping rock beat and crooked guitar line: "Hov hangin' with Bono/You too can live like Salvatore Ferragamo/You too can cool out poolside at the Delano/ If you too flowed like you was outta your mind, yo." From "Blueprint 2" 's Ennio Morricone sample that sounds like Philip Glass to "Meet the Parents" 's twisted-ending thug's-life narrative couched in fuzz-metal and harp runs, Jay and his A-list producers refuse to follow anything to the letter. He might not be the only one from his generation, but Jay's earned his Z.

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