Jay Z is taking some time to reflect on his life and times during his birthday week.
A few days after revealing his plans to adopt a vegan diet for 22 days, the newly 44-year-old hip-hop mogul took to his Life+Times site to rank his albums from best to worst. At the top is his 1996 debut, "Reasonable Doubt." Landing way down in 12th place: Hova's 2006 release, "Kingdom Come."
How could Jay's ninth album — one that sold 680,000 copies in its first week and included production from Just Blaze, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Dr. Dre — finish at the bottom of his scorecard?
We came up with four theories:
1. The Timing Was Just Wrong
"Kingdom Come" was Jay Z's first solo album after a three-year hiatus from solo work, so he admits to being a bit rusty. It also came after one of his classics, "The Black Album," which he ranks as No. 3 on his list. On Life+Times, he explained, "First game back, don't shoot me."
"The Black Album" was a hard act to follow. It includes a number of his staple hits, "Change Clothes" (No. 10), "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" (No. 5), and "99 Problems" (No. 30), and had been called his "retirement" album. Then, in 2004, he released joint projects with R. Kelly ("Unfinished Business") and Linkin Park ("Collision Course"). Had he raised the bar too high?
2. The Kanye Factor
"Kingdom Come" lost the Best Rap Album award to Kanye West's "Graduation" at the 2008 Grammys. What's worse is that "Graduation" includes the song "Big Brother" in which Jay Z's protégé recalls the days the Roc-A-Fella executive dismissed him as an MC, rapping, "Big brother saw me at the bottom of the totem." This is the ultimate payback.
3. No (Air)Play
"Kingdom Come" only had one Top 10 hit, the Just Blaze-produced lead single "Show Me What You Got." Though the song is great, featuring a hypnotic saxophone sample from Lafayette Afro Rock Band's "Darkest Light" and Johnny Pate's "Shaft in Africa," it doesn't standout as one of his most memorable radio tracks like "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Empire State of Mind" or "Holy Grail." And beyond "Show Me What You Got," "Kingdom Come" didn't show us, or the airwaves, any other hit tracks.
4. The Curse of Beyoncé
Though the rock-tinged "Hollywood," featuring a powerful, sung chorus by his then-rumored girlfriend Beyoncé, was well received by critics, it failed to penetrate the Top 100, a disappointment for the couple who scored Top 10 hits with previous duets "Crazy in Love" and "03 Bonnie and Clyde."
And for those keeping score at home, here's how Jay Z ranks all his work:
1. "Reasonable Doubt"
2. "The Blueprint"
3. "The Black Album"
4. "Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life"
5. "American Gangster"
6. "Magna Carta"
7. "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1"
8. "The Blueprint 3"
9. "Dynasty: Roc La Familia"
10. "Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter"
11. "The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse"
12. "Kingdom Come"
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