Two friends hole up in various studios and challenge themselves in new ways -- new sounds (most notably dubstep), new perspectives (imagined father-son life lessons on "New Day") and new rhyme schemes (finally, Jay-Z is audibly pushing himself and he conquers the beats more often than he fails). Lyrically, this is West at his ugliest (he's embraced the Patrick Bateman role of well-dressed misogynist) but the overall album redeems itself in every other way. A grower. -- W.C.
Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun