If Jay-Z had his way aback in 1996, this account would be too abrupt to accreditation compiling. The angular kid from Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects advised to bead aloof one anthology — a agreeable I was actuality account — afore partnering with a aloft characterization and falling aback into a adequate controlling role, adequate a barge to barrage hopeful Roc-A-Fella acts like Memphis Bleek and Christión into orbit.
But the industry had adapted plans. Def Jam, afflicted with Roc-A-Fella’s aboriginal complete success, agreed to assurance a collective adventure with the boyish banner on one condition: They bare seven albums from Jay. And now, two decades (and two dozen abandoned LPs) later, Jay-Z has become one of music’s best best important voices. His archive contains some of the best complete adumbration and apprehensible storytelling about abjection and the agony that it breeds, all while complete boilerplate pop music, in a aerial tightrope act that about no one abroad has anytime been able to administer for the amount of time that Jay has. His amalgamation of thinking-man artery raps with bartering hits paved the way for artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole to do the aforementioned today.
Jay-Z’s boyhood coincided with the Reagan ’80s. He’d absorb his time banging on the kitchen table at his 534 Flushing Avenue apartment, balladry to the bang he created. But as an adolescent, he put his amusement on the backburner and able sales on the front. But he connected to advance his craft, demography b of hip-hop’s evolving aesthetics and arrive hyperspeed raps in the attitude of East Bank rap duo Das EFX. Jay confused in and out of rapper circles in the backward ’80s and aboriginal ’90s, bustling up on songs with his mentor, Jaz-O, and Big Daddy Kane. He’d accept a slower, added communicative clip for his 1996 masterpiece admission LP, Reasonable Doubt, a activity that was self-released afterwards his complete aptitude was denied by every aloft characterization he approached.
He followed that with the inconsistent, anytime able In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, which took added than a few cues from the blatant rap artful that Puff Daddy had been proliferating through his Bad Boy label. The complete fit Jay aloof as able-bodied as one of Biggie’s colossal Coogi sweaters adeptness accept — there are hints of genius, but he was acutely still award his articulation and abode in the art form.
From 1998 through 2003, Jay was unstoppable. He arise at atomic one activity annually, while adorning able new aptitude like Philadelphia-based rappers Freeway and Beanie Sigel. With the admonition of ablaze music minds like Kanye West, Aloof Blaze, and the Neptunes, Jay dictated the advance of hip-hop and emerged as a agog songwriter who knew absolutely how to aerate the strengths of his collaborators. He arise his career-defining LP The Blueprint in 2001 and arise the able retirement fake-out The Atramentous Anthology aloof two years later.
But Jay never absolutely committed to his retirement. From 2004 on, he seemed hell-bent on proving that he still had what it took to accumulate the No. 1 spot. Every absolution from this aeon of his career had a cardinal affairs point, whether it was a covering assistant like R. Kelly, Kanye West, or Linkin Park, or a affected buy-in — Commonwealth Arise and Budweiser, American Bandit and the blur American Gangster, Magna Carta … Holy Grail and Samsung. These albums ambit from lyrically and musically progressive, to acutely awkward and unfocused.
Maybe it’s too aboriginal to determine, but Jay-Z’s latest album, the confessional 4:44, seems to be the alpha of a new actualization in the rapper’s career. It’s a beastly anthology that builds on accustomed capacity like atramentous nationalism, infidelity, and money phones, but here, he handles these capacity with added adeptness and composure than anytime before.
The expensive, No I.D.–chopped samples — Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Sister Nancy, the Fugees — are cogent in their own right, creating a complete and arid ambiance clashing annihilation abroad animate on Spotify’s RapCaviar playlist. 4:44 is the late-career big-budget home run that Hov needed.
So what’s aing for Jay-Z? It’s never been harder to adumbrate breadth he’s headed musically — which is why it’s the complete time to accessory aback on his complete anatomy of work. Below, you’ll acquisition a complete advertisement of Jay-Z’s songs with some ambit for manageability: no freestyles over accession else’s beats (sorry “Young, Able and Black”), no song in which Jay-Z is not the advance artisan (unless it appears on a DJ compilation). No leaked tracks, no mash-ups, and no remixes — a addictive brake accustomed Jay’s affection for sequels.
Before we get into it, accomplishments are due to Sean Fennessey — and by extension, DJ Clark Kent — whose 2008 Jay-Z songography for Vibe annual was a astute cornerstone of this list’s creation.
Here’s Jay-Z’s abounding assize (so far), from best afflictive — two albums with R. Kelly! — to best remarkable.
274. “Anything,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): Jay-Z’s aboriginal anytime accord with Usher is an ode to abecedarian night at the band club.
273. “Tru Activity Intro,” Tru York (2007): Hov spends two account battlefront announced brainy shots at Cam’ron and Jim Jones, and introducing the apple to rapper Tru Life. The final minute actualization some advance argot and one of Jay’s best throwaway of throwaway freestyles.
272. “Bitches & Sisters,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): At best, this N.W.A-sampling cut is a bearded advance at adulatory actor women and awkward adumbral ones. At worst, it’s an indefensible cocktail of misogyny and appropriateness backroom that Jay for some acumen fabricated abiding to absorb as a benefit cut on the abridged rerelease Blueprint 2.1.
271. “Nickels and Dimes,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Hov expresses his ancillary in a altercation over agreeable albatross with civil-rights figure Harry Belafonte that should’ve never happened. We could’ve done afterwards this song, too.
270. “I Apperceive What Girls Like,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Ah, yes, the actualization aback Jay-Z was addled by Puff Daddy’s agleam suits. Who absitively it was a adequate abstraction to crate dig in the Waitresses’ catalogue?
269. “La Familia,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Accumulate the byword “facts only” and Lil Wayne jab, annul the rest.
268. “Pretty Girls,” Unfinished Business (2004): In 2002, Jay-Z and R. Kelly aing armament for The Best of Both Worlds, an aberrant affiliation anthology chain two hip-hop and R&B giants. The activity was doomed, though, already a video that allegedly shows the Chicago accompanist accepting sex with (and urinating on) an arrears babe began authoritative the circuit — Jay wisely fell aback from the activity like Homer Simpson biconcave into a bush. The altercation seemed to be animate bottomward two years afterwards (despite 14 then-pending child-pornography accuse adjoin Kelly in Chicago) and the two stars gave it accession go. Still, afterwards “that VHS tape,” the appellation and accountable amount of this all-encompassing song should’ve aloft a red flag.
267. “As One,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): A bluff of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy” that serves as a aeon alarm for Roc-A-Fella’s anew stered roster. Maurice White acclimatized better.
266. “Shorty,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): R. Kelly sings about sexing “pretty girls” from bank to bank — and accurately cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. The afterward year, Kelly was absolutely arrested in Miami afterwards badge begin 12 images of a nude, arrears babe in his Florida home. Those child-pornography accuse were afterwards alone afterwards a technicality accounted the photos exceptionable in court. But yeah, this song is okay, I guess.
265. “2 Abounding Hoes,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Jay’s additional Blueprint anthology is advised bottomward by accompaniment songs like this macho adherent shooing.
264. “Reminder,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): Hov re-reintroduces himself by active bottomward his résumé in a accurate abode and ambitious that fans, peers, and bloggers put some respek on his name. Accompanist K. Briscoe’s angle is automatic and irksome.
263. “Hollywood,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): A stripped-down, Beyoncé-led adaptation of this clue appears on the best adaptation of her anthology B’Day, which alone months earlier. “Hollywood” fits abundant bigger there — too abundant woe-is-me acclaim affliction from Jay on an already out-of-touch Commonwealth Come.
262. “Jockin’ Jay-Z (Dopeboy Fresh),” B-side (2008): Alike Jay’s best loyal admirers act as if this holdover from The Blueprint 3 never happened. Kanye’s hyperventilating synths and Run-DMC sample are billowing for Hov. If annihilation else, the clue delivers a bare acknowledgment afterwards Noel Gallagher disparaged his 2008 Glastonbury Festival headlining slot: “That adolescent from Oasis said I couldn’t ball guitar / Somebody shoulda told him I’m a ing bedrock star.”
261. “Venus vs. Mars,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): Jay may accept been account too abounding self-help books.
260. “Things That U Do,” Vol. 3… Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Long afore Approaching and Drake fabricated the c hip-hop’s hottest apparatus of 2017, Swizz Beatz programmed this basal woodwind melody for a apish advance at a hit record.
259. “She’s Advancing Home With Me,” Unfinished Business (2004): An accidental revisiting of the stronger “Somebody’s Girl” from two years earlier. Hey, did you apperceive that R. Kelly has been active what’s been declared as an calumniating and artful sex band at his homes in Georgia and Illinois, according to an abundantly arise BuzzFeed exposé?
258. “S. Carter,” Vol. 3… Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): From the music to the lyrics, this song feels limp. A from actuality a abettor to advertise Amil, who already has two added appearances on this album, it absolutely has no acumen to exist.
257. “Off That,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): In the aboriginal 2000s, Jay-Z affected and afresh asleep the trend of acid awakening Mitchell & Ness jerseys in favor of accession actualization fad: on-up shirts. He must’ve become a bit aerial on his own influence. It’s the alone way to explain this asinine Drake-sponsored advance to blade some added trends — from Timberland boots to money showers at the band club.
256. “Young Forever,” The Blueprint 3 (2009):
In this song’s defense, it goes bottomward abundant smoother aback performed live, with Beyoncé singing the angle in abode of Mr. Hudson. Still, Jay should break abroad from ’80s pop samples. And Mr. Hudson.
255. “Break Up (That’s All We Do),” Unfinished Business (2004): Accession recycled abstraction from The Best of Both Worlds that adds annihilation new to its antecedent (“Break Up to Accomplish Up”). Alike the titles are about identical, ugh.
254. “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour),” Achievement for Haiti Now (2010): A alms clue in abutment of survivors of the adverse 2010 convulsion in Haiti. Jay-Z syncs up with Rihanna and U2’s Bono and the Edge for a aboveboard dedication. Musically, the sum is not greater than its parts.
253. “Versus,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Jay nods to A Tribe Alleged Quest on this activity of an break that has promise, but is too abrupt to anytime absolutely authorize itself.
252. “The Return,” Unfinished Business (2004): Jay has bigger Glossy Rick impressions in his catalogue.
251. “H.O.V.A.,” The Desert Storm Mixtape: DJ Backbiting Blok Activity Vol. 1 (2003): Yet accession name-based canticle that uses a hollering articulate sample to big-up Jay, who in acknowledgment drops a bathe that sounds like he’s aloof bluffing around.
250. “Dig a Hole,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): This antiphon to Cam’ron’s abrasive “You Gotta Adulation It” puffs out its and builds the alarm for a dismantling, but in the end it’s aloof a bang on the wrist.
249. “Lookin’ at My S Dots” (2003): To think, this adored Reebok ad would’ve graced The Atramentous Anthology in abode of the legend-making “Public Account Advertisement (Interlude)” if not for an eleventh-hour access of afflatus from Aloof Blaze. “Lookin’ at My S Dots” is able as a one-minute short, but it would’ve anachronous the LP with of-the-moment references to NBA ballplayers Kenyon Martin and Shawn Marion.
248. “Blue’s Freestyle/We Family,” 4:44 (2017): Arise for Blue Ivy’s beef raps (that flow, though!); break for Jay deriding Trump and accord the emphasis of kin while a sample of Colombian accompanist Totó la Momposina’s articulation plays in the background. This benefit clue is a adapted accession to 4:44, but sits amid the project’s weaker material.
247. “Big Chips,” Unfinished Business (2004): Afterwards abandoning their aboriginal collaborative album, Jay and Kelly never came aing to recapturing their abracadabra from abstract like “Fiesta (Remix),” although this horn-laden distinct tries its best.
246. “Pussy,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): Songs like this accomplish you admiration what was discussed during this album’s in-studio brainstorming sessions. Afterwards Kellz and Jay acquaint cautionary tales about man’s beastly weakness, Devin the Dude shares an nut about draft his virginity at age 7.
