The last year passed with something like three Jay Z guest verses that ranged from fulfilled obligation to absolute fire, with one electrifying freestyle thrown in for good measure. There were more gossip headlines than music. But who am I to complain, when the prior year featured a quasi-surprise album that, since everyone else seems to want to act brand new, I'll declare here as actually pretty fucking fire. (It's at least a B.)

But now it's about that time. Not only has it been too long, but fam is pushing 50. Sooner or later he's going to retire, for good this time, and despite a storied discography and a run every other rapper would kill to have, the God MC can't back out on an album only a portion of the rap audience is willing to admit is good. The man who made universally acclaimed long players like Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, and an excellent farewell album, cannot bow out with something that has mixed reception. Forget about what he may or may not be planning with the wife. There is, at the very least, one more classic album in Jaÿ-Z. And I'm going to tell him a few worthwhile ways he can go about unleashing it.

Frazier Tharpe is a staff writer at Complex. Follow him at @The_SummerMan.