Single Review: Jay-Z & Pharrell Williams “Change Clothes”

Change Clothes
Album: The Black Album
Year: 2003

Jay-Z’s rap talent can be debatable (depending on the material on his albums), but he is a shrewd buisnessman. He first hired Foxy Brown while she was an up-and-comer. Then he quickly let her loose once she both proved to be unprofitable and not following through on her promise of talent. He tried to jumpstart Amil’s career by giving her a song (“Can I Get A…”) and again, cut ties with her once she flopped. Now, (for the third time), he’s announcing his retirement before the release of “The Black Album”

It’s a marketer’s dream. His fans’ curiousity is bound to be piqued and it’s likely to draw more publicity because it’s considered a “final album.” He also knows what to release first: the radio-friendly “Change Clothes” featuring a hot producer (Pharrell Williams). As he admitted “it’s still has to be current to sell records.”

“Change Clothes” is a one-man pep rally with some mellow, R&B beats to be its soundtrack. In the single, Jay-Z announces ‘look out Music City, I’m here and I ain’t never leaving!’ Except that it features large cars , expensive clothes and his girlfriend and not the rooftop of a cheap hotel in Nashville (“your dude is back, Maybach coupe is back/tell the whole world the truth is back”). He raps that he’s the best and people can tell by the rhymes he writes. For any right-of-the-street manufactured rapper, this would be typical bravado spewed from being hungry for fame and saying anything to get it. For Jay-Z, he has “Hard Knock Life” as proof of his skills.
He shows sympathy for those involved in crime in his neighborhood in New York (“where my troopers at/Where my hustlers/where my boosters at/I don’t care what you do for stacks/I know the world glued you back to the wall/You gotta brawl to that”) They are stuck there and he knows that can’t get out, no matter how hard they try. It’s a wonderful personification with the much needed detail (‘back to the wall’) that the give the lyric it’s depth. He adds that he’s been through it, but he’s over it now. He continues with the vanity by rapping that he doesn’t write but if he did “I need the space to say whatever I like, now just”

Then, in the chorus, he tells the women he’s been talking to “change clothes and go” and he “brought [her] from the projects” and take her on trips around the world.

In the second verse, he tells his girlfriend that she can bring a friend or she can go alone. But he wants her to dress as trashy as possible (“No bra with the blouse it’s so necessary/No panties and jeans that’s so necessary/Now why you frontin on me is that necessary”) He seems to be playing the sensitive role but is not quite ready to embrace it completely. The chaunivisim (in regards to his girlfriend) is out of nowhere. It seems to be there in maintain his street cred.

The bridge amounts to producer Williams saying “sexy, sexy” over and over. Sexy is said to convey how cool the song is. However, as the saying goes, if someone has to constantly remind other people how real or sweet they are, they’re probably not.

In the third and final verse, Jay-Z repeats the unnecessary “no bra with blouse…no panties and jeans…” lyrics. He raps that he doesn’t buy from stores that other people buy from and wants his girlfriend to respect him for it. He raps it in a guilty way, as though he doesn’t like being able to buy expensive things. He adds that “this (his suit) is probably purple label/Or that BBC or it’s probably tailored.” And because he must, otherwise it wouldn’t be considered a party song, he tells listeners to “put your hands in the air if your in the car” and “turn the radio up.”

Except “Change Clothes” doesn’t inspire spontaneous hand-waving and willingness to look foolish in the car. It would, however, make a fine R&B song. Its relaxed tone does not match the showy attitude of the single. With the right lyrics to accompany it, the music of “Change Clothes” would become listenable. However, the potential of the song is hidden underneath in Jay-Z’s swift raps.

Jay-Z said his retirement would last 2 years or so without any guest appearances. In other words, long enough so people can wonder what’s going on with him but not too long as to forget him. It’s a risky move and he must follow through, considering that he’s said serious. If not, the retirement angle will backfire and he could lose fans if he does not keep is word.

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