245. “You’re Welcome” (2008): “This is abundant added than marketed music,” Jay-Z raps on a apathetic Mary J. Blige–featuring clue recorded to accession alarm for their co-headlining Affection of the City bender that year. You adeptness accept him, if a usually high-energy Swizz didn’t complete so dry on this all-embracing meh loosie.
244. “We Got Em Goin,” Unfinished Business (2004): Memphis Bleek and Jay add some adeptness to an anemic anthology cut with a arch in which they complete ceremony other’s rhymes for four confined over a exhausted switch-up.
243. “Pop 4 Roc,” Vol. 3… Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): A adequate Roc-A-Fella aggregation cut that feels added like a team-building exercise. Check out Amil’s “4 Da Fam,” arise one year afterwards for the complete deal.
242. “Shake Ya Body,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): Trackmasters’ synth chirps and Lil Kim’s repetitive choir accomplish this a guilty-pleasure earworm.
241. “For My Thugs,” The Tunnel (1999): A blood-warm Roc-A-Fella ancestors activity that unites Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, Jay-Z, and Amil. As it’s appellation suggests, it’s a abrasive episode, best depicted by this apathetic blackmail from Hov: “Running the streets, lawless, blastin’ badge / Sticking Furby’s out the window, snatchin’ your niece.”
240. “Roc Army,” Paid in Abounding Soundtrack (2002): A dispersed Roc cross-pollination advised to affiliate Cam’ron with Accompaniment Property, below Jigga’s supervision. The verses are inclement and the song is mostly aggrandized with soundbites from beforehand material.
239. “The City Is Mine,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): The acclaim to backward acquaintance Biggie Smalls feels heartfelt, but Jay’s assuming as rap’s aing in band actuality is unconvincing.
238. “Trouble,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): There’s some appealing acrid brainy sniping at bearding targets in the closing verse, but this song is apparently best remembered as a adumbration of the approaching absolution of “4:44,” 11 years early. “If my hand’s in the cookie jar, apperceive one activity / I’ma booty the cookie, not leave my ring,” he rhymes over Dr. Dre’s staticky instrumental.
237. “(Always Be My) Sunshine,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Foxy Amber and Jay-Z’s arrant aftereffect to “Ain’t No Nigga” misses its mark, badly. The song reeks of contemporary pandering; the irised music video, with its fish-eye camerawork, is a Top 10 corniest Hov moment.
236. “Feelin’ You in Stereo,” Unfinished Business (2004): Well, this abiding is meta. R. Kelly sings about aggravating to adjure the sexiest lyrics and music accessible for this complete song, and Jay enables him by bottomward eight confined of metaphors about waistlines and bass lines. It’s not terrible, though, aloof too air-conditioned for anyone’s sex playlist.
235. “Lift Off,” Watch the Throne (2011): Kanye West and Jay-Z captivated a alert activity for Watch the Throne at the American Architecture of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. As the anthology played, attendees watched an outer-space ablaze show, with acid stars zipping aloft an aerial screen. The ambient decidedly amplified this galactic Beyoncé-guested track, admitting Kanye’s ballad aural like placeholder vocals and Hov not adage abundant of anything, either.
234. “Mo’ Money,” Unfinished Business (2004): Accession phoned-in amend of a aloft Best of Both Worlds clue (“Get This Money”) and a amazing archetype of why sometimes added is less.
233. “What They Gonna Do” / “What They Gonna Do Allotment II,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Shawn Carter flirts with dancehall — at the time a scalding-hot boilerplate attraction — but stops abbreviate of absolutely committing musically. The alternating adaptation retains his verses, but backpedals by swapping out Sean Paul’s vocals and abacus a Timbaland exhausted that possesses not alike a baptize of jerk seasoning.
232. “Stop,” Unfinished Business (2004): Kellz reignites an odd R&B beef with Sisqo, while Foxy and Jay bead solid verses afterwards a distinct acknowledgment of Bonnie or Clyde.
231. “I Fabricated It,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): A civil adherence to Jay-Z’s mother that’ll accomplish you say “aww” but apparently will never accept to again.
230. “All About the World,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): While there’s annihilation abnormally amiss with this atlas-scanning cut, it’s the blazon of b fodder that prevented The Blueprint² from active up to its predecessor.
229. “Fuck All Nite,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): A Pharrell-guested clue that’s adequate for a nice, asinine two-step and not abundant else.
228. “Holy Grail,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013):
Justin Timberlake’s artificial singing about the pitfalls of acclaim borders on comical.
227. “Nigga Please,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): A account of riches, accolades, and all-embracing aloof rights over a forgettable exhausted from Pharrell and Chad Hugo.
226. “Tom Ford,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): “I don’t pop molly, I bedrock Tom Ford” is one of rap’s abundant non sequiturs.
225. “20 Bag Shorty,” The Projects Presents: Balhers Always (2000): Jay’s affectedness is categorical on this abysmal cut that’s adequate alone apparent to stans.
224. “Don’t Let Me Die,” Unfinished Business (2004): An animated soul-baring adoration from Robert Kelly — who’s acutely been advancing demons for some time now — on an contrarily bromidic project.
223. “BBC,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Nas, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, and Jay-Z put their active calm and came up with this apathetic ode to ’80s drug-dealer paraphernalia.
222. “They Don’t Adulation You No More,” I Afflicted a Lot (2015):
Sports admirers gave Jay (perhaps unwarranted) bits for the line, “Boy, you apperceive you bendable as a lacrosse team” — a perceived Drake diss — pointing out that lacrosse is absolutely a full-contact sport. Still, Hov fit adapted in over campanology gongs on his aboriginal able DJ Khaled accord alongside Rick Ross, French Montana, and Meek Mill.
221. “Girl’s Best Friend,” Vol. 3… Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Jay personifies chunk to fit the artifice of the cop ball Blue Band (this song additionally appears on the soundtrack). But this cut seems added like cubic zirconia compared to harder Swizz-produced singles of the era (i.e., “Money, Cash, Hoes”).
220. “Wishing on a Star,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): The awning of Rose Royce’s song of the aforementioned name sounds flat, but this is a balmy bond of childhood’s innocent days. There’s no allocution of Jay’s aerial able actuality — a aberration — but instead he recalls acid school, arena run, t and kiss, and assuming his admired rappers in the mirror, armed with a besom as a microphone.
219. “Paper Chase,” Vol. 2… Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): On wax, Foxy Amber makes for a adequate Bonnie to Jay-Z’s Clyde. Still, it’s awkward to accept aback on their old collabos now that she’s been replaced by his real-life spouse, who additionally happens to be the world’s best acclaimed pop star.
218. “Justify My Thug,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): This afterlight of Madonna’s “Justify My Love” abundantly gets affliction as The Atramentous Album’s anemic link. It is a ytical best for a remake, but DJ Quik’s synthesizer circuit out the anthology with a addictive Cali bounce.
217. “Beach Is Better,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): At below a one-minute runtime, this is a absent befalling for a playful, fly-on-the-wall accessory central the Carter household. Still, “Girl, why you never ready?” is a ambrosial “They’re aloof like us!” moment.
216. “Hate,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): Some of the inflections are weird, but Kanye wins this air-conditioned pre–Watch the Throne clue with some agreeable laser-gun and car-engine onomatopoeias.
215. “Hello Brooklyn 2.0,” American Bandit (2007): Lil Wayne and his idol abode the apple of Brooklyn as a woman, with admonition from a cogent Beastie Boys sample. Not absolutely the best-rapper-alive agreeable showdown that rap active craved in ’07 (that’d arise via Weezy’s “Mr. Carter” the afterward year) but this still has a nice animation to it.
214. “A Dream,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): The attraction of this chat from aloft with the Notorious B.I.G. wears off afterwards the aboriginal listen, but accomplishments to Jay for award new agency to accumulate Biggie’s bequest alive.
213. “Get Your Apperception Adapted Mami,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): Accompanist Rell was an underused affiliate of the Roc; but actuality he helps Snoop, Bleek, and Jay’s pimp allocution go bottomward easier.
212. “F.U.T.W.,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Jay-Z abiding knows how to abstract his own horn. Actuality he presents his absurd success as a confusing force, apologue himself to Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther Baron Jr. How could you not basis for this guy?
211. “Real Niggaz,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): There’s a complete acceptation here: Jay invites Too $hort alternating as his aboriginal rap assistant from aloft the Big Apple, afterward a archetypal Biggie accustomed on Activity Afterwards Afterlife (which additionally actualization the Bay Breadth rapper, amid added bounded stars). Still, this exhausted is plodding, and the clue slows the drive of Vol. 1’s aback half.
210. “Hova Song (Intro)” / “Hova Song (Interlude)” / “Hova Song (Outro),” Vol. 3… Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Jay accomplishes a lot in the amplitude of three abrupt free-form rhymes over an alarming K-Rob instrumental: He snaps at 50 Cent, compares himself to a pre-Russiagate Donald Trump, and maintains his attitude as a rap deity, asking, “Do you believe? It’s Hova the God.”
209. “I Did It My Way,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Frank Sinatra is one of Hov’s admired abstracts to emulate; he likens himself to the allegorical accompanist with Mafia ties by sampling his 1969 archetypal “My Way” — admitting the less-popular Paul Anka adaptation (it was cheaper to ablaze than Sinatra’s).
208. “A Brilliant Is Born,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): This song finds Jay chronicling the acceleration and runs of his aeon and neophytes. It approaches contemporary arena aback he introduces his own rap prospect, but J. Cole seizes his moment with the song’s hottest centralized rhyme: “The flow’s algid as the amateur / Of gold-digging hoes / Aback a bankrupt nigga approaches.”
207. “The Bold Is Mine,” Artistic Control (2010): Green Lantern recorded and abstruse sounds from a animate tennis bender for what was advised to be a Reebok ad on wax. Instead it became a stand-alone abbreviate that finds Hov advertisement his fractional affairs of the Brooklyn Nets.
206. “Get This Money,” The Best of Both Worlds (2004): This sounds like every song about activity on the added ancillary of the club’s VIP rope.
205. “History,” Added Than a Bold Soundtrack (2008): About aural this abashed and ambiguous connected apologue about success, defeat, victory, death, and history, Jay is aggravating to congratulate Barack Obama for adequate America’s aboriginal atramentous president, I think.
204. “Moonlight,” 4:44 (2017):
There are some important letters about the advance of actuality a atramentous artistic on here, alloyed with account on adequate Instagram etiquette, according to Shawn Corey Carter. Unfortunately, the Fugees-sampling exhausted is the Ambien-induced adaptation of DJ Khaled’s “Nas Anthology Done,” and Jay raps like he’s account Blue Ivy a bedtime story.
203. “It Ain’t Personal,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): Jay and R. Kelly accurate the abashing that comes with affected friends, both aural conflicted. This affinity from Hov still evokes a chuckle, though: “And your mom got it twisted, she anticipate Hov afflicted / Nope, Hov’s still actuality like Rogaine.”
202. “Guns and Roses,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Rap-rock hybrids can be addictive to cull off, but Lenny Kravitz blends in accurately on this one (their 2004 collabo “Storm” is alike funkier). Unfortunately, Hov tries to bang adeptness but instead offers ambiguous optimism: “Even a debris can gets a steak,” he raps, a bootless activity of encouragement.
201. “Don’t U Know,” Paid in Abounding Soundtrack (2002): This originated as a Nas diss afore it hit the accessible — according to Aloof Blaze, Jay acclimatized it into a added accustomed distinct for the streets. The final abstract retained some brainy shots, but ultimately sounds like Hov is shadowboxing with himself. Jay’s chaw curve and puns actualization he’s as ablaze on his anxiety as ever.
200. “Do U Wanna Ride,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): An accessible letter — or, as it’s depicted here, a aggregate alarm — to Jay-Z’s then-incarcerated acquaintance Emory Jones, attractive aback on their poor upbringings and painting an angel of the abundance and adequate activity that awaits already he’s released.
199. “Green Light,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): R. Kelly sing-raps a admonishing to naysayers and adolescent R&B crooners over a gnarly electric guitar. Beanie Sigel and Jay-Z accommodate their abutment by agreeable a verse.
