I got Kingdom Come with the hopes of including it on my Top Albums of 2006 list, but Jay-Z's lackluster eighth album didn't quite make the cut. Yet, while the music isn't as revolutionary as earlier Jay-Z, the biographical bent forges new ground in terms of what a rap song can be about — namely, settling into and accepting adulthood.
Though some have criticized Kingdom Come for its narcissism — as if that's unique among hip-hop records — only occasionally does the self-focus get tiresome, as on the predictable momma homage, "I Made It." But in the spotty but thoughtful "30 Something," the Def Jam CEO justifies his veteran status, boasting "I'm young enough to know the right car to buy / yet grown enough to know not to put rims on it."
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The strongest tracks on Kingdom Come arrive early on as a staggering one-two punch. With its "Good Lord!" gospel refrain and getting-back-into-the ring vibe, "Oh My God" positions Jay-Z as a an aging champ poised for a spiritual comeback. And on "Kingdom Come," Jay-Z proves he just might be deserving of such a return, combining slightly cautious lyrics with an ingenious spin on Rick James' "Super Freak."
Admittedly, the album is marred by a few duds, like the watered-down Hurricane Katrina protest song, "Minority Report." But most of the weaker points are still enjoyable enough. "Show Me What You Got" may not be a masterpiece, but with the coaxing vocals and punchy brass, Jay-Z proves he can still fire up the ladies with the best of 'em. Rather than being a letdown, Kingdom Come is an early indicator of what happens when hip-hop grows up.