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FEATURE ARTICLE

 

"It was the worst retirement, maybe, in history. I believed it for two years." - Jay-Z on his return from retirement

 

Love him or hate him, Jay-Z is the Valedictorian of the 2006 Hip-Hop class.  No other emcee is as well-rounded and well weathered as the God emcee and 2006 proved that. 

 

After a solid year as President of Def Jam, Hov surprised heads in January with the ultimate prize when he signed Nas to the label after what has been described as one of hip-hops best battles of all time.

 

While being the honcho of Def Jam could satisfy most, Jay remained an emcee at heart and it was only a matter of time before the urge to practice would hit.  In June, to fulfill that urge, Jay hosted and sold out a concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of Reasonable Doubt in Radio City Music Hall as well as his rehearsal at the Nokia Theater. Backed by a 50-piece orchestra, artists including Foxy Brown and Beyoncé helped him perform every song on the album.

 

Despite being a ground-breaking event, the concert failed to cure the rap bug and by late summer rumors began to emerge that yes, Hov would be returning to the airwaves.  As the rumor-mill ran wild, confirmation was not received until September making Hov's comeback from his 2004 retirement was just about the worst-kept secret in the music industry. Tips of his return could be directly pointed back to several of his loosed-lipped friends — including Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West — who let the cat out the bag informed interested parties that they were involved in the project.

 

To no surprise, the announcement made him public enemy number 1:

Weezy:  “It's not your house anymore, and I'm better than you."

Jim Jones:  "Y'all waiting on Kingdom Come, but his kingdom's done.”

DMX: “He’s a sucker for love.  Thugs don’t do flip-flops.”

LL Cool J:  "I think Def Jam needs to be a better promoter of hip hop. I think Jay-Z does a very good job...of promoting Jay-Z."

 

But, Hov prevailed. In its debut week, Kingdom Come's more than 680,000 sales easily landed Jay the #1 spot on Billboard's albums chart. However he has to settle for third place when it comes to the year's biggest debuts. Kingdom Come doesn't top the nearly 722,000 the Flatts sold, nor could it best the 684,000 first-week sales of Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds.

 

As part of the promotion for the album, Jay did what some called the impossible.  He flew to seven cities in 20-something hours, performing concerts at all sites. Talk about time management.

 

Despite his busy schedule, Jay was sure to make time for a worthy cause – try world's water crisis.  Jay, along with United Nations and MTV, created a partnership aimed at bringing attention and relief to the many parts of the world where lack of safe drinking water is destroying communities and lives.

 

As the release of his album approached, emcees like DMX and LL Cool J questioned whether his release of his Kingdom Come was a conflict of interest with other Def Jam artists.  To date, there’s no hard, fast response to that question as he has managed to turn out gems in the form of Ne-Yo and Rihanna (both certified platinum artists) as well as fourth quarter prospects Nas and Jeezy who both debuted at number 1 on Billboard.  

 

On the business front, July saw Jay-Z gave the computer-geek stereotype a serious makeover in a 60-second commercial for Hewlett-Packard, which aired during the recent NBA Finals.

 

As part of a several-hundred-million-dollar global marketing campaign for its Personal Systems Group, HP recruited Jay to promote its the Computer Is Personal Again campaign. Although his face is never shown in the ad, the emcee is heard explaining how his personalized computer enables him to mix music, play online chess, plan tours, operate the Rocawear clothing line and store vacation pictures "you won't see in the tabloids" all in one place.

 

He also managed to launch a Limited Edition Collection of his Rocawear line.

 

While 2007 is sure to bring success for Hov, after an unpredictable year like 2006, it’s clear the sky is his limit.  

 

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