Actually, I shouldn't say "threw together"; this year's set list was carefully compiled, touching all avenues of the hip-hop world.
Jay-Z's involvement with the Brooklyn Nets makes his basketball taste apparent; now, he brings his musical flavor to the table.
There's something for everyone here. From Notorious B.I.G. to Dirty Projectors to U2, Jay-Z's musical taste knows no bounds. The game itself takes you on a journey of epic proportions, and the soundtrack walks right along with it.
Treat yourself, enjoy the music while playing and check out the grades on 10 of the game's 19 tracks.
Jay-Z: "Pump It Up Freestyle"
Let's start with the man himself.
Jay-Z infuses his own style throughout this game, with freestyle rap being just one of those.
Maybe you rap with your friends. Maybe you freestyle battle yourself in front of your bathroom mirror, who knows?
What I do know is that Jay kills it on this track. Combine a nice beat with Jay-Z's signature style, and you have yourself a very solid track.
If you enjoy Jay-Z, you'll enjoy this. If you don't, you're missing out.
Santogold: "Shove It"
"We think you're a joke."
That line rings through the chorus several times, making it a perfect song to sing to your opponent after you whoop him up and down the floor.
This track isn't necessarily my style, but it definitely fits the game. It's catchy, upbeat and brings an obvious attitude to the mix.
On top of that, Santogold is one of the only female voices you'll hear on this year's soundtrack. That shows the respect Jay-Z obviously has for her, and that always counts for something.
I'm going to, perhaps unfairly, take half a grade away from this track for having no discernible lyrics, but it gets me fired up every time nonetheless.
This song is extremely uptempo, almost to the point that it just sounds like noise.
Something about it makes me want to assemble a squad of the fastest players/high-flyers and play like I'm Paul Westhead's Loyola-Marymount teams in the late 1980s.
Justice will put you into a trance with this one, but not in a bad way. His frenetic, almost angry, beat will have you playing the game with maniacal focus.
This alternative song doesn't really fit the rest of the game's set list, and I'm sure that was the intention. I admire Jay-Z's diverse taste, but this song is mainly a space-eater for me.
It has a catchy hook, and it's a pretty well-known tune by now, but it feels a bit out of place to me.
Mixing things up is nice, but I'd prefer for this song to play while my game is loading. That way I'm off grabbing some snacks, and I don't have to hear it too often.
Solid song, wrong game.
Kanye West (featuring Young Jeezy): "Amazing"
Sure, the song is a bit slow, but that doesn't matter in this case.
This track, at least in name alone, could be the game's title song. The game is in fact amazing, and this song is no different.
Jay-Z's executive producer title almost ensured Kanye's presence on this soundtrack somewhere. Not only is he one of the best rappers around but Young Jeezy's spot in the song flows well, too.
If you find yourself down by 10 late in the fourth quarter, just sing, "I'm a monster, I'm a maven. I know this world is changin'. Never gave in, never gave up, I'm the only thing I'm afraid of."
Do it; I bet you come back.
Too Short: "Blow the Whistle"
Beat is a key element with all of these tracks, and Too Short hits a home run. Your head will be bobbing from the second this song comes on, until the moment it ends.
I don't care if you prefer classical, jazz, polka or yodeling. It doesn't matter. This song will have you tapping your feet. I'd say dance, but that would make playing the game very difficult.
Some fans may complain that it's the "clean" version, but it does nothing to diminish the value here.
Jay-Z made an excellent choice, and the title of the song is exactly what you can scream at the virtual Joe Crawford the next time he costs you a valuable possession.
I know, I know—I said Phoenix's "1901" didn't fit, and this may not, either, except for one distinct advantage.
It's Bono. The man can do anything as the frontman for this legendary rock act.
Elevation is a loud, in-your-face song that's ideal for cruising the menus prior to playing the game. It earns a B+ for that reason, covering up the fact that I don't want it playing once the game begins.
When I think basketball culture, I don't think about Irish rock-and-roll bands. But again, it's Bono. Jay-Z was right in including a pop culture icon here, and that earns this track a solid grade.
Jay-Z (featuring Kanye West): "The Bounce"
Let's revisit our beloved producer and his sidekick for a moment. "The Bounce" literally calls you out.
Jay-Z wants to see "The Bounce." It's up to you to show it to him, so run the floor, get up and flash a few high numbers on that dunk intensity meter.
This is a solid track overall with Jay-Z and Kanye playing well together. They're both masters of their craft, giving us a well-formed track to listen to while we play.
Of the three Jay-Z tracks on the album, this is probably the best one overall.
Eric B. & Rakim: "I Ain't No Joke"
Eric B. & Rakim aren't a joke, are you? Jay-Z was in his late teens when this song came out, but he made a wise move going old school here.
Old-school rap and new-school rap are almost two separate genres at this point. So many people like to kick it vintage with the older MCs rather than buy into the hype of today's new artists.
This is for them, and it ain't no joke.
Eric B. & Rakim is a legendary duo, and this is one of their best tracks. Kick back like it's 1987 again and play your game.
Diddy (featuring Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes): "Victory"
I couldn't grade these tracks without including the game's major ensemble.
Jay-Z picked an amazing song here for a few reasons. Not only do all of these guys bring it but Biggie is always music to the ears.
It goes without saying that Biggie hits a home run here. He's arguably the greatest rapper of all time, and no hip-hop conversation is complete without mentioning him.
Jay-Z dug deep here. This isn't the original version of the song, but this one cut together nicely for the game's purposes.
Sit back and let Mr. Smalls speak to you.
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