Jay-Z: Show Me What You Got
Kingdom Come (Def Jam, 2006)

Afro Lafayette Band: Darkest Light
Malik (Makossa, 1976)

Johnny Pate: Shaft in Africa
Shaft In Africa (ABC, 1973)

So…on second thought, this Jay-Z song is getting weaker with each repeated listen. Here’s why:

1) Lyrics = weak. Not as bad as some of his worst stuff from the past year (i.e. anything he and Beyonce appeared on) but why drop a “hey mami” track when this is your comeback? Take some notes from LL Cool J circa Mama Said Knock You Out or KRS-ONE circa Return of the Boom Bap. This is supposed to be Jordan’s return after his White Sox stint, not the Wizard years. Step yer game up.

2) Just Blaze’s track just isn’t up to where it should be. Take a listen to the two source songs: either is incredibly more superior than “Show Me What You Got” that it’s kind of embarrassing putting them back to back. Contrast with Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” – I never loved that song but if you compare it with the original Impressions’ song it samples from, at least Blaze captured the essence of what made the original so lovely. Blaze, I think, takes a major misstep in using the Afro Lafayette horns – it sounds slightly off, either in rhythm or key or both and regardless, becomes a distraction rather than an asset. The Shaft in Africa is hard to mess up and had the song focused more on accentuating that loop, I think it would have done itself a greater service. I’m a big fan of Just Blaze but this felt surprisingly lazy to me. Contrast this with what he did for Ghostface earlier in the year: forced the abandon sampling, he pulled together a live performance version of the same song and made it sound incredible. Where’s the workmanship here?

I’m not saying I hate the song. I just wish it were better. And for Jay’s sake, I hope the rest of his album is better too. I’m scared by the Chris Martin collabo but hell, if Adam Levine and Kanye West could make good music together, who knows?

(Credit for Jay-Z track: Spine Magazine)

Bonus – Jay-Z: Kingdom Come

Say it with me…”now that’s more like it!”

And just one more…this is pure comedy. The “making of ‘Show ‘Em What You Got'”: