Just over a year ago, when I was doing a retrospective of Nas in the 2000’s, I wrote the following when comparing the respective legacies of Jones and Jay-Z:
“At the end of Jay-Z’s career, he will have an amazing “Greatest Hits” collection. At the end of Nas’ time in hip hop, he will command a stunning ‘Best Of…’ compilation. There is a major difference between the two, artistically-speaking.”
Well, here we are, dear reader. And unfortunately I seem to have been proved correct, at least on the first volume. It’s a complete load of nonsense, seemingly choosing 14 of his biggest selling tracks, chucking them into an iTunes playlist and pressing shuffle. The flow between the songs makes little sense, as does the selection, and for Jay-Z fans, there is literally no point in considering this as a worthwhile purchase, especially since there aren’t even any new tracks.
It is worth pointing out that there will be various incarnations of this “Hits Collection” – including the Standard (or bog-standard) version, a Deluxe Edition, a Super Deluxe one and, presumably, one with a vial of Jigga’s blood attached so you can drink it (thereby joining his secret society). He also has a book called “Decoded” being released in the coming weeks which, frankly, looks a lot more interesting.
So what of the actual song choice? Because, all nit-picking aside, this presumably hasn’t been created for hip hop heads. No, it is there for the mass market which has more a passing interest in Carter and his radio fodder. Well, you have 14 songs (of course, since Jay loves that number) starting off with “Public Service Announcement” and swiftly moving on to “Run This Town” and “03 Bonnie & Clyde.” This is followed by the bizarre sequence of “Encore,” “I Just Wanna Love U” and “Izzo.” The second half is just as random, save for pairing the abysmal “Show Me What You Got” with the infinitely superior “Roc Boys.” They didn’t even place “Empire State of Mind” with “Hard Knock Life.” Nope, they finish with “Big Pimpin'” and that’s that. Here’s a bit of free advice next time: make the penultimate song “Encore” and the last one “Empire State of Mind.”
Word of advice? Don’t bother buying this terrible compilation. Just buy the “Decoded” book. You probably have every single one of these songs, and the Deluxe version barely adds any value. His first two albums are completely left out, there is zero flow, and although it reinforces the notion that “Jay has hits to spare” – which only a fool would argue with – that doesn’t mean you have to buy this half-hearted money-spinner. Obviously there are still a lot of good songs on here, but the score reflects how these have been put together. Missed opportunity.