There are certain words within each profession which are reserved for a select few who have toiled to reach a higher plateau. Within the world of music, terms like classic and legendary are bestowed upon those who have created acclaimed works and/or proven themselves to be head and shoulders above their peers. Being involved in such a fickle industry, where people constantly come and go, a long and consistent career can lead to an individual gaining a hyperbolic perception of self. With fifteen years in and the completion of his 8th studio album, Legendary, AZ certainly feels he’s entitled to such a lofty title. But is he really a legendary figure within the realm of Hip-Hop or is he just a legend in his own mind.
Lyrically “The Visualiza” still has the capability to paint a vivid picture with his words, but at this stage of his career he’s like Monet painting water lilies in his backyard. Instead of exploring new ground, he’s content to pain the same picture from every imaginable angle. On “Before It’s All Said & Done,” he depicts the tale of someone who attained a life of leisure and is reveling in their success. The chorus brings to mind “City Of Gods” off of 2005’s A.W.O.L. which isn’t the worst thing, but unfortunately the following song, “Livin The Life” depicts the exact same tale. While it’s not uncommon to revisit the same theme on an album, if it was wasn’t for spaced out synths on the former and sped up soul sample on the latter, it’d be impossible to differentiate the two. He also doesn’t get much help on the feature front, as Sheek Louch and Hell Rell do little to add to the album’s appeal.
AZ, who’s made a career out of spitting over chopped up Soul and R&B samples isn’t given much to work with on the production side of things either. Cosmo, who produced 90% of the tracks with actual rapping, only provides beats only in the most elementary sense of the word. Loops rarely get chopped up more than four bars and lazy bass lines are prevalent throughout. This essentially handcuffs his usually nimble, nonchalant yet vigorous flow to the point of apathy for a majority of the album. Only on few occasions, like “Good For Nothin” does he rap with a sense of passion and of course it’s when he decides to air out his absentee father. The intro and outro are arguably the best beats and he doesn’t even rap on them. It’s not to say AZ doesn’t pull it all together at times to show glimpses of why he’s been able to hang around so long. “Money Makes The World Go Round” finds a confident sounding AZ backed by a powerful chord sequence that allows his flow to take flight.
As long as he’s been around, there’s no denying AZ has carved a spot for himself in the annals of Hip-Hop history. While his contemporaries, like Jay-Z & Nas are still adding to and expanding their legacy, AZ is pretty much holding onto his past glory. Thanks to his affiliation with Nas and early success in his career, his legacy is pretty much cemented at this point of his career. Nothing on Legendary will ever appear on a “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits” compilation bearing AZ’s name and he’s unlikely to gain any new fans with this outing. But on the flip side, can his loyal fans be able to listen to it and honestly say this is AZ at his best either?