Looking Back On: Jay Z – Dear Summer

2005 was a sad year for me. Not on a personal level (that I recall) but because 2005 was my first year without new Jay Z music.The Black Album was released in late 2003, so a lot of the singles bled into 2004. And then there was the S. Carter The Remix tape (classic), the Collision Course (CC) album and the Unfinished Business (UB) money grab with R. Kelly. So it never really felt like Jay had officially retired…yet.

By the time “Dear Summer” was unleashed into the world, it felt like it had been years since a Jay verse, let alone a song. And I didn’t believe it at first either. When the title started popping up on message boards and rumors were flying that the song would be included on Memphis Bleek’s next album, I was ready for disappointment.

I don’t remember the exact date that I first heard the song but I feel like it was on a weekday morning. A random search led me to the full track and I was whole again. The 2:53 running time seemed to go on forever as I hung on Hova’s every word. And as soon as it came to an end, I pressed play again.

“Dear Summer” represents something I thought I had lost, that something being hope. With Jay’s final bars from “My 1st Song”, it felt like an ending of a career. Sure, we got some new lyrics on the Remix tape and UB, but there’s no telling when those were recorded. The Black Album felt like a final album and I was one of the ones who (stupidly) thought Shawn Carter had retired as a rapper.

“Dear Summer” isn’t trying to be a radio hit or a diss of a rival rapper. It’s not trying to get the ladies to twerk like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a clear cut happy song of Jay reflecting on his first real summer without having music out to promote that was his own. It was Jay proving the he was able to still claim his spot as one of the greatest rappers alive effortlessly. It was Jay transitioning from artist to President of Def Jam.

We all know how this story ends. In 2006, Jay would release Kingdom Come, which has went on to be considered his worst album. It wasn’t until 2007′s American Gangster and 2009′s The Blueprint 3 that the public at large truly believed he had regained his previous form.

The best part of “Dear Summer” for me is the moment it represents. Here is Jay Z, the former drug dealer, now the President of Def Jam, not being able to leave rap alone. The game still needed him but on “Dear Summer”, he needed the game for those 2 minutes and 53 seconds. And I always will feel this song will be an underrated gem in his catalog.

I mean, he shoved it on Bleek’s last album. Ever (watch him drop an album out of nowhere now). It’s easy to miss. I still got love for you though Bleek. Made was a classic in my eyes.

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