Jay-Z (Roc-A-Fella/ Def Jam)
Sure, his current video “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” might feature minimally clad models and classic cars, but there is more to Jay-Z than the usual celebration of the high life. After all, this is the same hipster who made his name with the rockin’ but socially conscious rap “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” in 1998 and who openly rhymes about his rough-and-tumble past. So it is no surprise that the Brooklyn-raised Grammy winner has an eye for the grit beneath the glamor. For every song about slurping Cristal champagne, Jay has one about struggling to get out of misery.
On his fifth CD, he offers raps that sometimes sound like therapy sessions as he expresses a deep, cathartic anger. “Where Have You Been,” in which Jay trades rhymes with rapper Beanie Sigel, is about the pain caused by a deadbeat dad. “Do you even remember the tender boy/ You turned into a cold young man?” Jay emotes. On “This Can’t Be Life” he violates street creed and confesses self-doubt.
Bottom Line: Searing self-examination, propelled by hot beats