In recent months, a lot of unique remix editions of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” have been released to the hip-hop public. The most infamous among all of these Danger Mouse’s “The Grey Album,” which mixed it with the famous Beatles release “The White Album” into a combined whole which some critics have already described as pure genius. The only thing which has kept this album from being larger is it’s quasi-legit status, since it would be financially impossible for an indie artist like Danger Mouse or nearly ANY producer alive to license the Beatles catalogue for an OFFICIAL album. That’s assuming of course that the people with a stake involved (everyone from Paul McCartney to Michael Jackson, not to mention various record labels) would even WANT to hear Beatles songs mixed with hip-hop.

Clearly Jay-Z doesn’t object though. It was already widely believed on the net that Shawn Carter was openly encouraging these remix versions of “The Black Album,” since they certainly do nothing to hurt his household name recognition or sales of what is (allegedly) his final album. As if to prove the point, Jay-Z has released “The Black Album Acappella” not as a bootleg but an OFFICIAL ALBUM which you can purchase in any retail store nationwide. If you’re a budding remixer with a copy of FruityLoops sitting unused on your desktop, this release is tailor-made to make your day. Rip the tracks on this CD to your computer, convert them to .wav format, and then have a ball putting any beat on his lyrics you want. Create your own, pick out your own unlicensed samples, or mix these acappella tracks with any hip-hop beat from vintage jams to unheralded classics to top 40 hits. The possibilities are endless, and you can add your own bootleg “Black Album” remix to the hundreds that are already in print or on the world wide web.

If you don’t plan to make any Jay-Z remixes though, this album will probably leave you a little flat. While Shawn Carter is unquestioanbly one of the best rappers of all time, a man who singlehandedly made being flossy respectable but simultaneously made deeply intricate and personal hip-hop, it’s not very easy to listen to these songs without the beats that added fuel to Jay-Z’s fire. Try listening to his current hit “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” without the Timbaland beat, and you end up feeling lost and eerily disconnected from reality. Since Jigga often changes up his flow to match the kind of track he’s rapping over, it seems bizarre to hear his intentionally paused flow when he performs the hook. “Get.. that.. dirt off your shoulder.” Huh? Without Timb’s beat, it just doesn’t make sense. Well, it needs SOME kind of beat at least. So please, feel free to insert yours – Jay-Z would like you to. Just don’t be TOO successful at it, because if your version starts selling and becomes a big hit with wide distribution, Mr. Carter may come for his cut. If he doesn’t, the owners of the samples you used will. Art is still a crime in 2004.

Jay-Z :: The Black Album Acappella
9Overall Score