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Hova’s back did he ever leave?

The new Jay-Z record ends his very short retirement

If the closing lyrics from Jay-Z’s last disc, 2003’s “The Black Album,” are some of his most memorable, maybe it’s because fans savored the parting words on “What More Can I Say?” as Hova’s final bow to the rap game.

ALBUM: “Kingdom Come”
LABEL: Roc-A-Fella Records

Those words – “I’m supposed to be first on everybody’s list/ We’ll see what happens when I no longer exist” – suggest that Jay-Z was burnt out on the rap scene and wanted to drop the microphone to devote his energy to the business side of hip-hop.

However, on “The Black Album,” which is one of the best out of the dozen Jay-Z has released over his decade-long rap career, Jigga also warned that he would come back like Michael Jordan. So maybe the release of “Kingdom Come” should have been expected.

The return of J-Hova, after three years playing a CEO, lover and jet-setting party-goer, was hyped to Biblical proportions. Although “Kingdom Come” is good, and would have been a perfectly suitable follow-up to “The Black Album” had he not retired, Jay-Z’s return to the rap game falls short of expectations.

Jay-Z sounds smooth as ever, like a modern-day Frank Sinatra. Even the music has a jazzy sound reminiscent of the Chairman of the Board, with big brass, drum sets and laid-back beats as cool as old Blue Eyes himself.

There is only slight variation from this medium tempo on the album, which is one of the most noticeable departures from the pick-me-up, cool-me-off switch-up on “The Black Album.”

One of the few pumped-up songs on “Kingdom Come” is “Show Me What You Got,” which features a recognizable and sexy saxophone riff over an upbeat tempo, clapping, piano and brass.

Jay-Z is as expressive as ever, but the repetition of subjects will send a cold chill of fear into the stomachs of fans.

Is the infamous Jigga, who has successfully avoided the lyrical drought that ruins most rappers, finally succumbing to the dreaded dry-up?

Jay-Z raps about the young bucks in the rap business on five of the album’s 13 tracks, wavering between confident and defensive. Perhaps his confidence turns into sounding threatened after being worked through multiple times in the same “I still got it, right?” manner.

The best of these is “30 Something,” where Jay-Z looks at aging from a humorous angle. With comparisons like, “I’m young enough to know/ The right car to buy/ Yet grown enough/ Not to put rims on it,” Hova heralds in the era of 30-is-the-new-20 style of hip-hop.

With aging rap legends still in the recording studio, the mature sound and lyrics of Jay-Z are good enough to stand as a stylistic guide for other middle-aged hip-hoppers.

“Kingdom Come” is another notch on Jay-Z’s successful belt. It’s too early to tell whether the album will spark a new style of mature rap or only serve as a piece of the Jay-Z chronicles.

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