Jay-Z is the wealthiest man in hip hop (now that Kanye’s net worth has dropped), and since 1995, Hov has been bringing us quality music. From Reasonable Doubt to 4:44, the Brooklyn rapper has been around since the days of Big Daddy Kane and Biggie Smalls. As one of the first artists from the genre to achieve billionaire status, Hov (real name Shawn Carter) is considered to be one of the best rappers of all time.
Born and raised in the drug-infested Marcy Projects, a public housing scheme located in Bedford-Stuyvesant of Brooklyn, Carter was raised by his mother. Brooklyn was a musical hotspot during the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially for hip hop. As an adolescent, Carter attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School along with rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes.
In 1995 Jay-Z, along with Dame Dash, created Roc-A-Fella Records to release his debut album, Unreasonable Doubt, and since then, Jay-Z has dominated hip hop. With his final musical endeavour being his 2017 album, 4:44, Jay-Z’s rap career was around 22 years in length.
With his undeniably prolific career lasting over two decades. In this article, we’re going to look at his ten best music videos of all time.
The 10 best Jay-Z music videos of all time:
10. ’99 Problems’ (2003)
’99 Problems’ was released as the third single for Jay-Z’s eighth project The Black Album. With a hard-rock edge, the 2003 single lyrically interpolated Ice-T’s ’99 Problems’ from his 1993 album, Home Invasion. Produced by Rick Rubin, Carter called upon 1980s legend to help him achieve the old-school New York boom-bap sonics that he had grown up listening to.
For this single, Rubin utilised multiple tracks to create the instrumental, including, ‘The Big Beat’ by Billy Squier, ‘Long Red’ by Mountain, and ‘Get Me Back On Time’ by Wilson Pickett. The music video was filmed by Joaquín Baca-Asay and directed by Mark Romanek. It was recorded across several locations, including Marcy Houses, the Brooklyn Bridge and Flushing Avenue.
9. ‘Excuse Me Miss’ ft Pharrell (2002)
This 2002 track was one of many that Jay-Z made alongside the iconic Virginia production duo The Neptunes. One of Carter’s smoother singles, ‘Excuse Me Miss’ was released as the third single for his seventh studio album, The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse. With flanged strings and additional vocals from Pharrell, the single debuted at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.
Directed by Little X and produced by Ericka Danko, the video follows Jay-Z’s mafioso aesthetic and features Carter in a leather chair smoking a cigar. The video’s primary focus is a party that sees Jay-Z and Pharrell wearing tailored suits, as well as females wearing fur coats and haute-couture. The thematic focus is on wealth.
8. ‘Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)’ ft Amil Beanie Sigel (1999)
This track was the lead single of Jay’s 1999 album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. Produced by the iconic East Coast beatmaker Rockwilder, the song sees Jay promote two of his labelmates, his close friend Beanie Sigel and his failed female protégé Amil. The latter would later be dropped from Roc-A-Fella and would be succeeded by billionaire pop star Rihanna.
Directed by David Meyers and produced by Tom Fanning, the video of this 1999 single sees a pre-mafioso, Jay-Z. Prior to his 2001 album, The Blueprint, Carter had a quintessentially New York aesthetic, including baggy trousers, leather baseball jackets and Timbaland boots. The visuals for this song see him and his counterparts take over a club as VIP.
7. ‘Money, Cash, Hoes’ ft DMX (1998)
Released as the third single for Carter’s third album Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, the Swizz Beatz-produced track, features the late Yonkers rapper DMX as well as Beanie Sigel and Jay-Z’s childhood friend and protégé Memphis Bleek. This pure New York track was featured on the soundtrack for the movie The Corruptor. Swizz sampled a sound effect from the 1989 Sega video game Golden Axe for the instrumental.
Malik Sayeed directed the music video and sees Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek deliver their verses in a dystopian, dungeonesque room. However, the video is interwoven with scenes from the movie based in New York. As such, the video also features a lot of B-roll footage of the city.
6. ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ (2003)
One of Jay-Z’s most legendary tracks, ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ was one of the big hits of Carter’s 2003 project, The Black Album. Produced by Timbaland, the song was released as the second single for the body of work and was certified two times platinum by the RIAA.
The steely visuals were directed by Dave Meyers. The music video features Jay-Z wearing all black throughout and a cool blue filter creating an industrial look across the entire video. Filmed in New York, some special effects see the viewer transported through a microphone and out of the radio.
5. ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’ (2001)
‘Izzo’ is one of Jay-Z’s catchiest tracks of the 2000s, featuring a sample of ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5. Produced by Kanye West, the song was recorded at Baseline Studios in 2000. ‘Izzo’ was released as the lead single of The Blueprint.
Dave Meyers directed the music video and sees cameos from Beyonce, Nelly, Biggs and Damon Dash. Although ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A)’ was the album’s lead single, it wasn’t the first track from the album released to radio. The infamous Jay-Z diss-track ‘Takeover’ was the first album cut given to radio
4. ‘I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me)’ (2000)
Another Hov track that was made alongside the iconic Virginia production duo The Neptunes, ‘I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me)’ is a legendary song most known for Pharrell’s chorus “I’m A Hustler Baby!” The track was another single released before Carter’s mafioso era.
Directed by David Meyers, the visuals for ‘I Just Wanna Love You’ sees cameos from rappers Lil’ Kim, Lil’ Cease, Damon Dash, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek. The love track inspired Britney Spears to work with The Neptunes in the early-2000s.
3. ‘Big Pimpin’ ft UGK (1999)
Produced by Timbaland, this track sampled ‘Khosara Khosara’, an instrumental flute piece performed by Hossam Ramzy. For ‘Big Pimpin’, Carter called on the Texas rap duo UGK. Comprised of Pimp C and Bun B, the track provided their first big breakthrough. Although Pimp C didn’t initially want to record the track, it eventually peaked at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received platinum certification making it UGK’s most successful track ever.
Directed by the iconic Hype Williams, the music video for Big Pimpin was shot in Trinidad during its Carnival and sees Bun B and Jay-Z partying on a lavish, luxurious-looking yacht. Pimp C’s verse was filmed in Miami Beach, Florida.
2. ‘Show Me What You Got’ (2006)
From the rapper’s 2006 self-proclaimed comeback album Kingdom Come, ‘Show Me What You Got’ was released as the lead single for the project. Produced by Just Blaze, the high-energy song samples the classic b-boy anthem by John Pate, ‘Shaft In Africa’, as well as ‘Darkest Light’ by the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band.
The track’s iconic music video, directed by F. Gary Gray, was made to mirror several James Bond films and features scenes that see Carter in a car chase, a speed boat chase, and a high-stakes card game. Referencing Golden Eye, You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale. The video features Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and was an integral part of Carter’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ champagne rollout. The video was filmed in Monaco and parts of Southern France.
1. ‘No Church In The Wild’ ft Kanye West & Frank Ocean (2012)
‘No Church In The Wild’ could arguably be named one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time. The instrumental (produced by Kanye West) is dramatic, tense and ultimately suits Jay-Z very well. Featuring the smooth vocals of Frank Ocean, ‘No Church In The Wild’ was one of the seven singles released for Jay-Z and Kanye’s collaborative megaproject, Watch The Throne.
Put out in 2012, the music video for this single was filmed in the Czech Republic, with the majority of filming taking place around Prague’s Jan Palach Square and National Theatre, as well as near their Škoda Palace. The video depicts a riot between civilians and police with Molotov cocktails and more. Directed by the well-known cinematographer Romain Gavras the drama-filled visuals watch like a movie.