Since 1984: Jay-Z Releases ‘In My Lifetime: Vol. 1′ on November 4, 1997

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Today in Def Jam History, 16 years ago – Jay-Z releases his second album (first on Def Jam) “In My Lifetime, Vol. 1″.

Despite mixed criticism towards its more mainstream-oriented sound and lyrical substance, the album debuted at number 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and was certified platinum in sales by the RIAA in the United States.

The album features guest contributions by Foxy Brown, Babyface, Blackstreet, Teddy Riley, Too $hort, Lil’ Kim, and Puff Daddy. Producers for Reasonable Doubt such as DJ Premier and Ski contribute to a limited number of beats on this album, though the majority of the production is handled by beatmakers from Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy label, giving the album a generally glossier sound than its predecessor. It displayed a shift from the mafioso rap themes of his first effort to the so-called “jiggy” era of late 90’s hip-hop, often credited to videos and albums from Puff Daddy and his Bad Boy record label’s roster of artists including Notorious B.I.G. (the first two singles from his second album were both huge pop hits) and Mase.

Steve Jones of USA Today gave the album three out of four stars and called it “a rock-solid set with both street and pop appeal”. Chicago Tribune writer Soren Baker commented that Jay-Z’s lyrics “contain a finesse and insight few can articulate as succinctly”, adding that “His use of pop producers Teddy Riley and Sean “Puffy” Combs will alienate listeners, even as Jay-Z establishes himself as that rare underground rhymer with commercial appeal”. In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau gave the album an honorable mention ((2-star Honorable Mention)) rating, indicating “[a] likable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well enjoy”. Christgau noted “(Always Be My) Sunshine” and “Real Niggaz” as highlights and quipped “arrogant yet diffident, ruthless yet cute–a scary original”. However, Chris Norris of Spin commented that Jay-Z’s raps are “for the most part […] in search of meaty ideas or distinctive charm—skills without pleasure” and criticized its several producers, stating “without one sure, guiding vision, the Combs blueprint comes off as either mundane or embarrassing”.

In a retrospective review, Allmusic editor John Bush gave the album four-and-a-half out of five stars and stated “Though the productions are just a bit flashier and more commercial than on his debut, Jay-Z remained the tough street rapper, and even improved a bit on his flow”. Bush viewed that he “struts the line between project poet and up-and-coming player”, adding that “he balances both personas with the best rapping heard in the rap game since the deaths of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.”. – Wikipedia

What were your favorite joints off “In My Lifetime Vol. 1″ ?