Jay-Z has a wide array of hits and multi-platinum projects. From ‘Hard Knock Life’ to ‘Dirt Of Your Shoulder’, the Brooklyn emcee (real name Shawn Carter) is known for producing anthems, one of which is ’99 Problems’, which appeared on The Black Album.
Released in 2003, Jay-Z declared The Black Album would be his final project of all time. That said, he recruited the best producers in hip-hop to work on the album. From Kanye West to Pharrell and Timbaland, every big-hitting producer had a track on the project. However, Jay-Z didn’t just utilise the hottest beatmakers of the 2000s. He also called upon legends from the 1980s and 1990s, including the legendary Rick Rubin.
Rubin, who was involved with Run-DMC and founded Def Jam Records alongside Russell Simmons, is known for his hard-hitting rock-infused beats and the Long Island native is an exceptional beatmaker who managed to marry the two sounds perfectly for Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems.’
For his 2003 project, Carter sought to encapsulate every era of hip-hop in the project and considering Rubin was the powerhouse producer behind LL Cool J, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, