Kingdom Come, 2006
In 2003, Hov demanded our undivided attention as he released what was, at the time, his swan song. The Black Album was touted as Jay's retirement album, and it was quite a way to go out. The Black Album is considered by many to be his strongest all around effort, producing some of the generation's most iconic tracks. Just three years later, he returned wearing the 4-5 like Jordan (it ain't to play games with you) with Kingdom Come. Despite what you think you remember about it's release, it actually did very well commercially, selling almost 700,000 copies the first week, and critically, receiving mostly high marks in reviews. The fans, however, seemed to voice a different opinion. People seemed to like a few of the tracks, but categorically dismiss the album when discussing Jay's best works. Even Mr. Carter himself called it his least favorite album in a 2013 Instagram post where he famously ranked all of his albums in order.
But was it really that bad? Maybe we were too eager to compare it to The Black Album, which is one of the greatest albums of all time. They're completely different albums, and stylistically can't even really be compared. Black Album was a collection of bold statements, a final declaration to solidify Hov's place in hip hop's history. Kingdom Come is storytelling at it's core, Jay giving us context and understanding. Songs like "Lost Ones" will be immortal because of their brutal honesty and transparency, a peek behind the curtains. Had Kingdom Come been released in present day, we could have appreciated it for what it was individually, rather than the follow up to a classic. Once given a chance to marinate for a while, it grows on you, and probably doesn't deserve the harsh criticism it has received from fans and even Jay himself.