The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

When Roc-A-Fella Records set up its first office in Manhattan, the company didn’t land in midtown Manhattan, but in the financial district—an area far from the music, but close to the money. It was a testament to just to just how much creative and commercial ground JAY-Z had managed to cover in his first few years. During that time, he became a transformative figure not only in the craft of rap, but also in the business of bringing it to the mainstream. That may explain why 2000’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which had originally been planned as a showcase for Jay’s thriving label, wound up instead being marketed as a proper JAY-Z record. By then, he’d become more than an artist—he was a brand, one whose name and image would surely help Roc La Familia move a lot more copies. But this guest-heavy, 16-track collection is no mere cash-grab: “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” is one of Jay’s catchiest tracks, and “Soon You’ll Understand” one of his most candid—proof he could make club pop while still finding new avenues for self-expression. And Roc La Familia also gives Jay’s protégés plenty of time to shine, most notably Freeway (“1-900-Hustler”) and Beanie Sigel (“This Can’t Be Life,” which finds Sigel holding his own next to Scarface, no less). There’s new talent on the production side, as well, including The Neptunes (“I Just Wanna Love U”), Just Blaze (“Streets is Talking”), and a then-unknown Kanye West (“This Can’t Be Life”). Still, this is a Jay album through and through. He opens Roc La Familia with a breathtaking boast: “Watch it, my n****s/I’m tryin’ to be calm but I’m gon’ get richer/Through any means, with that thing that Malcolm palmed in the picture.” It’s a reference to the author Frantz Fanon’s justification of violence in the name of civil rights, a philosophy later adopted by Malcom X. It wasn’t meant as a slight to a bigger struggle, Jay wrote later—he just felt like they had more pressing concerns on hand. And in a capitalist system, what gets taken more seriously than money?

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