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The 10 best Jay-Z songs of all time

Jay-Z is the second wealthiest man in hip hop, 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.  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 The 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

Surrounded by hip hop music since his school days, Carter surprisingly did not immediately gravitate towards music as he saw it as a long-term investment and wanted quick money. Instead, during the late 1980s, Carter sold crack cocaine to earn quick money but still remained connected to local Brooklyn artists such as Jaz-O, The Notorious BIG and Big Daddy Kane. Carter Jaz-O’s protege and ended up becoming Big Daddy Kane’s hype-man. He went on to feature on his track ‘Show and Prove’ from Kane’s 1994 album Daddy’s Home.

Having built a small buzz as Big Daddy Kane’s hype-man and frequent collaborator, Jay-Z remained relatively anonymous until he founded Roc-A-Fella Records alongside Dame Dash. Through his local Brooklyn school connections, Jay-Z landed a 1996 collaboration with The Notorious B.I.G. for his debut album Reasonable Doubt, which he released through his label.

Although the album only peaked at number 23 on the billboard 200, it is now looked at as a classic.  Jay-Z then went on to release an album in 1998, Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life, and continued to prosper, while constantly bringing new talent into the Roc-A-Fella fold. The album 1998 went on to win a Grammy Award.

This is when Jay-Z’s musical career began, and he became the Jay-Z we know today. Some people would describe it as luck. However, Carter capitalised on the few connections he had to grow his musical and business network. It is often said your network is your net worth and by continuously investing in new talent and collaborating with producers and artists that were the next big thing, Hov maintained a consistent relevancy across the years. 

Jay-Z has produced 13 studio albums and has won a grand total of 21 Grammy awards however, below, we have selected the rapper’s top ten songs of all time.

The 10 best Jay-Z songs of all time:

  • ‘Dead Presidents II’, (1996)
  • ‘Hard Knock Life’, (1998)
  • ‘Big Pimpin’, (1999)
  • ‘Take Over’, (2001)
  • ’03 Bonnie & Clyde’, (2002)
  • ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’, (2003)
  • ‘Show Me What You Got’, (2006)
  • ‘On To The Next One’, (2009)
  • ‘Otis’, (2011)
  • ‘Story of O.J’ (2017)