There’s a lot of music out there to rip off–Bwog music critic Bryan Mochizuki gives us the run down on the downloads.

jayzThe new Jay-Z album, Kingdom Come, leaked last weekend in its entirety.  The first five tracks? Awesome, with hints of incredible.  The back ten? Pepsi One. Or New Coke.  Drinketh: 

Beach Chair (ft. Coldplay’s Chris Martin) – Produced by Martin  

I hope all of you fans of the Grey Album are happy now. Alas, revelation: Jay-Z and British dudes don’t mix. The best part of this track is when Beyonce guest stars as “Angelic Voice #1” at :58 seconds in.  Cool…great… (Also, if you’re going to go the rock route and ignore the dozens of great new rap producers, would Mr. Paltrow really be your first choice?) 

“30 Something”  / “Trouble”  / “Lost Ones”  – All Produced by Dr. Dre  

Remember that great scene in Fade To Black where Timbaland is auditioning beats and Jay passes on like four incredible ones and then “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” comes on and he gets that constipated look on his face and Timbo starts dancing and you realize that super producers pretty much save their best stuff for him?  Apparently Dr. Dre doesn’t.  Only one of the three tracks he produced works; “Lost Ones” is one of the best songs on the album, but it’s more or less a fro-yo Dre beat.  And it leaked a week before this, which is pretty much the same thing but way better. 

Do U Wanna Ride (ft. John Legend) – Produced by Kanye West 

Kanye’s not giving his all either, but maybe he gets some slack because: a. he’s in his second year of Pharell-esque post-blow-up-suck. And b. he’s kind of a horrible dude.  Considering both these things, this beat is alright.  At least he didn’t rap on it.

This song brings up a general problem with the album: it’s Jay-Z’s first since taking over as President of Def Jam.  Because his stable already has a rapper’s rapper (Ghostface) and two trap-hoppers (Jeezy and Rick Ross), Jay plays more to the middle than ever before.  This means less guns and drugs, less lyrical intricacy, an unprecedented number of inappropriate pop-culture references (MCR?!?), and more cross-over songs.  What’s strange is that neither “Do U Wanna Ride” nor “Beach Chair” is catchy, which, last time I checked, is kind of necessary for a cross-over hit. 

“Do U Wanna Ride” also reminds me of “Ride Wit’ Us,” an old Daz and Kurupt song that brought the house down in like 9th grade (at least in Central California). Which reminds me that the only thing worse than “Beach Chair” about Jay-Z’s comeback is the video for the otherwise exceptional first single, “Show Me What You Got.” Daz and Kurupt did the whole rap-star car-race spiel the right way.  It’s kind of a hard formula to mess up.  You get in either cool or goofy cars (your choice) and rap while racing your friends.  Jay-Z should be great at this.  He’s got lots of awesome friends, most of whom can drive. 

Yet instead of choosing friends who could drive, he chose NASCAR DRIVERS (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick).  This isn’t interesting at all.  It’d be one thing if Jay-Z were playing a pick-up game with Lebron and ‘Melo. But is there really that much crossover between Jay-Z fans and Nascar geeks? It’s like the crossover between vegetarians and fans of Dog the Bounty Hunter.  

The big problem for Jay is that he has two big precedents to follow: Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 and Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA in the mid-90’s, which Jay-Z references on the track “Show Me…” The problem is that Jordan put up almost identical numbers in the 95-96 season as he did before he left in ’93, and 2001 is BETTER than The Chronic (and had, um, 5 pretty great singles, ten album cuts that were even better, and the unheralded “Pause 4 Porno”).  So unless Jay breathes fire on some hidden tracks, Kingdom Come seems destined for, well, selling A LOT of copies after it drops this Tuesday.  But that’s it. 

At press time, though, this pops up.  So, yeah, maybe he is back.