OffBeat Music revisits Jay-Z’s ‘In My Lifetime Vol. 1’

Posted on November 11, 2010


OK so when I first wrote this review in 2008, I was of the impression that most people hadn’t heard this album, that most of you probably let it slide over your heads because of the rumours that Jay was goin to go all commercial on us… I thought I’d dig this up and share my review of one of Jay-Z’s most underrated albums with you.

It is true that Puffy & His BadBoy team handles production 4 some of the album… why? I said I didn’t know when I first wrote this. I thought the reason was probably to make Jay more appealing to a wider audience and I was right as Jay-Z himself has later come out to confirm this…

While Meth used that as an excuse to get out of some blame to his poor showin on tical 0, Jay-Z on the other hand stays true to his hustle and doesn’t let the badboy shine take away from his street lyrics and HE STILL MAKES AN ESSENTIAL Hip-HOP ALBUM albeit a borderline poppish production or two!!!

And if you thought Reasonable Doubt was a fluke, In My Lifetime squashed that thot!!! And in hindsight, with the right 1st single, this album could’ve blown up more than its 1.2 million sold.

Lets get to the track by track and I’ll see you at the other side…

*Intro/A Million And One/Rhyme No More*

In my opinion, nobody makes a better intro than Jay-Z!!! This one aint no exception. The first of two DJ PREMIER joints. All I’ll say is dude needed more tracks on this album. Its an awesome start off to the album. Jay-Z flows sick over a Premo beat, that’s official!!! The second half of this track gets me bopping my head everytime… PREMO 4 PRESIDENT!!! And Jay-Z brings the heat again signaling the rise of a rap great.

*City IS Mine*

I like this sample! Nice feel 2 it… although it sounds like a soundtrack to an action movie! Lol! Ted Riley on production but you’d think it was BadBoy at the helm cos the beats scream mainstream. But the production along with the hook is catchy and gets me singin along 2 d chorus!!! Lmao

If the production borders round commercialization, jay-Z doesn’t follow suit. He starts off conversation to the late BIG and cheekily assumes the throne & the rest of the song jus serves to stamp his claim on the throne!!!

The lyrics are pretty basic, nothing mind-blowin but Jay still keeps em on a high enuff level. As with conceited songs, there’s only so much you can say but Jay does it well as he styles on the haters.

Like he said, he’s controlling the game.

*I know What Girls Like*

The worst track on this album by a mile and a half. Puffy’s adlibs start to get me tuned off from the start & Jay doesn’t impress on his verses… production is really annoyin, its so monotonous and lack creativity.

Lil kim spits less than adequate rhymes.

The chorus??? Its not any better than the production. Jay-Z steps up a lil on the final verse as the beats gets drowned out a little but to be fair, this song is less than mediocre at best. To think its longer than Imaginary Player… atleast I enjoyed that one!!!

Puffy shut up already!!!

This track should have been left out. Puffy ruins it with production and Jay cannot save it with his lyrics unlike one or two others…

*Imaginary Players*

Straight clownin at all those Jay-Z wannabes! It’s an enjoyable track, it has that badboy ghetto fab gloss sprinkled all over it (from Prestige being on production) though which is not always a bad thing. It has an R&B feel to it with a funk sound that’s typical of Prestige songs…

I like his bars but really, the flow is lazy but at the same time appropriate as the production doesn’t really challenge Jay to go hard. Its sufficient though and its short and sweet.

Nothin Long.

*Streets is Watching*

Are these the vocals from the ‘Sleeper’ movie in the background?? I like this SkI beat better than ‘who you wit II’. It brings that trumpetty jazzy feel into the song. Its yet another song directed at the street politikin with the jealousy and envy as he tries to invite you into the life of a hustler… his life! His descriptive skills shine over this SKI beats which kinda felt worn out in the middle of the 3rd verse but Jay’s short stories keep you listenin all thru 2 the end.

*Friend Or Foe 98*

The Second PREMO beat and it fits the theme of the track… Jay in story telling mode equals greatness boi!!! Motion Picture sh*t he says and I concur!!!

The production is nothing special from PREMO but its short and its bangin… gets your head bouncin and it goes along more than adequately… you’re caught on how this story pans out that for one minute and a half anyway!!!

*Lucky Me*

My favourite song on this album and one of my fav Jay-Z songs period. The production is tight. How the guitar drops is beautiful and that instrument in the background… A-STAR!!!

This song would be lovely to hear live with an acoustic set I bet!!!

Buckwild & Stevie J from BadBoy worked up this soulful production.

Jay laments about the downfalls of being in the spotlight in ways only he can… lawsuits, the envy, the stress, the gold diggers, fake friends… all the hype talk & I feel his pain!!!

The vocal on chorus by Karen Anderson rides with Jay perfectly and it all gels with the simplicity of this beats to create a masterpiece.


