Jay-Z - The Hits Collection - Volume One
It’s not exactly a hard life being Jay-Z: with ten Grammy Awards under his belt, approximate worldwide sales of 50 million and the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200, it’s fair to say he’s had a pretty successful career so far. Every new rapper/hip hop artist probably wants to be him and the list of artists who've wanted to collaborate with him is probably as long as the Empire State is tall (well, except maybe Nas during their well-documented feud but even they buried the hatchet in 2005). So really the only surprise about his first proper greatest hits collection is that it’s taken this long to be released, especially given his ‘retirement’ after 2003’s The Black Album, but to not put too cynical a point on it, Christmas is just round the corner after all.
Greatest hits collections are difficult prospects, despite their apparent simplicity, as they can be approached in two very different ways: release a career-spanning collection in the hope of getting some attention from casual listeners; or throw in some rarities and b-sides for the hardcore fan. Jay-Z has mainly opted for the former route with the standard one-disc version of The Hits Collection – Volume One containing no rarities and instead just fourteen tracks from across his career, but the deluxe edition (out later this month on the 22nd) comes with an extra CD of rarities and remixes – albeit only five of them – so everyone can be satisfied one way or another.
Well, that is if you’re a Jay-Z fan who’s not a particular fan of either of his first two albums, Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, as neither of these albums are represented here. You can’t exactly say that tracks from these albums are necessarily notable omissions but the appearance of a track from each, say ‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’ and ‘The City Is Mine’ respectively, would have been a nice touch to make it a truly career-spanning collection. It’s not like what’s left over is a poor substitute though with hits coming thick and fast all the way from Vol. 2’s ‘Hard Knock Life’, remarkably still as fresh as ever, through to The Blueprint 3’s ‘Run This Town’, featuring another musical megastar in the form of Rihanna - which can only really be described as a huge tune with a capital T.
While it might have been good to have a more diverse selection on the standard release, such as his collaborations with Linkin Park, it could potentially have harmed its chances in the market that it’s patently aimed at: a last-min desperate gift purchase for the hip-hop fan in your life. And, to be fair, this is likely to go down much smoother than another pair of slippers this Christmas.