By Anthony DeCurtis
Updated January 10, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Vol. 3 Life and Times of S. Carter continues the saga of Jay-Z’s adventures in the glittering world of ”Money, Cash, Hoes,” as one title from his four-times-platinum ”Hard Knock Life” put it. Shawn Carter’s name links the letters of the subway lines that run through his Brooklyn neighborhood; the unmistakable goal of ”Vol. 3” is to reconnect with the people who ride those run-down trains — while Jay-Z summers in the Hamptons.

It does that, with flair. If the album doesn’t break new ground, it also doesn’t fall off. In fact, Jay-Z now stands as the rapper who has best maintained his credibility while still putting up big numbers. The album’s key track is ”Come and Get Me,” in which Jay-Z stares down the playa hatas over a sizzling, percussive track produced by Timbaland: ”I ain’t crossover/I brought the suburbs to the hood.” And if critics think Jay-Z’s material obsessions are superficial, he’s got an answer for that: ”Magazines said I’m shallow/I never learned to swim/Still they put me on they cover/Cause I earn for them.” Touché.