A few weeks ago I wrote a post about not being able to hate Jay-Z and Beyonce. I stand by that. But in the gym yesterday that played "Forever Young" along with the video. I think that song is really bad, to the point of signifying much of the criticism of sampling.
Hip-Hop production tries to reinvent, and MCing attempts to actually interpret a song through verbal and musical expression. Jay-Z, in the past, has been a master of that sort of reinvention. Whatever you think of the two versions, Jay's "Hard Knock Life" is a very different than Annie's. And yet it's a riff of it—both thematically and musically.
I spent most of yesterday going through some of his old music and the samples. It really brings a new level of appreciation. It really is amazing listening to a song like "Dead Presidents" and seeing how it was pulled from this Lonnie Liston piece, and then given a narrative. Kenyatta asked me if hearing the samples and then thinking on "Forever Young"—which just feels lackluster, nothing new added—depressed me. Not really. Listening to what Jay is capable of, and what he's done in the past is actually deeply inspiring.