The first single… what a 1st single is these days. Made 4 mainstream audience and if you’ve seen the video, then you’ll know why this album as a whole doesn’t get enuff cred… you thot Jay was goin commercial on us… I explain all dat at the beginnin

Back 2 the song…

Jus listenin, this screams marketable all over it… the lyrics aren’t vintage Jay, they’re rather dumbed down if I may be so bold. Obviously aimed at that special lady. I mean what is

“If I need it, would you gimme your kidneys?”

Foxy makes a minimal cameo. They have that chemistry but I’d rather have ‘aint no nigga’ on this rather than this pawn!!!

Babyface blesses the chorus. It just feels altogether like a Pop song (hate to say it but its true)

Very nice skit… best bit of the song if I may say so!!! Lmao

*Who You Wit II*

I dunno much bout music technically but I do have a good ear 4 whats hot and this is a bangin production by Ski!!!

A song telling all y’all ladies to get rite and come roll with you know who! Jay’s flow is on point as he rides on an obviously commercially made production (Ok I’m gone give Ski the benefit of the doubt and take that back but it does come off a bit commercial)… the overridin theme is ‘cash, money & ladies’ and asides the braggadocio and catchy wordplay, there’s really nuthin here… its usual Jay speakin 2 his ladies.

If a song doesn’t have 2 be conscious for you 2 listen, then this will do as it did 4 me… I could definately feel this in the club!!!

The continuing skit from ‘sunshine’ sounds it off nicely!!! Playerz 4 lyfe!!! Lmao

U probably recognize the 1st verse from an Amerie remix…

*Face Off*

Jay-Z and Sauce Money have that back & forth; Shaq & Kobe thing goin on in this song. I didn’t like the chorus that much, its not sayin nothing really but the verses are worth givin the song a listen…

They feed off of each other rather nicely as they conversate bout the ladies & stayin fly among other things & I guess hence the ‘face off’ title.

If you really aint a Jay-Z head, then the 1st or 2nd listen is enuff cos it really is jus a track showcasing both their wordplay/flow prowess…

Production is weak… Ok its not weak but it sounds too commercial (trackmasters). It sounds like suthin Puffy & Mase would ride, no offense!!!

I like the verses, its enjoyable to listen to this tag-team, it obviously works, now if only we could cut off the chorus somehow, the glossy beat, we could live with. I was boppin 2 this.

*Real Niggaz*

Very mellow song… very very mellow… I thot it was one of Puffy’s men on production cos it does sound like a few BadBoy tunes of that era but its some dude called Anthony Dent & I was right, he was a BadBoy hitman!!! You’re caught in 2 minds here… this is obviously a ‘made 4 mainstream audience’ beat that tries to let you into the life but Jay & Too Short aint speakin mainstream, there’s no traditional tuny hook, its jus Jay & Short talking bout what they know… getting that money while still stayin true to the game.

Somehow that 3rd verse, I wasn’t feelin it! Jay & Short don’t quite vibe on d same verse as they did in the previous 2 but with lines like

“If you ballin, keep ballin… if you jealous, stop…
…I want BIG to rest in peace as well as Pac… how real is that”

Its hard not to like this song!!!

*Rap Game/Crack Game*

A well nice comparison. Production from Jaz-O (Big Jaz) not the best! Its incoherent as it starts, took me a few listens to get into the flow. Aint that a sample of Nas on the Chorus??? I like the creativity that Jay shows here as he takes a different route in telling his hustlin tales. At the end though, he lets you know he’s at home on either turf!!!

It ends too early though as there are only as many ways the rap game looks like the crack game.

*Where I’m From*

This is a real HARD steady beat from surprisingly Derrick D Dot with hard kickin rhymes from the boi! Its kinda hard 2 swallow attimes if you’re jus on here 2 catch a glimpse of the glossier Jay-Z (ICEBERG). This is not bout the girls and money & the fabulous lifestyle… this is real!!!

This gives you a first hand account of the Marcy projects. Its hardcore… drugs, thugs, police, deaths, politics and the hustle! His lyrics don’t quite take you there and that’s OK cos it don’t sound like a nice place 2 be, however the depiction of where he’s from is vivid and you do get a Birdseye view.

A recommended listen.

*You Must Love Me*

Before ‘soon you’ll understand’, there was this… much better (I might add) retrospective apology to his mum, elder brother and girl in his life!!!

The song starts off real nice with a lil interlude.

Kelly Price on hooks and backin vocals in MAGIC.

The vocals are real soulful and it gels with Jay’s verses which are on point all the way thru as they tell rather sad stories!!!

The production is a bit eerie which i luv… I like the beats on here, its simple and it efficiently adds to the retrospect feel of the song.

One of my favourites!!!


In 2008, I said “8.9/10… it gets 9 on some days!” and I was chastised for giving it such a high score (nobody bothered to complain about my lazy writing & spelling habits SMH) and it was suggested that the review I gave it didn’t warrant a 9 or an 8.9 but I have to disagree. Maybe NOT 9 but I’d say in the regions of 8.5 – 8.9/10, I really like this album BUT I’ll let you decide…

Triple A
Posted in: OffBeat