Saturday Sample Sessions- Jay Z

Saturday Sample Sessions

This week’s Saturday Sample Sessions will feature Jay Z. The sample is used in one of his earlier tracks. Streets is Watching is from his second studio album, ‘In My Lifetime’.

Volume 1(In My Lifetime) was released in 1997. It was meant to be more commercial than his critically acclaimed first album ‘Reasonable Doubt’. He and Dame both agreed that they were thinking more about the money and “trying to do what Puff did” when he recorded this project.

Their plan was obvious when they released the Sunshine video featuring Foxy Brown. Jay sported a shiny green suit, the set was mad colorful and they had dancers. What made it funnier was the use of the fish eyed lens that captured Jay at the most unbecoming angles. This is probably what sparked the whole Joe Camel joke.

In any case, Jay probably played himself on that one. But despite that, the true nature of Jay the MC was revealed on this album. Songs like You Must Love Me, Where I’m From, and Real Niggas do Real Things departed from the commercial format they aimed for. He had some gems on this album:

Streets Is Watching

Now it’s hard not to kill niggas
It’s like a full time job not to kill niggas, can’t chill
The streets is watching you
When you froze your arms
Niggas wanna test you when your gun goes warm
Can’t get caught with your feet up, gotta keep your heat up
Sweet niggas running ’round swearing shit is sweeter
Once you’re tagged lame, the game is follow the leader
Everybody want a piece of your scrilla, so you gotta keep it realer
Kidnap niggas wanna steal you
Broke niggas don’t want no cash, they just wanna kill ya
For the name, niggas don’t know the rules
Disrespecting the game, want you to blow your cool
Force your hand, of course that man’s plotting
Smarten up, the streets is watching

The songs and lyrics on In My Lifetime told tales of a hustler and the mentality required to survive the streets. There were flashy moments on this project but the instrospection and wit of songs like Lucky Me and Rap Game/Crack Game provided the much needed balance.

This album isn’t a ‘Blueprint’ or ‘Reasonable Doubt’, but it’s still one of his best pieces of work.Β And most importantly it showcased Jay’s pen game. He rhymed like a backpacker, but wrote stories that resonated with the hustlers and players of that era.

The sample for Streets is Watching is from Labi Siffre’s single I Got The Blues. But there’s a twist. This song has been used twice. Midway through the track the entire melody changes. Can you guess the other artist who sampled this song?

Check them both out below. And comment with your thoughts and suggestions for next week’s Saturday Sample Sessions.

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