"This is where De Niro would be, if he ain't turn back." Jay Z used Neil McCauley's inability to let sleeping dogs lie to explain his own lofty position as the unmitigated GOAT on Watch the Throne, his last great Long Player. (I'm ignoring the caveat that Hov did indeed turn back, back in 2006.) Now, though, as Jigga surveys the game from those spaces just beyond the rest of civilization, the specter of Vincent Hanna bears down on him. The heat around the corner is a rap game that is, at times, more insolent than deferential toward his legacy, a community that treats his business endeavors as a punchline, and a celebrity gossip machine that thinks of him as a cad. A new Jay Z album isn't inherently important on the basis of something as silly as "responding" to Lemonade, though. It's about meeting his wife and his peers who have managed to make urgent art (Tribe, Nas, Ye) past their imperial phases. It's about reassertion. We need one last, critically acclaimed score before the GOAT can finally fade to black. Does Hova still have the juice? Real ones know he never lost it. —Frazier Tharpe