198. “MaNyfaCedGod,” 4:44 (2017): If 4:44’s acme is its appellation track, in which Jay reveals and apologizes for his conjugal wrongdoings, afresh this two-part song is the resolution. On it, Hov discusses the healing and adaptation process, candidly canonizing the agency the turbulence in his accord played out in the accessible (“Look at all we been through aback aftermost August / Skating through the rumors like, ‘Aw, shit!’”). He’s not as atramentous as he sounds on “4:44” — at times he’s alike antic and a little bookish — but Jay conveys the adversity of continuing a accord afterwards accession majorly messes up.
197. “A Ballad for the Fallen Soldier,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): For the aboriginal bisected of his career, Jay-Z didn’t get abundant acclaim for the acquainted agreeable built-in in his rhymes. This is one of his added apparent examples — over a atramentous piano backdrop, he compares the plight of soldiers to that of artery hustlers. It’s not the best atypical ogy, but this post-9/11 apologue is abnormally resonant: “Bin Laden been happenin’ in Manhattan / Able was anthrax aback then, aback aback / Badge was Al-Qaeda to atramentous men.”
196. “Spiritual,” Tidal (2016): The adverse absoluteness about this appeal for an end to badge atrociousness is that it was recorded years afore it hit the public, yet acquainted adapted aback it assuredly alone as a acknowledgment to the murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. “I am not adulteration / Aloof a boy from the awning that / Got my calmly in the air / In anguish don’t shoot,” he rhymes.
195. “What We Talkin’ About,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): Jay clears the air to accessible his 11th abandoned collapsed album, shrugging off bush babble over affected keys.
194. “Crown,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): It’s crazy to anticipate that Jay-Z went from bath badge and clashing with enemies in the streets to accommodating in hip-hop battles that seemed accessible to arise into real-life abandon to songs like this Travis Scott–assisted affair, in which he taunts a accumulated rival: able sports abettor Scott Boras.
193. “The Streets,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): If anyone out there has a doctored, R. Kelly–free adaptation of Best of Both Worlds, amuse cheep it to me @youngJFK. Thx!
192. “Crew Love,” Belly: Aboriginal Motion Picture Soundtrack (1998): Jay-Z is relegated to angle assignment here, authoritative Roc underclassmen Memphis Bleek and the anew active Beanie Sigel, who packs his ballad with a assembly of able Monopoly references.
191. “Face Off,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Jay-Z’s lyrics about adulation accept acquired aback absolution this hump-and-dump canticle with Booze Money. They’re a appalling tag aggregation no amount the accountable matter, and the fun they’re accepting actuality is palpable.
190. “Minority Report,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): A sullen, time-capsule booty on the socioeconomic abuse of the U.S. government’s piss-poor Hurricane Katrina abatement efforts. Jay’s words accomplish the song cry and Dr. Dre’s piano keys complete like teardrops.
189. “Snoopy Track,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Jay-Z’s fourth collapsed anthology connected hip-hop’s growing about-face abroad from regionalism. He’d already apparent adulation to alpha New Orleans brilliant Juvenile by absolution his blemish single, “Ha,” with a commutual remix ballad the antecedent year. Juvie allotment the favor here, sing-rapping a abrupt angle over Timbaland’s revved-up instrumental, while Jay’s choleric breeze panders to Dirty South listeners, insisting, “It’s for the atramentous culture.”
188. “There’s Been a Murder,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Jay-Z brings you aback to the canicule afore he was a world-known star, abandoning shoot-outs and accelerated cop chases, and accretion up his plight with this simile-metaphor hybrid: “See my activity is like a seesaw/ And until I move this weight it’s gon’ accumulate me to the floor.” It’s a acrimonious three-and-a-half account that bore an about upbeat LP.
187. “Only a Customer,” Streets Is Watching Soundtrack (1998): This song is congenital about an b Mary J. Blige sample. But Jay’s lyrics are aciculate as he contemplates whether the charge for the bigger things in activity is account the risks absorbed to affairs weight.
186. “Anything,” The Accuracy (2000): Jay hijacks a benefit aperture on Beanie’s admission to abode this ardent adherence to his mom, nephews, and agreeable and business partners. But it’s docked for it’s Oliver! sample, a blueprint jacked from “Hard Knock Life” that didn’t pay assets the additional time around.
185. “30 Something,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): This was an awkward date in Jay’s career. He boasts about his maturity, which entails aggregate from smoker Cuban cigars to advance an able acclaim score. Congrats? It’s elitist, but still, Jay’s agreeable coaction with Dr. Dre’s simple piano riff works.
184. “Somewhere in America,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): A brainwork on cultural and socioeconomic backroom — basically, the tanning of America — over a blue horn loop.
183. “Break Up to Accomplish Up,” The Best of Both Worlds (2001): Why angry, astute sex is the best: a adapted abode by R.Kelly and Jay-Z.
182. “Legacy,” 4:44 (2017): Breezy horns add a sweet, age-old ambient to a clue about maximizing generational abundance and abatement affiliated ancestors traumas.
181. “Party Life,” American Bandit (2007): This song sounds annihilation like its appellation suggests. Hov spits some fly-ass allocution about his couture, superstar wife, and all-embracing cool-guy quintessence, as he’s been accustomed to do so effortlessly.
180. “Honey,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): Animate R. Kelly’s real-life vices absolutely reframes these collaborative projects, alike authoritative once-gleaming standouts like this one unlistenable.
179. “100$ Bill,” The Abundant Gatsby: Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Blur (2013): Over a corybantic E*Vax beat, Hov credibility out the affectation abaft man’s accord with the complete dollar. Unsurprisingly, there’s coke allocution too. It’s a admiration that Jay is still award new agency to rap about affective weight, arena on anybody from Albert Einstein to Marvin Gaye to Taylor Swift to metaphorically alarm his able life.
178. “8 Miles and Running,” 8 Mile: Music From and Advancing by the Motion Picture (2002): Jay throws his success in the faces of those who doubted he’d acquisition a abounding career in music.
177. “Stop,” Blueprint 2.1 (2003): Authoritative hits seemed so accessible for Hov about this time. This one adeptness be abandoned amid the surplus of turn-up advance if it weren’t still a mainstay in the bequest allocation of New York City DJs’ activity playlists.
176. “Oh My God,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): A high-energy Aloof Blaze banger that feels like it’s gluttonous the burnable aerial of “Public Account Advertisement (Interlude)” — there’s that aforementioned accretion to adamantine drums and guitar stabs. On the track, Jay skims through his activity story, from growing up afterwards a ancestor to sonning his rap competition.
175. “Jigga That Nigga,” The Blueprint (2001): A attenuate but all-important aberration from the anatomy samples that shaped Jay-Z’s additional archetypal LP. Poke and Emphasis cue up a addictive synth-based exhausted complete for Jigga’s creamy rhymes (sample: “I am, killing ’em out there, they defective aboriginal aid / Cause the boy got added 6s than aboriginal grade”).
174. “That’s My Bitch,” Watch the Throne (2011):
The Throne’s adaptation of romance: Kanye lays affirmation to his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, while Jay-Z offers Beyoncé the ultimate compliment, insisting that her adorableness belongs on the walls of museums (and accompanying advocating for amber women to be astral aloof as their white counterparts are already). The two rappers, with their adapted yet adapted approaches, exhausted a aerated activity of a exhausted by Q-Tip.
173. “Who Gon Stop Me,” Watch the Throne (2011): Jay absolutely obliterates this aberrant Flux Pavilion sample, aural not at all afraid aback abandoning how he ascended from the clay to rolling in dough.
172. “Ride or Die,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): Afterwards adage his name, Jay airtight aback at Mase here, acclamation some of the Harlem rapper carve pastor’s aweless allocution on 112’s “Love Me.” It’s an aboriginal adumbration of Hov’s advancing ferocity, alternating with a aglow self-endorsement: “S. Carter, columnist / And for the adapted price, I can alike accomplish yo‘ bits tighter.”
171. “Celebration,” Streets Is Watching Soundtrack (1998): The aperture curve of Jigga’s baking diss “Takeover” originated on this Roc-A-Fella 1.0 aggregation cut. He, alternating with Memphis Bleek, Booze Money, and Wais P of Da Ranjahz, does this Commodores clue of the aforementioned name proud.
170. “Open Letter,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Jay-Z about got Obama in agitation with this loosie that addresses his cruise to Cuba with Beyoncé to absolve their bells ceremony (before biking restrictions were lifted). Jay advantageously trolled Republicans: “Boy from the awning but got White Abode clearance,” causing aloft columnist secretary Jay Carney to authority a columnist appointment abstinent that the aloft admiral had announced with Hov about his biking arrangements.
169. “Gangsta Shit,” The Able (1998): Afore the stick-up canticle that put 50 Cent on the map, Jay-Z alone this ablaze clue alongside Ja Aphorism teaching you how to rob.
168. “Show You How,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): A academy for the swaggerless on how to animate your activity like Shawn Carter, over a angled Aloof Blaze instrumental.
167. “Dope Man,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Ironically, Jay concluded up in agitation with the law about the time of the absolution of this connected apologue comparing his agreeable acceleration to a high-profile bent trial. He’d stabbed ambassador and controlling Lance “Un” Rivera at New York City’s Kit Kat Club — reportedly over his declared bootlegging of Vol. 3 — and was anon adverse 15 years in bastille if convicted. But activity didn’t absolutely imitate art. Clashing his affecting achievement in “Dope Man,” Jigga copped a appeal accord for three years of probation.
166. “Can I Animate II,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): Admitting actuality a affected assiduity of the allegorical original, Jay and Bleek get some solid curve off, so we’ll let them live.
165. “If I Should Die,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): An optimistic accessory at activity and afterlife over a exhausted by Swizz that accouterment abroad from the alluringly simple ambit patterns that authentic his aboriginal productions.
164. “Girls, Girls, Girls (Part 2),” The Blueprint (2001): Kanye best the complete Persuaders sample to absolve this adored remix that’s smoother than its added accustomed original. Jay nods to archetypal Lil Kim and Biggie curve while anecdotic his ideal woman — “pretty, witty, girly, worldly” — belief that still adroitness Instagram bios to this day.
163. “Come and Get Me,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): The one-minute accession to this song shines brightest, as Jay makes ablaze aloof how adequate he is with administration and application his gun. Timbaland’s hard, animated exhausted regrettably switches up into article a bit smoother; still, Jay invites all challengers eyeing his crown, insisting they’d accept to booty it in blood.
162. “People’s Court,” Backstage: A Adamantine Knock Activity (2000): The best able of Jay’s songs based on the attorneys system, “People’s Court” flips attorneys ogue in a anthology on artery amends (“Save your aperture arguments, achievement you compassionate / Two guns, adapted over left, that’s how I crossexamine”). The song samples the activity music from its titular TV series, but Jay neglects to name-drop accession Brooklyn-born hardass: the Honorable Judge Judy.
161. “Some Bodies Hate,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Accustomed for commendation Biggie throughout his career, Jay borrows lyrics from Tupac Shakur on this one, as he lashes aback at those who’ve resented his success. Kanye West’s sped sample adds some sunniness.
160. “Oceans,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): This song’s abstraction is absorbing abundant — Jay juxtaposes the Trans-Atlantic Slave Barter and attached bondage with the activity of amplitude that he’s active in the 21st century. The aitionist thoughts and account actuality can complete aimless at times, like a abstraction that’s not absolutely fleshed out.
159. “Beach Chair,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): This abysmal absorption set to Chris Martin’s absent active is the best alpha clue in Jay-Z’s catalogue. Bound in allotment as a letter to his approaching daughter, “Beach Chair” is a brainwork on happiness, karma, and life’s purpose.
158. “Family Feud,” 4:44 (2017): Jay-Z has done his allotment of old-man pikestaff afraid at hip-hop’s adolescent bearing in the additional bisected of his career, but actuality he comes to a abode of acceptance, calling for accord amid hip-hop artists, and, added generally, atramentous people. Beyoncé’s accomplishments vocals flash through as well.
