I wasn't expecting a great album, and yet I was disappointed as well.
I wasn't expecting much lyrically from this album, since unlike the people who enjoyed "D.O.A.", I actually listened to the lyrics and was thoroughly unimpressed. He barely said anything on that song, and just wasted a great beat. I was however, expecting the production to make the album, and between "D.O.A.'s" awesome beat and the fact that a killer songs like "Brooklyn Go Hard" got rejected it seemed that the albums would have the best big budget production since The Game's first album (and almost sure better rapping, for that matter).
The production sucked for the most part. I knew The Neptunes were going to disappoint, they've been doing that for a few years now, but Timbaland's beats were awful. And almost as bad were Kanye's beats. "On to the Next One" isn't even one of Swizz Beatz' good beats but it's probably the second best one on the album ("D.O.A." being the best). "Hate", "Reminder", "Venus vs. Mars", "Young Forever", and "A Star is Born" are the worst offenders. These are what some of the most expensive producers in the game had for the biggest name rapper?
Jay-Z's rapping actually wasn't as weak as I'd been expecting. "Venus vs. Mars" was akward, and "Hate" was awful, but for the most part the rapping was better than what was on "D.O.A" and "Run This Town".
Jay should've actually went for some smaller, lesser known guys for production. Supposedly Timbaland is saving his best stuff for his own album, and Jay got something less than that. Kanye's been changing his sound drastically, and maybe he overreached. I was expecting more, since I absolutely loved "Brooklyn Go Hard", and "Jockin' Jay-Z" got rejected, but he really sucked. The beats on the songs that didn't make the album (well they probably made it as bonus cuts) are way better than what was left on.
The big name guys don't care as much about making good beats for rappers (except for Kanye, who just fucked up anyway), all the money and prestige is in R&B. Keri Hilson had better production on her album than Jay-Z did on this one. Good rappers find up and coming producer to get their beats, they don't go to the old guard. Jay used to be the best at that, but he didn't do it this time.
I guess Jay and Kanye tried to hard on this one. Only way to alleviate this is to do a Beggar's Banquet return to form. If the Rolling Stones can do it so can Jay-Z.