Invincibility is the pot of gold at the end of hip-hop's proverbial rainbow, the brass ring every rising MC aspires to seize. Jay-Z has had it for the better part of a decade: consistent album sales, unimpeachable crossover appeal, a decent if unspectacular run as president of Def Jam, marriage to modern R&B's flyest multimedia diva and fashion bona fides by way of Rocawear and special-edition Nikes. Since 2002's The Blueprint 2, dispatches from Hovito's penthouse have scanned as victory-lap variations — affirmations of his cultural and financial dominance, and the monied musings of a rap don intent on keeping his legend alive and vital in a marketplace flooded with mixtape-slinging whippersnappers and biters.
"Thank You" establishes a swank Vegas issuance that harkens back to 2007's American Gangster both in tone and ad libs before Jay-Z snaps into an elaborate 9/11 riff that demonstrates why he's king: "Not only did they brick, they put a building up as well/They ran a plane into that building, and when that building fell/Ran to the crash site with no masks, and inhaled/Toxins deep into they lungs until both of them was felled." On "Hate," Jay and Kanye West trade the mic in haughty, needle-sharp disgust, while "Off That" finds Hova breathing new, nimble life into the ahead-of-his-time song with renaissance new jack Drake. Throughout, Jay sounds relaxed, revitalized, even hungry. Wide-ranging, forward-thinking beats from his usual stable of top-shelf producers amplify all the frankly reiterative fun he's having here. — Ray Cummings