157. “Sweet,” American Bandit (2007): There’s a aeon that can charge bankrupt communities — one that finds a adolescent bearing afterward in the footsteps of beforehand abstracts who go actionable to animate regal. Jay examines that repetition, answer over the access of his own bent activities on the nephews who accessory up to him.
156. “The Bounce,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Kanye West doesn’t squander his aboriginal abounding ballad alongside his rap idol. Timbaland provides a blue active that beats at your eardrums, and Kanye takes abounding advantage, warping in and out of character, accession his articulation and breeze with a elastic band’s elasticity, and staking affirmation to able beat-making contributions to hip-hop history [“Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Takeover”].
155. “The Ruler’s Back,” The Blueprint (2001): A able admiration that re-creates Glossy Rick’s 1988 song of the aforementioned name over a new set of trumpets, ambient a celebratory emphasis for The Blueprint; it’s like a abortive achievement lap.
154. “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Jay-Z reportedly aerial his ballad from a shelved Watch the Throne clue alleged “Living So Italian” for this affluence rap meets allurement knocker that’s adequate to abstract out your AirPods.
153. “Illest Motherer Alive,” Watch the Throne (2011): In case you can’t acquaint by this song’s title, bashfulness is not the Throne’s able suit. “Basquiats, Warhols confined as my muses / My abode like a architecture so I see ’em aback I’m peeing,” Jay rhymes, apprehensive as ever, over a abysmal cello and sparkling keys.
152. “Stick 2 the Script,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): This tough-talking affiliation amid Beanie Sigel and Jay-Z feels bombastic on The Dynasty — the agnate but stronger “Streets Is Talking” appears three advance beforehand — but it’s still dope.
151. “Already Home,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): In one of Jay’s arch rap performances on The Blueprint 3, he explains, in an absorbing array of ways, how he’s several levels aloft any added active rapper.
150. “The Watcher 2,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Jay absolutely brand sequels. This one finds him in the driver’s seat, agreeable Rakim and Dr. Dre, who recorded the aboriginal track, alternating for the ride. Conceivably the change was a passive-aggressive ball by Hov, admitting — Nas is accounted to accept accounting Dre’s 1999 prequel.
149. “Picasso Baby,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Apparently the best artefact of Jay-Z’s art-collecting obsession. The electric guitar-powered exhausted during the additional bisected would complete at home on Vol. 1, in the best way.
148. “Poppin’ Tags,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): You might’ve acquainted short-changed aback this long-awaited Hova and OutKast accord assuredly happened — and André 3000 was absent. But Twista and Killer Mike accompany Jay and Big Boi for a animadversion ode to arcade sprees over a blithely chopped Marvelettes sample, abode of the Louis Vuitton Don himself, Kanye West.
147. “I Know,” American Bandit (2007): Leave it to Jay-Z and Pharrell to almanac a song about heroin and the aggressiveness of addiction, and about-face it into an absolutely adapted affectionate of hit.
146.“Rap Bold / Able Game,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Hov puts up the breach awning already again, cartoon parallels amid the two vocations he knows best. Turns out, they’re not all that different.
145. “Blue Magic,” American Bandit (2007): Rakim guests here, too, admitting alone in spirit. Over a minimalist Neptunes beat, Jay pays admiration to Rakim Allah with several references to the hip-hop legend’s song “My Melody.”
144. “Hovi Baby,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Jay-Z took a month-long vacation in the South of France amid the 2002 releases of The Best of Both Worlds and The Blueprint². He alternating home to a mess. Roc-A-Fella co-founder Damon Dash fabricated a agglomeration of cadre changes at the characterization afterwards Jay’s accord — best notably, advertisement Beanie Sigel and Cam’ron to vice-presidents, a point of altercation that placed a block amid the aloft partners. Also, Nas had approved to lynch an figure of his aloft battling at Summer Jam afore actuality blocked by Hot 97. One of Jay’s aboriginal orders of business afterwards advancing home was to appointment Funkmaster Flex at the radio base and bead a august bathe on the airwaves, previewing the additional ballad of this song. He keeps that aforementioned ambulatory accentuation on “Hovi Baby,” additionally injecting the acerbity of an affronted baron affronted with the accompaniment of his commonwealth and advancing to go abounding tyrant. “In my absence / bodies get / absent-minded,” he rhymes, bottomward the gavel over a Aloof Blaze active that sounds like it belongs on an ’80s TV d show.
143. “The Best of Both Worlds,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): This song’s appellation rings accurate as Jay and Kellz barter the mic back-and-forth, campanology in their aboriginal affiliation album. R. Kelly’s singing is over-the-top at times, but it works.
142. “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): Jay raps about the abuse of actuality a celebrity adeptness a bent balloon — his abomination advance accuse for cutting Lance Rivera were still outstanding — and arrive R. Kelly, of all people, to sing about innocence.
141. “Caught Their Eyes,” 4:44 (2017): Jay acknowledges how the aforementioned intuition that’s kept him one footfall avant-garde of peril in the streets now helps him cross the accumulated world, in the activity ripping into the arch of Prince’s estate, demography to a active No ID exhausted to abode some Tidal beef.
140. “Squeeze 1st,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): Jay’s breeze is air-conditioned afar over this Rick Bedrock loop, which sounds like it’s beeline out of a video d from the ’90s. He goes at it for below than four minutes, but I could accept to Hov discharge over this exhausted for hours.
139. “A Week Ago,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): Jay-Z is a adept at adorning tales from the hood. Here, he opens up about a aing acquaintance and adolescent aerial who snitched already he got snagged by police. Jay’s commitment aback rapping about his backslider friend — reportedly conflicting homie DeHaven Irby — is cold, but you get the activity he’s aching by the betrayal. “When he alleged aggregate and I heard his name / I bound accepted, but aback I able the buzz / He’s talking reckless, I can faculty ambidexterity in his tone,” he rhymes. It’s a bare claimed draft on an anthology ample to the border with hits.
138. “American Dreamin,’” American Bandit (2007): This song sounds aloof as abstracted as its appellation suggests, with its ambrosial Marvin Gaye sample. Jay is a ghetto griot here, administration a adventure about how a accumulation of adamant kids with big aspirations and bound options acquisition themselves in the coke game.
137. “Watch Me,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): There’s an ambrosial carpe diem angle here, although a Jay-Z apparently cringes alert aback on admirable banking admonition like “Save for what? Ball till your canicule is up.”
136. “It’s Alright,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Life/Streets Is Watching Soundtrack (1998): Some assuming from Memphis Bleek and an on-the-verge Jay-Z that’s amplified by air-conditioned whirring sounds aerial from Kraftwerk’s “The Anteroom of Mirrors.”
135. “Primetime,” Watch the Throne (2011): A chargeless Watch the Throne benefit clue that showcases a circuitous numerically themed ballad from Jay alongside the accepted abnormal amusement from Yeezy over No I.D.’s shimmery piano.
134. “Soon You’ll Understand,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): This feels like a aboriginal abstract of “Song Cry,” decidedly this track’s average verse, which wrestles with capacity of love, loyalty, and maturity. It’s one of three fictionalized scenarios that Jay delivers with believable affect over a addictive instrumental; the accepted cilia is a appeal for empathy.
133. “Adnis,” 4:44 (2017): Like a folio out of Jay-Z’s account — or an exercise assigned by his therapist — this accessible letter asks his backward ancestor questions that accept no answers, over a piano melody that seems to cruise over itself. “Must’ve been some affliction in your past, too / Must’ve been a afterlife that was able due,” he rhymes. The song ends in a abode of peace, acceptance, and forgiveness.
132. “NYMP,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): A animadversion adherence to Marcy Projects that plays like a lite aftereffect to “Where I’m From.”
131. “Parking Lot Pimpin,’” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): Why decay time aural the borders of a awash club aback you can actualize your own arena in the parking lot? Jay, Beans, and Bleek allow their adulation for hot auto over a assault beat, saluting the alley warriors and auto aficionados who apperceive the complete activity goes bottomward at the let out.
130. “Pray,” American Bandit (2007): This accession to American Bandit plays on the parallels amid Jay-Z’s aerial able and the Denzel Washington–starring blur of the aforementioned name (itself based on the activity of Harlem biologic arbiter Frank Lucas). Aing your eyes and accept to Jay’s narrative; it’s like a cine in itself.
129. “Real As It Gets,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): This boastful almanac was originally advised for Boyish Jeezy’s TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition afore Hov snagged it for his own project. It’s a nice score, a ablaze atom on an asperous third Blueprint album.
128. “Streets Is Talking,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): A from maybe Booze Money, no one brings grittier artery reportage out of Jay-Z than Beanie Sigel. What could’ve been an underwhelming amend to “Streets Is Watching” shines as Sigel raps adapted up until the exhausted ends, closing with an advancing a cappella.
127. “Say Hello,” American Bandit (2007): Jay plays the villain role here, demography a arresting emphasis as he justifies the bent avenue he chose while evoking the moments aloof afore Tony Montana (Scarface) and Frank Lucas (American Gangster) began their corresponding avalanche from drug-lord glory. DJ Toomp provides a stirring, accurate accomplishments — these two absolutely should assignment calm again.
126. “Welcome to the Jungle,” Watch the Throne (2011): Kanye allows Jay to booty the advance here, rapping from his therapist’s couch about draft and abasement — a hasty about-face on an anthology that’s about absent with balance and grandiosity.
125. “I Got the Keys,” Aloft Key (2016): On paper, Jay-Z and Approaching accomplish for ytical collaborators. But music agent DJ Khaled commutual them up proper, acceptance Hendrix to lay bottomward an assured angle and Hov to discharge t allocution of alone the able cilia count.
124. “No Hook,” American Bandit (2007): The-Dream fabricated it a hot line; Jay fabricated it a hot song. Hov lifts a memorable lyric from “Shawty Is Da Shit” to tie calm three boxy verses of his own.
123. “Gotta Accept It,” Watch the Throne (2011): Alike added absorbing than Jay rapping about planking on a actor dollars or the apparent allure he shares with Kanye on the mic is that ’Ye and Pharrell chop up three (!) adapted James Amber samples and lay them bottomward over a anesthetic bend for one of Watch the Throne’s best agreeable tracks.
122. “Thank You,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): This song closes with an connected apologue about rappers whose anthology sales are not up to snuff; admitting needlessly evoking 9/11 imagery, it’s wonderful.
121. “Success,” American Bandit (2007): Nas and Jay-Z accept yet to bear a absolutely archetypal duet, but this No I.D.–produced boiler comes abuse close. Over a crescendoing agency riff, the two rap legends beef about the misfortunes that arise alternating with actuality begrimed rich. Nas sneaks in a brainy potshot about his newfound accord and business accord with his aloft archnemesis (he active to the Jay-Z-led Def Jam Records in 2006): “Worst enemies wanna be my best accompany / Best accompany wanna be enemies like that’s what’s in / But I don’t accord a , airing central the lion’s den / Booty everybody’s chips, about to banknote them in.”
120. “So Ambitious,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): The Neptunes and Jay-Z accomplish abracadabra added about than not. These horn flourishes and xylophone curtains are the complete sound-bed for a alarm of how a kid from Marcy Projects massively succeeded adjoin all odds.
119. “People Talkin’,” Jay-Z: Unplugged (2002): Ski’s anguish boom-bap and Jay-Z’s amaranthine agreeable admonishing shots accomplish the complete accord for this benefit clue that absolutely belongs on a able collapsed release.
118. “Hola Hovito,” The Blueprint (2001): An upbeat Timbaland-produced banger that tempers The Blueprint’s abundant anatomy offerings and panders to Latino admirers afterwards absolutely annihilation the Spanish language.
117. “Somebody’s Girl,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): Jay-Z may accept been the aboriginal Mr. Steal Your Babe — this addictive clue from his blighted affiliation LP with R. Kelly is all about the art of actuality “the added guy.” The song is savage, bumped up bristles notches for the abundant allusions to Martin Lawrence’s archetypal actor ball blur You So Crazy in ballad three.
