REVIEW: Jay-Z – “The Hits Collection (Vol.1)”

Jay-Z / The Hits Collection Vol.1 / Universal

It takes a lot of nerve to call your first greatest hits compilation, which captures monuments from over ten years of your musical history, “volume one”. When you put together 14 of the very biggest hits from your career on ‘volume one’, ‘volume two’ is going to seem a little sheepish by comparison. But then again, no one has ever considered Jay-Z short on nerve. The Hits Collection draws from nine albums with one main strength being the fact that, even though tracks like “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” are a decade old, their production values have stood the test of time – more so than a lot of early rhythm and blues and hip hop. The man himself says it best in “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” when he refers to himself as, among other things, “the eighth wonder of the world, the flow of the century” and “always timeless”. But how has he managed to maintain such a timeless hits collection? Well, the fact that the track list also reads like a greatest hits tribute to the decade’s top hip hop producers may have something to do with it. The production talents of Rick Rubin, Kanye West, The Neptunes, Timbaland and Diddy all turn up on the disc, wrenching listeners into a headlock with their crisp beats and loops while the Yankee-hat wearing MC lyrically pummels them into submission.

One criticism of the collection is its understandable, but still a little unfortunate, focus on Hova’s last album, 2009’s The Blueprint 3. Three huge songs from last year’s successful effort turn up on The Hits Collection, making it the most represented of all his releases. It’s a testament to his talent as a songwriter that these new ones were among his most commercially successful, but here’s hoping The Hits Collection, Volume Two delves back a little farther into the past, letting listeners really see how the street hustler Sean Carter became the media mogul and best-selling author Jay-Z.

Download: “99 Problems”, “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”

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