Jay-Z, like rap itself, started out pyrotechnical. Extremely fast, stacked, dense. But time passed and his flow got slower, opened up. Why? “I didn’t have enough life experience, so what I was doing was more technical. I was trying to impress technically. To do things that other people cannot do. Like, you can’t do this” — insert beat-box and simultaneous freestyle here — “you just can’t do that.”
Nope. Can’t even think of a notation to demonstrate what he just did. Jay-Z in technician mode is human voice as pure syncopation. On a track like “I Can’t Get With That,” from 1994, the manifest content of the music is never really the words themselves; it’s the rhythm they create. And if you don’t care about beats, he says, “You’ve missed the whole point.”
A moment of reflection for our (hopefully) misspent youth having fun, showing off, making mistakes; storing it all for future fuel.