The three years between Hustler's P.O.M.E. and Pray IV Reign saw a slew of Jim Jones releases -- mixtapes, Christmas EPs, plus LPs with his Byrd Gang crew -- but there's little doubt that this is the proper follow-up to the album that gave the world the massive hit "We Fly High." One listen to the epic intro and it's obvious it also aims higher artistically, influenced by the passing of Byrd Gang member Stack Bundles, beefs with members of the Dipset crew, plus the creation of the man's off-Broadway production, The Hip Hop Monologues: Inside the Life and Mind of Jim Jones. Reign is basically the soundtrack to Monologues but it stands alone just fine, successfully mixing straight-up club anthems like "Pop Champagne" and "Na Na Nana Na Na" with much deeper numbers. Bundles is mourned on the moving "My My My," which features the perfectly Jones aside "I hope there's a Harlem in Heaven." A question mark must have been dropped off the title of "This Is the Life," as the rapper's unsure "There's no regrets in life/How's that sound?" rides over the background singers' hook of "Is there a Heaven for us?" Since it's directed at his son ("A miracle on Flatbush Avenue/I still made it back to say 'Push!' when she was havin' you"), "Rain" doesn't question these contrasts and presents them as the cold hard facts of life. It's affiliate NOE who really lays it on the line during "Rain," offering "Had to be a felon/Hated bein' pauper/Read the book of life/Satan was the author." Even with special guest Ludacris on the cut, NOE also wins on key track "How to Be a Boss," and as "Frienemies" addresses Jones' volatile relationships with Cam'ron and Max B, the grand victory of Reign becomes how well it shakes the past and presents the current Byrd Gang crew as true players. Success has always been Jones' revenge, and while his ringleader ways allow this autobiographical album to sometimes go wildly off concept, it's clearly his most inspired set of songs to date.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
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