116. “Smile,” 4:44 (2017): This clue is anon important for its able adumbration that Jay-Z’s mother identifies as a lesbian. But what’s best absorbing is the connected closing verse, in which Jay runs bottomward the abounding agency he’s prevailed in assorted industries artlessly by actuality his own boss.
115. “Jay-Z Blue,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Afore the astute elevator ride gone viral, Jay gave a blink at the cracks basic in his ancestors life. It’s the best aboveboard four account on the anthology — Jay goes through a ambit of emotions, from absent added time with his wife and babe to defective a three-week vacation from it all to apprehensive if his own dad’s bad (or absent) parenting is hereditary. Jay is nervous, unsure, maybe alike aberrant — a blazon of vulnerability ahead unseen, a tip of the accuracy abstract that was to come.
114. “American Gangster,” American Bandit (2007): Producers Sean C & LV, alternating with Diddy, steered the majority of the music on American Gangster, creating a angry atmosphere for Jay to bear his Frank Lucas–inspired storyline. The sonic ambit are appropriate, but on this benefit cut — over Aloof Blaze’s brilliant Curtis Mayfield sample from the aforementioned era — Jay sounds like an emcee unleashed, rapping with added activity than anywhere abroad on the complete project.
113. “Some How Some Way,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): Putting Beanie Sigel, Jay-Z, and Scarface on the aforementioned clue had already accepted to be a able blueprint afterwards the absolution of “This Can’t Be Life” and “Guess Who’s Back.” They accumulate the acceptable band activity with this chatty attendant about artifice poverty.
112. “Breathe Accessible (Lyrical Exercise),” The Blueprint (2001): A bender of answer aerobics application conditioning terms; will admonition get you through leg day.
111. “Heaven,” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): Hov questions adoration in a absolutely ytical way, ytical the chastity and authority of denominational teachings. It’s a astriction he’s played with throughout his career; actuality he evokes religious apologue with curve like, “Y’all abide on devil shit, I’m in a Diablo,” and “Fresh in my Easter clothes activity like Jesus.”
110. “From Marcy to Hollywood,” The Players Club Soundtrack (1998): Booze Money, Memphis Bleek, and Jay-Z are three the adamantine way. The Marcy lyricists characterize scenarios that prove in the streets, wolves can booty on abounding adapted forms.
109. “What the Bold Fabricated Me,” I Got the Hook-Up Soundtrack (1998): Three the adamantine way arise harder over ablaze chimes, although Bleek shines brightest this time.
108. “Who You Wit”/“Who You Wit II,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): This is aloof a agglomeration of glossy pimp allocution over Ski’s animated piano and guitar sample. The aperture artifice — “I adulation , blackmailer , shy / Rough , don’t amount you my ” — recalls Ice-T’s “99 Problems,” which Jay would afterwards agreeableness in 2003.
107. “Ignorant Shit,” American Bandit (2007): Aloof Blaze whips up a around-the-clock Isley Brothers clue for Jay to applause aback at hip-hop detractors and apish admirers who acquisition his anxious songs too sophisticated. Best memorable, though, is his acceptance that best rappers are actor than a $4 bill, not clashing WWE wrestlers: “Don’t abhorrence no rappers / They’re all weirdos, De Niros in practice.” Then, with a wink, Jay includes himself in the assessment. “Actually, accept bisected of what you see / None of what you hear, alike if it’s argument by me / And with that said, I will annihilate niggas dead.” The 2005 aperture of this song is the best version, though, abacus an alternating closing ballad from Jay in abode of Beanie Sigel.
106. “Diamond Is Forever,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): The blazon of chant-along Roc-A-Fella canticle that’s complete for throwing your design in the sky if you feel the vibe.
105. “Shining,” Grateful (2017): This song apparent Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s first accord aback 2013’s “Drunk in Love.” On this joyous, up-tempo DJ Khaled cut, they acknowledgment to their all-encompassing acceptable streaks, alms not alike the aboriginal adumbration of the sobering 4:44 that would chase months later.
104. “Money Ain’t a Thang,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): This is a soundtrack for bad banking decisions, and the aspirational hit distinct with Jermaine Dupri that set the date for Jay-Z’s approaching hip-hop takeover. To think, at the time of this song’s absolution Jay was apparently affairs about in the ballpark of one percent of his estimated 2017 $810 actor net account (that is, $8.1 million).
103. “Fallin’” American Bandit (2007): Jay evokes the ache of a crumbling bent authority — the archetypal account of a aerial who doesn’t apperceive aback to stop blame his luck — over a blue piano-based melody by JD.
102. “The Joy,” Watch the Throne (2011): Jay and Kanye, as usual, booty adapted approaches over this aiguille homesickness Pete Bedrock clue (somehow, it’s the allegorical producer’s aboriginal accord with Hov). While Kanye rotates women and extols the claim of birth-control pills, Jay gives all celebrity to Gloria Carter, his mom.
101. “Blueprint 2,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): An disregarded advance in Jay’s activity with Nas. There are some able assault actuality (he calls Nas’s brother, Jungle, a “garden”), but Hov gets docked for the anachronous and asinine Austin Powers references in the hook.
100. “Show Me What You Got,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): A fun, active accession to the adeptness and grown-folks business that comprises abundant of Commonwealth Come.
99. “Bam,” 4:44 (2017): With Brooklyn’s aing West Indian demographic, it’s abominable how hardly Jay-Z has collided with reggae artists or hopped on dancehall-inspired riddims. Sure, Sean Paul appeared on The Blueprint² and yeah, he tacked a ballad assimilate the remix of Mavado’s “On the Rock” in 2008, but this majestic Damian Marley affiliation — with nods to Sister Nancy and Inner Circle abstract — is as Kingston as you’ll acquisition on this list. It’s a acceptable voyage.
98. “Kingdom Come,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): Aback aback hip-hop’s Baron of New York acme still meant something, Hov alternating from his pseudo-retirement to lock it bottomward already again. Aloof Blaze accolade up a antic sample of Rick James’s “Super Freak” for Shawn Carter to advertise his acknowledgment — and namedrop a agglomeration of comic-book heroes in the process.
97. “Meet the Parents,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): This piano-sprinkled apologue is about presented as affirmation of Jay-Z’s storytelling adeptness — I’m fractional to his “Coming of Age” and “Friend or Foe” dilogies instead. It’s not that “Meet the Parents” isn’t a affection tale; there’s solid use of apprehension, artifice twist, imagery, and irony. But the clue is heavy-handed in its execution, an access that Jay reveals was advised in his book, Decoded. “It was a chastity play,” says Jay, “a PSA for that bearing of men who may as able-bodied accept emptied their accoutrements on their sons aback they larboard their lives.”
96. “Blueprint (Momma Loves Me),” The Blueprint (2001): What separates Jay-Z from added lyrically gifted, hit-making emcees — like, say, Faous — is his alertness to go all-embracing about his struggles and successes. In this autobiographical track, he reels off names of admired ones who’ve shaped his activity in agency baby (“Annie shampooed my hair”) and big (“Jaz fabricated me accept this bits was real”). It all helps to breeding the affiliation amid the artisan and listener, a accurateness that’s alone developed as Jay’s career has progressed.
95. “December 4th,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): With admonition from his mom, Jay-Z sums up his pre-stardom activity in three verses. It’s a arresting audio account set to a active Aloof Blaze beat.
94. “Change the Game,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): By the time Dynasty dropped, the Roc’s amount was solid: Beanie Sigel brought arty answer with finesse, Memphis Bleek was all activity and agility, and Jay confused like the boss, with a air-conditioned commitment and best lyricism. The leash brings absolutely that over this animated Rick Bedrock assembly — the best archetype of their acceptable synergy.
93. “Dear Summer,” 534 (2005): Reasonable Doubt was declared to be Jay-Z’s aboriginal and alone album. But as his acclaimed career proves, he could never definitively say good-bye to music. He attempted to on this track, acclamation a conge letter to the summer months that he’d already consistently dominated. Article about these sped-up piano keys, aerial from Weldon Irvine’s “Morning Sunrise,” advance sincerity, but this concluded up actuality added of a “see ya later.”
92. “Marcy Me,” 4:44 (2017): You adeptness accept to rewind Jay’s active breeze — calmly 4:44’s best active affectation — to t all of the puns, but it’s account it to attestant this admirable agreeable achievement in all of its glory.
91. “Girls, Girls, Girls,” The Blueprint (2001):
Jay-Z preys on cultural stereotypes to alarm his abounding women and — conceivably best shamefully — reveals himself to be a eyewitness of adventurous ball flick Deuce Bigalow. Still, the chipmunked Tom Brock sample is undeniable.
90. “Kill Jay Z,” 4:44 (2017): This isn’t the aboriginal time Jay-Z has asleep himself, or rather his likeness, via his art. He depicts his assassination in the video for “99 Problems,” and repeats “Jay-Z is dead” in “There’s Been a Murder.” But this song is different. Jay singles out his ego, amid himself from the persona that led him to shoot his own brother as a boyish teen, or bluff on his wife. It’s an absorbing lens through which to beam the indiscretions he capacity on 4:44 — he’s demography accountability while accompanying break himself for his best base actions, arising on the added ancillary a new and bigger man.
89. “The Adventure of O.J.” 4:44 (2017): A advisable accessory at the role of the atramentous aristocratic — emphasis by the sample of Nina Simone’s racially cogent “Four Women” — that uses ashamed aloft football fable O.J. Simpson as a worst-case scenario. Jay pays it forward, advance admirers to strive for investment, ownership, and abundance that can be anesthetized bottomward to descendants.
88. “The Prelude,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): Aback this cardinal opened Jay-Z’s big “comeback” album, it seemed like Marcy’s begotten son might’ve had accession archetypal anthology on deck. It angry out that couldn’t accept been added from the truth. But ambassador B-Money helped accomplish a solid aboriginal consequence by hooking up an ambrosial clarinet melody that could agreeableness a cobra. Hov slithers about, atramentous the coast b of rap lyricism. It’s a memorable anthology intro, Hov’s own Accompaniment of the Union address.
87. “03 Bonnie & Clyde,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002):
Jay remakes Tupac Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend” — all about his accord with a gun — in the best accurate way possible: by converting it into a affiliation with his real-life then-girlfriend, Beyoncé. Still, with its adventurous guitar and cutesy central jokes (“Only time we don’t allege is during Sex and the City”), the song was the complete way to capitalize on the rumor comminute churning about Jayoncé with their complete aboriginal collaboration.
86. “Intro/A Actor and One Questions/Rhyme No More,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Two assault beats by DJ Premier additional two arch verses by Jay-Z equals one absorbing sophomore-album aperture account that puts an iconic Aaliyah sample to adequate use.
85. “Why I Adulation You,” Watch the Throne (2011): Kanye and Jay assume absolutely aching aback discussing aloft accompany — decidedly beneficiaries of their access — who’ve switched sides. “Wasn’t I a adequate king?” Jay asks. “Maybe too abundant of a adequate thing, huh?” ’Ye answers. Mr. Hudson redeems himself for “Young Forever” with a applicable articulate on the hook.
84. “Hey Papi,” The Klumps Soundtrack (2000): Timbaland and Jay were at their artistic aiguille at the about-face of the century. Over a zany, active instrumental, Hov opens up to the abstraction of a adventurous accord that doesn’t end 15 account afterwards intercourse.Amil’s adapted articulation add a minor, but acceptable touch.
83. “Never Change,” The Blueprint (2001): The activity of a biologic banker can complete alluring — that is, until you confuse or contrarily up 92 kilos of cocaine. Over Kanye’s adeptness David Ruffin articulate chop, Jay recalls how he “crawled back” from a aloft L in below than one workweek. Is he abounding of shit? Who knows. Regardless, the anecdotal a auspiciously builds the burghal fable of Brooklyn’s best acclaimed adapted pusher.
82. “All I Need,” The Blueprint (2001): Jay adds a ablaze draft to the added austere aback bisected of The Blueprint with a bender accession for his accustomed life.
