Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
Producers: Just Blaze, Rick Rock, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Bink!, Rockwilder, Memphis Bleek, B-High, T.T.
Features: Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, Pharrell Williams, Scarface, Snoop Dogg, Amil, R. Kelly, Freeway
Usually, the "crew album" is a telltale sign that a rapper is feeling himself a little too much. You know, trading on his own success to pawn off his less-talented protégés on his devoted fans. So it was for Jay-Z and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, released at a time when his claim to rap’s throne was undisputed.
But (*Funkmaster Flex voice*) be clear: This is still very much a Jay-Z album, and a better-than-average one at that. Jay appears on 14 of the 16 tracks, mostly sharing the mic with an especially inspired Memphis Bleek and an awesome, hungry-sounding Beanie Sigel. (And, uhh, Amil.) Because this was Jay in his “I will not lose” prime, the album has way more fire than filler. In fact, from the scathing “Intro” to the relentless “You, Me, Him and Her” to the underrated “Squeeze 1st,” you could argue that The Dynasty is one of only a few Jay-Z albums without an out-and-out clunker. Even Bleek’s solo effort, “Holla,” bangs!
In the end, the album’s grandiose title is more befitting the men behind the boards than those on the mic. The Dynasty set the blueprint for The Blueprint, as Jay started to dabble in a more cohesive, soulful sound with the three producers that would famously steer his next album: Just Blaze (“Intro,” “Streets Is Talking,” “Stick 2 The Script,” “The R.O.C.,” “Soon You’ll Understand”), Bink! (“You, Me, Him And Her,” “1-900 Hustler”) and some kid called Kanye West (“This Can’t Be Life”). And it pretty much rocketed the Neptunes into the next stratosphere too, with the stone-cold classic, "I Just Wanna Love U." — Donnie Kwak