The New York Times just ran a fascinating profile on one of the elder statesmen of hip hop. Titled, The House That Hova Built, it's a look into how Jay-Z rose to where he is today.
Aside from the traditional examination of his new career as a businessman and minority owner of the nets, this article also talks about his growth as a rapper itself.
Jay-Z, like rap itself, started out pyrotechnical. Extremely fast, stacked, dense. But time passed and his flow got slower, opened up. Why? “I didn’t have enough life experience, so what I was doing was more technical. I was trying to impress technically. To do things that other people cannot do. Like, you can’t do this” — insert beat-box and simultaneous freestyle here — “you just can’t do that.” Nope. Can’t even think of a notation to demonstrate what he just did. Jay-Z in technician mode is human voice as pure syncopation. On a track like “I Can’t Get With That,” from 1994, the manifest content of the music is never really the words themselves; it’s the rhythm they create. And if you don’t care about beats, he says, “You’ve missed the whole point.”
Pretty intriguing look. Plus, it points to some tracks from his back catalogue that I have totally overlooked.