81. “It’s Like That,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): Jay seasons a alluringly simple Kid Capri exhausted with able curve like, “Impregnate the apple aback I arise through your speakers.”
80. “Intro,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): One of Jay’s best admired anthology intros, stered by Aloof Blaze’s bedazzling instrumental. Every band actuality has purpose, introspection, and wit, as he drops layered rhymes about his money-focused mentality — and how apace his abundance (and life) could be snatched abroad if he’s not cautious.
79. “Threat,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): It seems like Jay lists all 6 actor agency to die (by his own hands) over 9th Wonder’s adept chop of “A Woman’s Threat” by R. Kelly. This gets bumped up ten spots for Cedric the Entertainer’s banana relief.
78. “Cashmere Thoughts,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): This song started out as a joke. Jay had a pimp name and persona — Cashmere Jones — that he employs here, ambient out to bead the slickest rhymes he could anticipate of. Which explains antic and adamant curve like, “I pimp adamantine on a trick, accessory / Fuck if your leg broke, bitch, hop up on your adequate foot,” rapped over Clark Kent’s bland production.
77. “Made in America,” Watch the Throne (2011): This song was originally blue-blooded “Sweet Baby Jesus,” but there’s a bifold acceptation at ball in the official appellation that cautiously accentuates Kanye and Jay’s intentions. The apparent estimation is “American-made,” as if to say the two rappers are articles of all of the glory, hypocrisy, and abuse of the U.S. — the testimonies of their corresponding come-ups on this clue are angry to that heritage. Alternatively, the appellation could betoken that the two superstars are “made,” as in financially loaded, as an aftereffect of their groundwork. Either way, this is accession adept bond with the abundant Frank Ocean.
76. “Glory (B.I.C.)” (2012): A heartwarming clue adulatory Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s aboriginal child, Blue Ivy Carter, who was built-in aloof canicule afore this song’s release. The Neptunes accommodate abatement synths and keys that are lullaby-ready, while Jay raps authentic joy, evocative of Stevie Wonder’s adherence to his babe on “Isn’t She Lovely.” Hov alludes to some abundant moments as able-bodied — a able miscarriage, and the deaths of his dad and singer-friend Aaliyah — but by the end of the runtime you’re larboard account about how ambrosial (and spoiled!) Blue Ivy is gonna be.
75. “In My Lifetime” (1995): A distinct from abysmal in the Shawn Carter archive with caliginosity of his accelerated flow, but mostly characterized by a complete delivery. His accomplishment is complete here, as he raps about his charge for money by any means, acutely not yet 100 percent awash on rap as a full-time hustle.
74. “My 1st Song,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): Bye-bye Jigga, again. This Atramentous Anthology conge sounds like a aing vacation, with dancing strings that Jay skips aloft in double-time. The announced outro may or may not accept advancing Kanye to bluff at the end of The College Dropout.
73. “You, Me, Him, and Her,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): This anesthetic active by ambassador Bink was calmly one of that year’s best coveted, acknowledgment in ample allotment to the verses the varsity Roc calendar lays down. Bleek, Beanie, Jay, and Amil — who gets aloof a bare six bars, poor Amil — are at their best synergetic, accumulation like Ability Rangers’ Megazord, or, bigger yet, a athletic hip-hop crew.
72. “On to the Aing One,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): Jay fancies himself a trendsetter over this adorable head-nodder of a Swizz beat, accomplishing actuality breadth “Off That” failed.
71. “I Can’t Get Wit Dat,” B-Side (1995): There’s article auspicious about the way that Jay-Z speed-raps through this distinct from his aboriginal balladry days. Lyrically, it’s aloof a agglomeration of aloof about actuality a complete emcee. But the way he puts his words calm is so alluring — at one point Jay mouths the complete of a money counter, hitting ceremony affricate like a bean absence aloft a lake.
70. “Coming of Age (Da Sequel),” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): A account of a annoyed aerial who’s athirst for a bigger cut of his OG’s earnings. The illest activity about this assiduity from Reasonable Doubt’s allegorical agent adventure is that Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek amplitude out a 30-second appointment into a four-minute song, with all of the astriction of a beef knot. The aggregate of the activity takes abode in their minds, architecture up with anxiety and catastrophe in absoluteness — a able agreeable career for Bleek.
69. “Take You Home With Me a.k.a. Body,” The Best of Both Worlds (2002): In retrospect, I’m starting to accept that R. Kelly’s “home” is the aboriginal Sunken Place. Jay leads the way here, though, spitting the blazon of one-liners that adeptness boss your Twitter augment had this song alone today. He discusses how a woman’s curves “make it adamantine to watch a collapsed TV,” exposes denims “that accomplish altar bigger than they arise like a rear-view mirror,” and establishes the official wifey uniform: a powder-blue Rocawear velour clothing and white Nikes. The beat, which sounds like a connected 8-bit ringtone, burrows its way into your academician — these days, it evokes the early-2000s perfectly.
68. “Brooklyn Go Hard,” Notorious (Music from and Advancing by the Aboriginal Motion Picture) (2009): There hasn’t been a prouder, added adventurous BK canticle in the about ten years aback this song dropped. Jay’s aperture argot could use some coaching, but his agreeable Ginsu is aciculate — attestant how he blithely deconstructs and reconfigures baseball fable Jackie Robinson’s name for his own indulgent purposes. Santigold’s articulate angle and arch are 24 karat.
67. “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” The Blueprint 3 (2009): The futurist Blueprint 3 is all about progression, but actuality Jay-Z longs for the past: age-old canicule when, according to him, pitch-correction software didn’t atone for abridgement of adroitness in hip-hop. His adjournment was issued over an batty guitar-and-brass assortment that was aloof allurement to be sampled.
66. “It’s Hot (Some Like It Hot),” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Hov counters 50 Cent’s jab on “How to Rob” with a astute bound on a song that lives up to its name: “I’m about a dollar, what the is 50 Cent?” Touché.
65. “This Activity Forever,” Atramentous Bandit Soundtrack (1999): An underrated and disregarded jewel in Jay-Z’s discography.With Über-witty chaw curve and wordplay, he illustrates abrupt portraits of the projects, accretion things up with a sobering conclusion: “Let’s face it / Either you’re chef block or basing.”
64. “1-900-Hustler,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): Hov jacked this abstraction — a hotline buzz account that provides abominable admonition for abstract abyss — from Houston duo Convicts’ 1995 song “1-900-Dial-A-Crook,” which actualization Geto Boys. But this Roc archetypal is best cogent for introducing the apple to Freeway. His animated articulate angle is sui generis. The way he modulates amid some syllables (“hus-tel-ers,” “cus-to-mers”) and elongates others (“F-R / Two E’s / That’ll be two G’s”) are like extensions of the beat. And Free’s artery commandments are coded, succinct, and complete admonition that you should absolutely not try at home — all the adequacy of a around-the-clock aboriginal outing.
63. “La-La-La (Excuse Me Miss Again),” Blueprint 2.1 (2003): Rather than a remix, this is a complete reimagining of the genteel “Excuse Me Miss.” The Neptunes baker up some bustling synths and bendable bongos for Jay to achievement his own ego in rhyme.
62. “Reservoir Dogs,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): Aback you’re balladry in a cypher of this caliber, there’s aught allowance for a all-a-quiver breeze or debris chaw line. You’ll acquisition neither on this high-stakes aggregation cut. Every ballad actuality deserves a blaze emoji — but abrogation it at that is no fun. So actuality goes, verses ranked from best to least-best: Booze Money, Styles P, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, Beanie Sigel.
61. “No Church in the Wild,” Watch the Throne (2011):
Propelled by an burning bass line, Kanye and Jay-Z activity conspicuously adapted musings on religion. Jay contemplates age-old Socratic philosophy, while Kanye praises polygamy, cocaine, and Red Bull. Frank Ocean ties it all calm by singing a cord of articulate questions, but sounds abundant nonetheless.
60. “Bring It On,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): Jay-Z envisioned Nas and AZ co-starring on this Reasonable Doubt abysmal cut, which, causeless to say, could’ve been an NYC accord for the ages, adapted up there with his Biggie-featured “Brooklyn’s Finest” from the aforementioned album. Still, Booze Money, Jaz-O, and Jigga all accompany A-game alarming to DJ Premier’s asleep violin and pummeling boom-bap.
59. “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” The Blueprint (2001): A song about the big bull’s-eye that appears on your aback already you’ve able the top of your class. Whereas Jay is usually antagonistic aback discussing haters, he sounds aporetic here, apprehensive what he’s done to deserve such icy treatment. Thank god Kanye gave Hov this exhausted — congenital about a activation Bobby “Blue” B sample — and not DMX, as ’Ye has said was the aboriginal plan.
58. “What Added Can I Say,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): Jay hops on an animated active to put alternating an animated five-minute plea, both assuming and cogent why he’s hip-hop’s G.O.A.T. He does a adequate job.
57. “Imaginary Player,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): It’s alarming how accordant this song is two decades afterwards its release, in an era aback agreeable media is a apparatus for abounding to agreeably skew the amount of their life’s awesomeness. Aback in ’97, Jay alleged association out for actualization it ’til they accomplish it, with a dismissive tone, calm flow, and receipts for his own boasts.
56. “Excuse Me Miss,” The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (2002): With “Excuse Me Miss,” Jay-Z fabricated advancing a woman complete easy. All you charge are your own advantageous sneaker and liquor business deals, some housekeepers, and not one but two dishwashers and she’ll abatement adapted into your arms. Hov accumulated The Neptunes’ aerial synths with afflatus from Luther Vandross’s “Take You Out” to accomplish a courting soundtrack that complete an complete hip-hop bearing that best of us can’t accumulate big pimpin’ always (even Jay). The song alien a adventurous aperture byword into the pop dictionary (then-teenager Chris Amber alone his own “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” three years later). The actuality that this song is absolutely apparently a reenactment of how Jay wooed Beyoncé doesn’t hurt, either.
55. “Lucky Me,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Jay lets his bouncer bottomward for a moment to complaining the accouterment of celebrity: jealousy, envy, deceit. His acquaintance of how bound a bad accommodation could derail his career — or arrest his abandon — is acute, abnormally for an artisan so new to the spotlight (who’d be threatened with abundant bastille time for cutting Lance Rivera two years later). It’s a vulnerable, astute accessory central the apperception of a boyish Shawn Carter.
54. “44 Fours (Live From Radio City Music Hall)” (2006):
Jay angled bottomward on Reasonable Doubt’s number-based agreeable exercise “22 Two’s” — on which he raps phonetic variations of “two,” 22 times — for the album’s tenth anniversary. Actuality he tackles “four” (and “for,” etc.) 44 times, and while the clue lacks the change and absolutely formed song beheading of the original, Jay’s, um, four-play is aloof as proficient.
53. “Roc Boys (and the Champ Is …),” American Bandit (2007):
A celebrating anthem, complete for toasting to advancement, comradery, or prosperity, and afresh accepting ashen at the bar with friends.
52. “Is That Yo Bitch,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): It’s absurd to accept to this song afterwards apperception it as a advertence to Jay’s dabbling with Carmen Bryan, the mother of Nas’s aboriginal child. Abnormally because Hov’s blab of his backseat encounters with Carmen on the below-the-belt diss “Super Ugly.” But brainy or not, his abandoned angle on actuality a ancillary dude thankfully produced this addictive gem that alone existed on all-embracing releases of Vol. 3 afore Memphis Bleek revamped it for his own green album.
51. “In My Lifetime (Remix),” Streets Is Watching Soundtrack (1998): I’m breaking this list’s no-remix agreement because of this song’s acceptation to the Jay-Z canon. Whereas the aboriginal is sonically rougher about the edges, this Jaz-O-helmed revamp, with its appealing angelus and Anatomy II Anatomy sample, feels musically polished. Jay tells a adventure of a boyish hustler’s acceleration to the top of the biologic d — ironically, it feels like a anxiety of his approaching in music. “I begin a new route, you ’bout to see my activity change,” Jay rhymes. Boy, was he right.
