Jay-Z is one of the most essential hip hop artists of all time. Hova has rightly established himself as one of the hip hop legends with a plethora of influential albums. As well as being the husband of Beyonce, it is in the studio that Jay really put his own spin on the rap game.
Unlike many other hip hop artists before him, Jay-Z made sure that his albums weren’t hit singles with a few fillers; they were bodies of work, pieces of art set to be discussed for decades. But, like hit singles, they have sold millions of records.
Announcing himself in 1996 with his debut LP Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z has become the foreword in class and showmanship. His rhymes are silky, visually engaging and underpinned by Hova’s natural flow. Never afraid to take a creative leap, there’s no doubt that Jay-Z will be a legendary name in the rap game forevermore. If for no other reason than he is one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Born Shawn Corey Carter in 1969, the writing was on the wall for Jay at an early stage in his career. The rapper founded his label Roc-A-Fella in 1995 before he later released his debut LP a year later. It showed that while easily considered one of the greatest rappers of his generation, above all else, Jay was a businessman as well as an artist. In his albums, he gets to showcase both with a rare simplicity that few can match.
With a career that reaches back across three decades, it can be hard to know exactly where Jay’s career crescendoes; perhaps it hasn’t quite reached that point? But, below, we’re trying to lend a helping hand by providing you with a definitive reflection of his most precious asset—his albums.
Below, we’ve got the best-selling albums of Jay-Z’s entire career.
Jay-Z’s best-selling album:
Vo. 2… Hard Knock Life is Jay-Z’s best-selling album n the US, delivering a whopping 5.4 million record sales, going Platinum five times.
There’s never much doubt about the best albums of Jay’s canon but it’s not very often that the best album translates into the highest-selling albums. But, 1998’s Hard Knock Life sees Jay reign supreme as one of the most gifted lyricists of his generation.
This record launched Jay into a whole new realm and made him a bonafide household name. Considering he had planned to have retired by this point, we’re very glad he had a change of heart. ‘Ride or Die’ and ‘It’s Like That’ aren’t just Mase clapbacks but perfect reasons for how Jay became the greatest.
Jay-Z’s worst-selling album:
4:44 is Jay-Z’s worst-selling album in the US, managing to achieve only a rather party number of 399,000 records sold. Of course, we must consider the streaming patterns of consumers; it still strikes a chord that one of Jay’s most personal albums is regarded as one of his weakest.
There’s always a worry that your heroes won’t know when to quit, and with Jay nudging his career over the 20-year mark, there was a severe fear that 4:44, his most recent record, could fall flat on its face. Following Beyonce’s landmark album Lemonade on which she accurately detailed both Jay’s infidelity and their combined path to happiness, the rapper had only one choice but to respond. While Jay is always at his best when in his sauce and sophisticated demeanour, on this one, he is open and honest, gratefully passing on his apologies in this love letter.
Jay-Z’s total album sales
Jay-Z has sold a huge 27,337,000 albums across his career.
Unlucky for some, across 13 different feature-length albums, Jay-Z has amassed a critical and commercial following that is largely unmatched. Going Platinum over 20 times, Jay-Z has a serious discography.
Of course, these numbers are only for the studio albums, discounting many of the live albums and mixtapes that have littered Jay’s career. Below, you can find a full playlist of everything Jay-Z has ever released. It’s a powerful reminder of his impressive canon.