“Is Brooklyn in the house?”
The first words hollered on Jay-Z‘s new eight-track Live In Brooklyn EP are, appropriately, a salute to his borough of birth. The release is intended to commemorate the eight back-to-back shows Hov performed last week in celebration of his esteemed 0.015% ownership of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. For his part, Jay plays enthusiastic – at times his amped-up rapping sounds like he’s airing out his party-trick of imitating a yapping dog, not least when ad-libbing “Wow! Wow!” during “Public Service Announcement” – but the EP itself is a curious affair.
The songs that made the cut are firmly from Jay’s poppy stash. The project kicks off with “Empire State Of Mind” (which still resembles a Disney-sponsored ode to the big city), and takes in ”Run This Town,” “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” Beyonce‘s bridesmaid anthem “Crazy In Love,” and the insufferable “Young Forever.” There’s nothing from Reasonable Doubt, the album that launched Jay’s rise — and, according to lore, his own favorite recording. Only the rendition of “Public Service Announcement” really offers any sort of power and impact.
The texture of the recording itself is unsatisfying, with the live performances coming off as tinny; the lack of bass and all-round middle-of-the-road vibe make it sound like you’ve tuned into an A.M. radio broadcast. The eight accompanying live videos fare better, if only because you can see Jay hawking around his selection of Brooklyn Nets-branded hats, but Live In Brooklyn is less a tribute to where he’s come from as a boast about the (almost solely) commercially-focused world he now lives in. But that’s probably the point — and the proceeds from Live In Brooklyn will certainly help keep Jay off the subway.
Live in Brooklyn is available on iTunes now.