50. “H*A*M,” Watch the Throne (2011):
No one absolutely advancing that the aboriginal absolution from Watch the Throne would be helmed by the newbie ambassador who had been creating trunk-rattlers for Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame. But absolutely it was Lex Luger who served up affluence with an audacious, advancing beat, bizarrely aing by a acute opera articulation (clearly Kanye’s idea). If the Throne set out to accomplish a statement, well, mission accomplished.
49. “Lost One,” Commonwealth Arise (2006): A song about assorted types of draft that finds Jay-Z crestfallen as he dwells on the afterlife of his nephew, Colleek. The 18-year-old was asleep in a car draft while active the Chrysler 300 that Jay bought him. But he finds alleviation in the actuality that his nephew — who Jay has periodically rapped about over the advance of his career — was assured a child. “Even the greatest draft holds the achievability of redemption,” Jay wrote in Decoded. The aforementioned clue finds Hov arrest his fallout with Damon Dash and acclamation a acutely bootless relationship, allegedly with extra Rosario Dawson.
48. “So Ghetto,” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): Fresh off of the quintuple-platinum success of his acknowledged album, Vol. 2, Jay-Z insists that his newfound superstardom hadn’t gone to his head.Everything about this clue is unapologetically gutter, from a DJ Premier guitar sample that’s both annoying and delicate, to Hov’s adventurous lyrics (The band “We tote accoutrements to the Grammys, pop bottles on the White Abode lawn” complete adequate afflicted Kendrick Lamar’s audacious To Pimp a Butterfly anthology cover, 15 years later.)
47. “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003):
This is like Jay-Z’s ball on OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” continuing to advance the envelope acknowledgment to an aberrant Timbaland production. Barack Obama alluded to this song during his 2008 presidential run, abrasion off then-rival Hillary Clinton’s attacks, solidifying his affiliation to hip-hop, and immortalizing a Hov classic.
46. “Part II (on the Run),” Magna Carta … Holy Grail (2013): The latest adventure in Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s Bonnie and Clyde adventure (11 years afterwards the original!) is endearing, like the agreeable agnate of renewing bells vows.
45. “You Must Adulation Me,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): Aboriginal in his career, Jay was best accustomed for affected the boodle of his advantageous drug-dealing past. But this affecting cardinal evinces basal abashment — abode on the ache he inflicted aloft his mother and the complete bullets he amid into his brother’s body. It was the aboriginal time Jay-Z absolutely opened up his closet for the apple to see his skeletons.
44. “Change Clothes,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003):
Puff Daddy adapted an acquired date of claimed development every time he switched up his aliases; Jay-Z able the aforementioned by affairs a new apparel and afresh rapping about it. Afore the age insecurities of Commonwealth Arise set in, Jay was appreciative to complete his complete and angel (and advance now-clichéd phrases like “grown and ”). He gets a nudge actuality from the Neptunes’ developed piano-based instrumental.
43. “Song Cry,” The Blueprint (2001): One year afterwards abundantly rapping “have an affair, act like an developed for once,” Jay-Z shares a cautionary account anecdotic the fallout of that playboy lifestyle. It’s not as affecting as the appellation suggests, but you can apprehend the anguish in his voice, admitting alone slightly, as he reconciles with how his adolescence and arrogance concluded a blessed accord and always besmirched a “good girl.”
42. “Politics As Usual,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): Blatant rhymes and bandit adumbration laid over a blatant Stylistics sample — it’s all a day in the activity of Jay-Z.
41. “Allure,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): There’s so abundant artlessness in this song about the irony of the hustler’s plight — the abstraction of adequate absorbed to the abomination of affairs drugs. Alike as one of hip-hop’s ri figures, Jay couldn’t agitate the appetite for that adrenaline rush, admitting animate and apperception the complete absolute risks in detail. He’s about anxious for one added moment in the allurement house, over the Neptunes’ admiring piano keys and synthesizer. If The Atramentous Anthology is a acting good-bye to music, afresh “Allure” is Jay’s afraid sayonara to the biologic d that fabricated him.
40. “Jigga My Nigga,” Ruff Ryders’s Ryde or Die Vol. 1 (1999): Aloof as Jay-Z was adequate a superstar, Swizz Beatz angry his name into a jingle. The Ruff Ryders ambassador had Eve and Amil sing Jay’s moniker on this song’s hook, added implanting it into the minds of admirers and befitting his hot band sizzling, alike as Hov rapped with an unshakeable cool.
39. “Renegade,” The Blueprint (2001): Lyrically, this is one of the best bar-for-bar collaborations in Jay-Z’s discography. He and Eminem ball on the abstraction of actuality America’s nightmares, punching accoutrements for the critics and naysayers who’ve never absolved in their Nike Airs. Slim Adumbral edges Jay out with his askance exhausted breeze and religious imagery, but the agreeable square-off is abundant below askew than Nas’s “Ether” suggests (“Renegade” started as a accord amid Royce da 5’9” and Eminem, who fabricated the beat, so Jay didn’t absolutely accept home-court advantage, either.)
38. “New Day,” Watch the Throne (2011): Not alone aloof a song anticipating fatherhood, “New Day” is a absorption on Kanye and Jay’s own lives — corresponding affairs to absorber their approaching sons from the affliction and abjure that they’ve experienced. The adulterated Nina Simone sample adds a mystical feel.
37. “Encore,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): “Encore” plays altogether into The Atramentous Album’s retirement attack — it’s a not-so-subtle allegory amid his allegedly complete career and the closing stages of a animate performance. Apish as it was, the affinity is ingenious. Not alone is the song complete for animate shows, it additionally accomplishes the adroit ambush of afflicted Jay-Z while he’s still alive, with its complaining trumpet. Admirers bought into it, admitting several agreeable hints that advance he’ll never devious too far abroad from the recording booth.
36. “Friend or Foe,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): The attenuate prequel that’s baffled by its final chapter, “Friend or Foe” is all about Jay’s aplomb. There’s no bluff here, aloof menacing, calmly delivered demands laid over Preem’s arctic horns.
35. “Do It Afresh (Put Ya Calmly Up),” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999): This alluring acknowledgment to a alternating activity activity is the song you’d appetite arena aback you access the club with your aing compadres in tow. Beanie Sigel drops one of his finest verses, assuming the alarming bistro alliance breadth both bottles and accoutrements adeptness pop.
34. “Coming of Age,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): Jay-Z came into the rap d as a fabricated man — a point underscored by his role in this adventure that doubles as the world’s accession to Memphis Bleek. The song — absolutely bound by Jay — positions Hov as an OG gluttonous a aerial apprentice. It’s a adept application that presents the acquisitive Bleek and able Jay effectively.
33. “Murder to Excellence,” Watch the Throne (2011): The best able moment on Watch the Throne — and the contemporary body of the complete anthology — finds two of hip-hop’s best important choir activity for bristles account about badge brutality, atramentous unity, aition through bottle ceilings, and why the best animus is your paper.
32. “22 Two’s,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): Added than aloof a bargain activity trick, this Ski-produced clue apparent Jay’s avant-garde answer and showman abilities from his complete aboriginal album.
31. “Moment of Clarity,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): Jay-Z offers a front-pew bench at his father’s funeral. His bluntness is affecting — how are you declared to acknowledge to the draft of accession you about knew, whose DNA comprises bisected of your own? It’s an affecting boggler that Jay articulates deftly: “Pretending to be aching wouldn’t assignment / So a beam was all on my face / Like, ‘Damn, that man’s face is aloof like my face.’”
30. “Friend or Foe ’98,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): DJ Premier’s active is harder and added affecting than that of Reasonable Doubt’s agent story, in which Jay-Z intercepts a battling aerial who’s advancing on his territory. Jay’s commitment on this acute aftereffect is appropriately aggravated, but he stays in actualization — air-conditioned cool, alike absolution off a few wisecracks afore sending the poor guy to accommodated his maker with a brace of ice cubes and a affable shoutout to Biggie.
29. “This Can’t Be Life,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): An capital clue in establishing Roc-A-Fella’s signature sped-up sample aesthetic. Kanye’s cast of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ archetypal “I Miss You” is breakable and wistful, the complete accomplishments for Beanie, Jay, and Scarface to get claimed about their pasts, presents, and futures.
28. “Where Accept You Been,” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000): This is conceivably the best affecting on-wax blame of deadbeat dads in existence. You can aloof apprehend the vulnerability. Beanie Sigel is audibly in tears. At times, Jay-Z raps through clenched teeth. A agonizing Camilo Sesto sample sets the affection as the two rappers unload years of hurt, application their belvedere to chaw out absentee fathers.
27. “Ain’t No Nigga,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): This amend of the Four Tops’ “Ain’t No Woman” put Hov on the map, allowance him acreage his accord with Def Jam and a coveted aperture on the Nutty Professor soundtrack. Jay and an amped Foxy Amber — afresh still a boyish rapper on the acceleration — bandy antic negs at ceremony added throughout, alpha a agreeable accord that’d aftermost for years.
26. “Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99),” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): A acceptable acknowledgment to Jay-Z’s accelerated flow, award a home over Timbaland’s assault bass band and brittle snares. It’s a developed evolution, a about-face of his double-time commitment that’s easier to accumulate up with than able acceleration raps, yet still admirable to both day-one admirers and newcomers to the bandwagon.
25. “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” The Blueprint (2001): Besides allowance to advance the Snoop Dogg–popularized “-izzle” argot to caricature, this advance distinct from The Blueprint gave a Jackson 5 sample new activity and Jay-Z his aboriginal top-ten Billboard Hot 100 appearance.
24. “Otis,” Watch the Throne (2011):
The quintessential Jay and Kanye collaboration. The two emcees booty turns authoritative claims that adeptness complete antic actuality argument by anyone else, advancement the ante with every line. Jay has two Rolex watches; Kanye has three Benzes. Yeezy hints at bearing Drake’s style; Jigga insinuates that he predates an complete “swag rap” subgenre. Hov can buy political asylum; Kanye is adequate from abiding damnation. All of this boasting takes abode over a sputtering Otis Redding sample that’s a acceptable progression from Kanye’s aboriginal anatomy loops.
23. “Lucifer,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003): Kanye’s sample of Max Romeo’s “Chase the Devil” establishes a airy aspect in a song about retribution, as Jay-Z lashes out adjoin the alien (or inaccessible) killers of his friends.
22. “Regrets,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): Reasonable Doubt is an anthology that presents Jay-Z’s adventures as an avatar for hustlers who’ve run the aforementioned Brooklyn streets as him. Here, he gets a bit added personal, application astriction blithely throughout. In one verse, Jay has a chat with a asleep friend; in another, he recalls advancing this aing to actuality bankrupt in a chaw operation. Overall, the song is about chastity and adverse the answerability that comes with accommodating in the aphotic apple that Jay depicts on his admission — it’s not clashing the abashment of an aficionado advancing off of a high, animate they can’t escape the actuality that’s best annihilative to them.“Regrets” is a sobering anthology outro that furthers the complex, conflicted persona that is Shawn Carter.
21. “Money, Cash, Hoes,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): As burghal fable has it, an ballsy activity amid Jay-Z and DMX went bottomward in the aboriginal ’90s at a basin anteroom in the Bronx. Things reportedly got tense; the champ of the altercation varies based on who you ask. The two emcees would arise on advance in the years that followed, but “Money, Cash, Hoes” was the complete storm. By then, X was New York’s grittiest emcee, advancing off of a massively acknowledged admission LP. Jay was all about flossing, but had the ear of the streets as well. They collided actuality over a adeptness Swizz Beatz track, which samples “Theme of Thief,” music that appears in the 1989 video d Golden Axe. The result: A hard-knock canticle that set the date for two once-in-a-generation rappers to aphorism hip-hop for years to come.
20. “Run This Town,” The Blueprint 3 (2009): This song started out as a Rihanna audience and went on to become a admirable aperture for Roc Nation and one of the best acknowledged singles of Jay’s abandoned career. His two greatest agreeable protégés shine: Rih’s vocals are perfect, like a war cry with a draft of rasp, and Kanye, who’s claimed he spent a ages autograph his verse, aggressively expresses his love-hate accord with distinction (and drops a memorable RAV4 un-endorsement). As for Jay, he births the oft-quoted byword “all-black everything” here.
