Happy Jiggaday! That's right, today is Sean Carter, better known as MC/media mogul/
conspiracy theory mastermind centerpiece Jay Z's birthday. This is a fact easily remembered thanks to his song “December 4th,” so you really have no excuse if you forgot to get him something this year. As I mentioned last week in our sister publication Village Voice, this year marks ten years since Jay's (third) retirement album The Black Album hit stores and thus marks a full decade since the gimmicked themed-remix project fad went full force. In celebration of Jay's birth on this fateful day, we'd like to present our five favorite “December 4th” remixes before he rolls into OC for a show at the Honda Center on Friday.
5) “4th December” (Pete Rock Remix)
Pete Rock's reputation as one of hip-hop's greatest producers stems from his ability to emote any sort of emotional response from listeners all while staying within the hallmarks of that classic east coast boom-bap sound. His take on “December 4th” is noticeably more sinister than the official version, changing the tone of the song from a victory lap to play up the more unsettlingly seedy aspects of what Jay overcame in his past to get to where he was. Given Jay's Brooklyn roots, Rock's signature sound really places the storytelling faithfully in the golden age of rap where it takes place.
4) “Jay-Z vs RJD2 – December 4th (Cannibal Ox – 'The F Word remix')”
DJ Bazooka Joe masterfully brought together the finest instrumentals in the impressively prolific and consistent catalog of super-producer RJD2 (which he got permission for thanks to Sandbox Automatic) with Jay's The Black Album to essentially give underground and mainstream hip-hop fans the best of both worlds (not to be confused with the official Best of Both Worlds which was having some…err..issues at the time) on The Silver Album. One of RJ's most soulful productions “The F Word” had previous added a smooth polish to indie titans Cannibal Ox, but when paired with Jay's triumphs managed to give the words a more subtle feeling of triumph over adversity.
3) “December 4th (Kno Remix)”
From Kno of QN5 favorites Cunninglynguists' Kno vs. Hov The White Albulum, the sample choice eerily predicts the chipmunk soul phenomenon that Kanye West and his ilk would make immensely popular the next year. It's also a great usage of the style, allowing the crescendos of the sample weaving in-and-out to reflect the nature of Jay's story as something of a modern epic.
2) “Dec. 4th (Kev Brown Remix)”
Kev Brown's The Brown Album, with its all original compositions, really brought out the family tree of classic soul influences in Jay's lyrics. Brown's take on “December 4th” adds a classic smoothness to the track, making Jay's vocals feel like they were recorded in the '70s. We also love the turntabilism on the track, especially the subtle cuts within the verses themselves.
1) “December 4th” (9th Wonder Remix)
Topping our list is the one producer who actually landed on The Black Album, 9th Wonder. On a beat that would later go to Lloyd Banks, Wonder's take on “December 4th” just feels how the actual date in December does, causing a visceral response that invokes the bitter chill of winter in Brooklyn, as well as the inner-warmth of his mother's household, especially emphasized by how her contributed vocals flourish within the context of the beat.