In the year 1997 Hov dropped his second studio album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Although, I probably didn’t hear the album in its entirety until about 2013, over time I’ve grown a profound passion for this joint. A few days ago I took a look at where Hov personally had this album ranked and I was befuddled. He had Magna Carter Holy Grail above this album . That is blasphemous! But anyway, this album got better with time as it didn’t really grab me at first listen. Ultimately I believe this is a top five Jay Z album.
So we kick off the album with a skit from Pain In Da Ass, then Jay takes over and does what he does best and that’s talk shit. “Intro: A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More” is probably my favorite Hov intro of all time, that has a lot to do with how he switched beats and flows in the middle of the track. Every time I hear the beat drop as it transitions into Jay saying “M*therfuckers can’t rhyme no more bout crime no more til I’m no more/cause I’m so raw.” Bruh, that shit gets me so hype. In 1997, we also lost the greatest rapper of all time (in my opinion) The Notorious B.I.G. The throne for top rapper in NYC was up for grabs and Jay made a hell of a case for it on the track “The City Is Mine”. On this track he even tips his hat to the slain rapper saying he’s going to hold it down.
“What the deal playboy, just rest your soul I be holding it down yo, still love the dough.”
The first song I was ever introduced off of the album was “Imaginary Players” (shout-out to my dog Snoop). Jay Z has many different approaches but my favorite Jay Z is “shit talkin” Jay Z. On this track we got prime shit-talkin Hov literally from start to finish. He gets into how he was one of the first to start popping champagne when a lot of y’all was drinking beers, he also speaks on how he was rocking platinum back when everybody thought it was silver. Jay was draggin on here something serious, this is one of my favorite Hov songs to date. My favorite part (which is probably everybody’s favorite part) comes at the end where he starts to describe how he’s living a lot better than most of his counterparts. This song also shows how much of trendsetter Jay Z was before anyone else, monumental song.
“When I see them in the street, I don’t see none of that/Damn playboy, where the fuck is the Hummer at?”
In a lot of Jays’s raps you can envision the stories that he is depicting. On the track “Friend or Foe 98”, Hov takes us on another journey where he has to flex his muscle in the drug game. Now this is the second installment to the “Friend or Foe” series, in the first one he warned his foe not to come around here hustling anymore. His foe didn’t listen so now he has hell to pay. This song then transitions into my personal favorite song on the album, “Lucky Me”. Jay shows his versatility on this track, he tones down the shit talkin’ and gets serious with us. Although shit talkin’ Jay Z is my favorite, “serious” Jay Z is a close second. He reflects on how all these people hate him and they don’t even know him. It seems some of the backlash Jay was receiving was getting under his skin but he released all of his “anger” on this track. Hov definitely left his mark with this joint because Lil Wayne even borrowed a lyric from this song on Tha Carter 3. Wayne payed homage not only by borrowing the lyrics but also by featuring Jay Z on the song, “Mr. Carter”.
“Hate the price of fame cause it cost too much/Can I live without y’all niggas saying I floss too much?”
A few tracks later we get the shit talkin’ Jay Z back on the song “Who You Wit 2”. I have to give a shout-out to the legend Ski Beats because this beat is crazy and Jay floated all over it. “Now what I look like givin’ a chick half my trap? Like she wrote half my raps, yeah I’m havin’ that.” That’s my favorite line out of the whole song. A few tracks later Jay gets help from west coast rapper Too $hort. This was significant because of the notorious West coast-East coast beef. This was the first time Jay and Too $hort linked up for a track and their chemistry is fire. Hov denounces the beef by saying; “If you want it, keep ballin, and if you jealous stop/I want Biggie to rest in peace, as well as ‘Pac.” Jay then sampled Nas and Outkast for the track “Rap Game/Crack Game”. Then Jay takes us to Marcy housing projects for the song “Where I’m From”. The thing that always captures me is the beat, it was produced by D-Dot and he got busy on the boards. This song dives deep into the good and bad of growing up in the projects. Hov even gets into the people in his hood with “sticky fingers” when he said; “Boosters in abundance buy a half-price sweater new.” I don’t care where you from, what hood you grew up in everybody knows a booster. Jay also sampled his own voice from a track with the Notorious B.I.G. called “Young G’s”.
Hov closes out the album by reverting back to serious Jay Z with the track “You Must Love Me”. Jay tells a story in each verse about how he put his loved ones through traumatic situations but their love remained the same. In the first verse he goes into slight details about the relationship between him and his mom. He even admits to selling her crack and stealing from her. This is not the typical Jay Z that most are used to in the second verse he describes his relationship with his big brother. As he states later on the Blueprint he talks about how his brother would fight him to make him tougher, he speaks on that in this song too. Believe it or not Jay Z ends the story by shooting his own brother in the shoulder. Although he shot him, his brother still asked to see him in the hospital the next day. On the final verse he dives into a past relationship where he allowed his lady at the time to smuggle drugs for him because that was his last resort. She basically risked her life doing this and the conclusion Hov came up with as to why she did it was that she must of loved him.