This Mix Takes JAY-Z’s Most Powerful Lyrics & Blends Them Into A New Masterpiece (Audio)

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Hi. We recently created AFH TV, Ambrosia For Heads’ streaming video service, because we believe real Hip-Hop deserves its own dedicated TV home, but we need your help to make it great. Please subscribe to AFH TV. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and already features some amazing content, but the best is yet to come. Thank you for all of your support.

Throughout the ages, many DJs have created mixtapes that artfully honor JAY-Z’s vast catalog. In November, MICK and Chi Duly imagined a world in audio where Jay and DJ Premier expanded upon their stellar 1990s collaborative chemistry. The resulting 7:18 is a one-hour crowd-pleaser, placing new and old Hov’ verses against Preemo beats that belong to other MCs. Almost a decade prior, MICK (as “Mick Boogie”) made a surgical Shawn Carter and Coldplay mash-up, Viva La Hova, at a point when the two superstar acts were already working together. DJ Green Lantern, one of Jay’s past tour DJs, released his Creative Control back in 2010, showcasing the veteran mixtape master’s production and re-imagining of song guests.

DJ Rondevu is next up to bat. Das EFX’s DJ for more than 15 years, he makes something special in 5:55: Testament Of Hova. Like MICK and Chi, Rondevu plays into the theme of last year’s 4:44, without limiting the verses to that album. Instead, the fellow Brooklyn, New York native goes far and wide through the S-Dot catalog to find razor-sharp rhymes. He pairs excerpts from the likes of “Hola’ Hovito,” “Where I’m From,” and “Jigga That Ni**a” against a series of beats from the likes of Ras Kass, Kurious Jorge, Rakim, Masta Ace Incorporated, and plenty more.

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However, 5:55 is not a two-turntable mash-up or simple “what-if” blending. Rather, DJ Rondevu reconstructs entire songs. Jay verses are carefully selected and picked a la carte as single 16-bar samplings. In some cases, such as “My World,” the mix adds Jay onto somebody else’s record altogether. Here, Marcy’s native son drops some “Neva Change” wisdom in for onetime Payday Records label-mate O.C. and his 1997 single. Cleverly during this mix, Rondevu goes to the effort of taking one of Jay’s many “R-O-C” shout-outs, and cutting off the “R.” The effect makes it appear like an authentic nod to a real-life friend and past collaborator. That desire to go the extra mile shows up regularly on this one-hour mix.

“I was looking for something that I could press play and just zone out from beginning to end, whether a mixtape or album, and there was nothing to meet that need,” Rondevu tells Ambrosia For Heads. “I decided to make this to take me back to that place only a dope mixtape can take you…I wanted this to sound like Jay and I were at my crib cooking up a mixtape to prove to the world he was still the best.”

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There are a host of guests, all of whom seem to fit. An obscure Jadakiss verse from Joell Ortiz loosie “Hip Hop” is set against Jay’s opening “Success” verse. The beat for the cocktail is Diamond D’s “Soul On Ice” remix for Ras Kass, and the DJ adds a Sean Price vocal to create a chorus that is more than makeshift. Examples such as this show thought, effort, and careful construction. It is not about whims or ironic juxtaposition. In many ways, the chemistry aligns with Jay’s brand.

The beats refuse to be limited to sample-savvy mid-’90s cuts. The sounds evolve outside of Hip-Hop entirely during the mix. There are splashes of Pop, Rock, and R&B that unwind. Some of those sounds are exclusive. “I wanted to use some hot beats that you might not normally hear Jay on and also showcase my production skills and those of my production partner in Macedonia, DJ Goce,” Rondevu tells AFH. “I also tried to include some songs that had positive and educating lyrics in them, whether subtle or overt. I want this project to bang and be the hardest in the street but also something you can actually walk away from with something learned.”

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While the tape is full of “Easter eggs” for Hip-Hop Heads, 5:55 works in the car, hanging out, or livelier gatherings, and welcomes all audiences. It is far from esoteric. There are drops between the songs, from pop culture monologues and artist interviews. After a weekend where many folks set their clocks ahead, 5:55 is the perfect next listen after 4:44.

The 5:55 mixtape tracklist:

1. DJ RONDEVU INTRO
2. ALL THAT GLITTERS – JAY-Z $ (PRODUCED BY DJ GOCE & DJ RONDEVU)
3. THE STORY OF O.J. – JAY-Z
4. SELF DEFENSE – JAY-Z $ (PRODUCED BY DJ GOCE & DJ RONDEVU)
5. FEELIN IT – JAY-Z $
6. HOMECOMING – JAY-Z $
7. GET MONEY – JAY-Z FEAT. LOX $
8. DJ PREMIER SPEAKS ON JAY-Z
9. I GET THE PAPER – JAY-Z $
10. MY WORLD – JAY-Z & O.C. $
11. HOW I’M LIVIN – JAY-Z & NOTORIOUS B.I.G. $
12. THING OF THE PAST – JAY-Z FEAT. JADAKISS & SEAN PRICE $
13. WAITING FOR THE WORLD TO END – JAY-Z & RAKIM $
14. BLACK REPUBLICAN – JAY-Z & NAS
15. MISUNDERSTOOD – JAY-Z $
16. BROOKLYN’S WHERE I’M FROM – JAY-Z $ (PRODUCED BY DJ RONDEVU)
17. L’CHAIM – JAY-Z $
18. THE TRUTH – JAY-Z $
19. HEAVEN – JAY-Z
20. HOV OF OLD – JAY-Z $
21. YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK – JAY-Z
22. PRAY – JAY-Z FEAT. BEYONCE $ (PRODUCED BY DJ GOCE & DJ RONDEVU)
23. CHECK ON IT – JAY-Z FEAT. BEYONCE $
24. RUN IT – JAY-Z FEAT. CHRIS BROWN $
25. GROWN MAN INTERLUDE
26. LEGACY – JAY-Z
$ – DJ RONDEVU REMIX