Jay-Z's retirement from making albums was more like a working holiday. After he announced his retirement, released The Black Album, and threw the Fade to Black party, he collaborated with Linkin Park on Collision Course, teamed with R. Kelly for the abysmal Unfinished Business, and appeared on tracks by Beanie Sigel, Bun B, Memphis Bleek, Kanye West, Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco, and Beyoncé. He kept busy behind the scenes as Def Jam's CEO and president, and he also stepped up as a major philanthropist, donating a million dollars to the Katrina cause and actively addressing the global water crisis in Turkey and South Africa. In the midst of these and other well-publicized activities, Jay-Z recorded Kingdom Come, his eighth and weakest studio album. When placed in the context of his prolific discography, the greater part of the album wilts, and it's not a good indicator that Jay-Z continues to lean on a familiar cast of producers rather than actively seek up-and-comers. (The fresh talent here is limited to Syience and Gwyneth Paltrow's Chris Martin; they contribute one track each.) There's only a small handful of highlights. On the title track, Just Blaze's masterful contortion job on Rick James' "Superfreak" backs Jay's nearly top-form, Black Album/Blueprint-worthy boasts: "I been up in the office, you might know him as Clark/Just when you thought the whole world fell apart/I take off the blazer, loosen up the tie/Step inside the booth, Superman is alive." Two of the four Dr. Dre productions feature assistance from Mark Batson (Anthony Hamilton), and they both strike a fine balance between maturity and ferocity -- much more so than the clumsy "30 Something," where Jay proclaims that "30 is the new 20," which would actually make him 27 and a fourth-grader a zygote. (He might as well say, "You wear Huggies, I wear Depends/You drink from a sippy cup/I sip my solids.") Apart from the above-mentioned bright spots and a poignant, somber track about the Katrina disaster ("Minority Report"), the album is a display of complacency and retreads -- a gratuitous, easily resistible victory lap -- that slightly upgrades the relative worth of The Blueprint².
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Track Listing - Disc 1
feat: John Legend
feat: Sterling Simms
Track Listing - Disc 2