Style: Opulent rap recalling the best work of both, plus Nas, Raekwon, Lil' Wayne
Top tracks: "Made in America," "Otis," "New Day"
Jay-Z and Kanye West—the undisputed kings of luxury rap and hip-hop decadence—usher in their first collaborative LP with a parade of excess, an album-length celebration of expensive cars and designer fashion, of drugs and women and tall stacks of money. And there's foul language aplenty, more than justifying the parental advisory sticker on the cover. But it's also more than just empty materialism. It's a troubled meditation on what it means to be successful black men, harnessing rap opulence and channeling it into an empowering statement of black pride. "Made in America" offers benedictory thanks to "King Martin," "Sister Coretta," and even "Sweet Jesus," and celebrates those who have "made it in America." Meanwhile, "Murder to Excellence" takes stock of all those who haven't; newspaper headlines filled with "black on black murder" leave no possible response but sheer horror. There are moments of despair—lamenting that there is "no church in the wild"—but there are also moments of startling clarity. When the two pen a letter to their unborn sons in "New Day," it may be the most humbling and introspective moment in either of their catalogs.
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.