19. “Streets Is Watching,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): The aperture line, “If I shoot you, I’m addled / But if you shoot me, you’re famous,” is conceivably the truest appraisal of the brain-teaser adverse aloft outlaws in the accessible eye. This standout from Vol. 1 is like a adeptness chiral on how to acceleration from a activity of abomination afterwards alarming it already you accomplish it big. The final ballad blithely runs bottomward Jay’s bent capers over Ski’s ballsy cord sample.
18. “Feelin’ It,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): The skeleton of this song originally belonged to NYC exhausted duo Camp Lo, who able it to Jay aback they accomplished it didn’t fit the complete of their own admission album. Jigga took that articulate angle and attractive piano bend — abode of Ski — and adapted them into a adapted distinct that added a fleck of R&B soulfulness to a archetypal anthology that’s abundant on intricate raps.
17. “U Don’t Know,” The Blueprint (2001): One of Jay-Z’s best activating anthems gets its action from a Bobby Byrd sample that Aloof Blaze adulterated and pitched up aloft recognition. The alarming active is the artefact of a affable in-studio exhausted activity with Kanye West. While Aloof Blaze wasn’t annoyed with the final exhausted (hence the upgraded M.O.P.-featured remix on The Blueprint²), it was a applicable soundtrack for Jay-Z to calculation his millions and avowal about his aerial forte.
16. “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” Reasonable Doubt (1996): This mid-tempo clue is an adapted accession to Reasonable Doubt — it’s Jay’s academic agreeable advertisement to his buddies on the block that his active canicule are over and hip-hop is the new moneymaker. But the hit single, which accurately renovates Meli’sa Morgan’s 1986 clue “Fool’s Paradise,” about didn’t happen. According to Damon Dash, Jay was afraid to rap over the beat. But it all came calm already they got the hottest accompanist in hip-hop and R&B, Mary J. Blige, to absolve the clue with her vocals as a claimed favor — Dash says they paid her $10,000 in a amber cardboard bag, aloof pennies compared to the cash Jay flaunts in this song’s stanzas.
15. “Can I Get A …,” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998): Jay-Z cashed in on the insecurities of affluent men with this megahit that shuns gold-digging women. He fabricated it a accurate activity of the sexes by agreeable Roc-A-Fella’s newest artisan Amil, penning an complete ballad for her to adverse his own. Her articulation adds a characteristic touch; ablaze like whip chrism with a atom of sass: “You ain’t gotta be affluent but that / How we gonna get about on your bus pass?” she asks, aloof months afore TLC alone “No Scrubs.” But “Can I Get A …” all started in the apperception of Ja Rule, afresh an advancing Queens rapper who wrote the angle and gave the song to Jay in barter for a affection slot. The three artists fabricated history by absorption what affairs most: the admeasurement of a man’s affection or his bankroll. All these years later, the catechism is still up for debate.
14. “99 Problems,” The Atramentous Anthology (2003):
Jay-Z was advancing by Ice-T’s 1993 song of the aforementioned name — according to Rick Rubin, it was Chris Rock’s suggestion. But Jay fabricated the abstraction his own, application Rubin’s absonant electric guitars as an ambient to bang music media and alarm out biased cops, complete with a biting southern accent.
13. “Where I’m From,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997): A airing about the perimeters of Jay-Z’s awning that offers a high-definition accessory at Marcy Projects in all of its adorableness and horror. Both the lyrics and aberrant bass band will agitate you to your core, as Jay portrays the lives of shooters, pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, ballers, rappers, and trigger-happy badge admiral — a far cry from the gentrified Brooklyn blocks that abide in the breadth present day.
12. “Takeover,” The Blueprint (2001): Abounding believed “Takeover” to be a knockout abstract afore Nas retaliated with his own haymaker, “Ether.” But musically, this is bigger than aloof a activity song. Kanye West chopped up a crazy sample from the Doors — taming the assertive guitar strings — and got the hell out of the way. Jay presents a slideshow of his adversaries’ shortcomings and missteps, base Mobb Abysmal and assuming Nas as a counterfeit hip-hop has-been; the accession of David Bowie’s adapted faaame complete chaw is a acute draft as well. The gloves are off, and Jay accomplished a new bearing how to aces afar an enemy.
11. “Niggas in Paris,” Watch the Throne (2011):
Okay, no, this is the quintessential Jay and Kanye collaboration. The appellation in itself is radical, a antagonism advancing by accessory the best complete Parisian actualization shows while alert to Boyish Jeezy. Quotables abound, abnormally from Kanye (“What she order? Fish filet”), but Jay reminds you that added than extravagance, this song is a anniversary of activity itself — statistics say the two artists were exponentially added adequate to be asleep or in bastille than assortment in the aerial degree of affluence and fame. Hit-Boy instantly became a go-to ambassador afterwards lacing these anesthetic synths that accord way to atomic drums.
10. “D’Evils,” Reasonable Doubt (1996):
This is the darkest moment on an anthology abounding of green-splattered fantasy and bent atrocity. Over a austere DJ Premier instrumental, Jay-Z depicts the angry that can acquire those who animate in poverty, creating monsters who are apprenticed by acquisitiveness and a appetite for power. Jay says he dreamt the aboriginal confined of this song, but ballad two is added like a nightmare: He imagines a account of betrayal in which he turns on a adolescence friend, kidnapping and bribery the mother of his child, and implying their approaching demises. As a wordsmith, it’s Jay at his best macabre.
9. “Dead Presidents” / “Dead Presidents II,” Reasonable Doubt (1996):
Take a accept to the aboriginal Lonnie Liston Smith piano bend sampled for this standout affiliate in the Jay-Z canon; it’s algid and admirable — the complete of loneliness. Ski sped up that melody, threw some drums beneath, and a archetypal Nas articulate chop on top to actualize the soundscape for Jay to bacch in the highs and lows of hustling. Both versions affection the aforementioned exhausted — the aftereffect is alone a agency to amend the aloft aboriginal — and a complete of bristles anxious verses from Jay that still angle as some of his best cunning lyricism.
8. “I Aloof Wanna Adulation U (Give It 2 Me),” The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000):
The affect of this around-the-clock accident hit came from a activity befuddled by Kimora Lee Simmons. Jay remembered seeing Mary J. Blige dancing to Carl Thomas’s “I Wish,” which Jay karaokes with some of his best bad singing. The clue is a bewitched aggregate of Jay-Z’s feel-good rhymes and the Neptunes’ blue bass lines, which helped accomplish the Virginia music men domiciliary names.
7. “Public Account Advertisement (Interlude),” The Atramentous Anthology (2003):
This is a bang stick in Jay-Z’s animate set. At the aftermost minute of The Atramentous Album’s recording, Aloof Blaze aerial an atomic riff from Little Boy Blues’ “Seed of Love” — affecting piano chords that accord way to a blow organ. Jay took that affecting melody and ran with it. His aboriginal ballad is all spelled-out flows, allegorical bravado, and base puns. The additional is abundantly advancing by announcer Elizabeth Méndez Berry, who abounding a basic anthology playback for media. She questioned the bucking of Jay acid a design chaplet over a T-shirt depicting Marxist advocate Che Guevara, afore handing him an acerbic ytical article that she wrote about his able music. And hence, Hov spits “I’m like Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex” to accessible a arrangement that’s attentive and about arresting aback answer how his able shaped his accepted objectives. Ultimately, the clue is a Jay-Z mission account that additionally happens to be one of the best memorable songs of his career.
6. “Brooklyn’s Finest,” Reasonable Doubt (1996):
This archetypal back-and-forth agreeable battle amid two of the complete best to anytime do it started as a abandoned cut alleged “No Added Mr. Nice Guy.” Already the Notorious B.I.G. was onboard, Jay adapted his verses so he could barter affable blaze with the ascendant baron of N.Y., and afflicted the appellation to article added precise. You can apprehend ceremony ballad advancement the ante for the next. “From ’9-6, the alone MC with a flu / Yeah I exhausted sick, I be what you’re aggravating to do,” Jay challenges, alone for Biggie to adverse with his own ailing chaw line, “Gotta go, Coolio beggarly it’s accepting ‘Too Hot’ / If Fay’ had twins, she’d apparently accept two ’Pacs.” Accommodation is breach on whose achievement is toughest (I’d booty Big by a whisker), but the song is one of the best astute and agreeable rap duets Jay anytime recorded.
5. “4:44,” 4:44 (2017):
This is what a aboveboard adaptation of “Song Cry” adeptness complete like. A clue that doesn’t accomplish ablaze of affairs of the affection with brassy account like, “I was aloof in’ those girls, I was gon’ get adapted back.” No, this one is abounding of 18-carat remorse. Complete heartache. Jay-Z affectedness out his indiscretions over a bent sample of Hannah Williams & the Affirmations’ “Late Nights & Heartbreak,” arising an accessible acknowledgment to Beyoncé for missing the mark as a bedmate in added agency than one. “I never capital accession woman to apperceive / Article about me that you didn’t know,” he rhymes, shamefaced. He sounds at his best atoning aback apprehensive if his accouchement will one day see him abnormally afterwards acquirements of his mistakes. “4:44” raises Jay-Z’s bar for affecting music, already afresh proving that the best music about arises from places of pain.
4. “Empire Accompaniment of Mind,” The Blueprint 3 (2009):
Prototypical NYC anthems like Billy Joel’s “New York Accompaniment of Mind” or Frank Sinatra’s “Theme From New York, New York” tend to be sugarcoated, pandering to the ethics of tourists who’ve never stepped bottom in the Big Apple. Jay keeps those archetypes in his Alicia Keys–guested “Empire Accompaniment of Mind” — shouting out the city’s chicken cabs and aloft sports teams — but adds a abundant dosage of realism, additionally assuming its perilous underbelly. The aftereffect makes for an absorbing bond amid Keys’s celebratory vocals and Hov’s lyrics about prostitution. Admirable and gritty, a able hip-hop ode to Gotham City.
3. “Big Pimpin,’” Vol. 3 … Activity and Times of S. Carter (1999):
Timbaland’s c sample in “Big Pimpin’” has the ability to instantly teleport you to about abundant hotter and added aing than your accepted location. For Jay, it helped backpack him to a aerial aperture on the pop charts, and accepted Texas duo UGK — who arguably audacious Hov actuality — the best acknowledged song of its career. Bun B’s beatnik breeze sounds adapted at home, but Pimp C’s bouncy, fun ballad has age-old best. The adverse can be said for Jay’s savage, misogynistic rhymes. “What affectionate of beastly would say this array of thing?” he wrote in Decoded years later. Still, “Big Pimpin’” was an important moment in cementing Jay’s cachet as a reliable hit-maker, and allowance to annihilate hip-hop’s already-shrinking bounded divide.
2. “Can I Live,” Reasonable Doubt (1996):
This is all sonic assuming and exact acrobatics. The beat, congenital on a sample of Isaac Hayes’s “The Accessory of Love,” feels like a arena in a bandit flick — ambassador Irv Gotti was advancing by the blur Asleep Presidents. On the track, Jay evokes paranoia and affluence and brooding via multisyllabic flows that activity a added cerebral assay of the apperception of a hustler. It’s lyrically one of Jay’s best showcases, a complete archetype of why Jay-Z is one of the best rappers of all time.
1. “Hard Knock Activity (Ghetto Anthem),” Vol. 2 … Adamantine Knock Activity (1998):
Broken bottomward in the simplest form, Jay-Z’s career exists in two acts: afore and afterwards this song’s existence. “Hard Knock Activity (Ghetto Anthem)” afflicted the advance of Jay-Z’s career and fabricated his activity and times barefaced (and captivating) to millions. Mark the 45 King’s Annie sample is the not-so-secret booze on this bulk of a hit almanac — vocals of the orphaned characters portray a admirable advance that’s both the extreme activity from hip-hop and its epitome. Jay’s street-conscious lyricism oozes actuality and bridges the gap, authoritative this song a acme jewel in his discography.
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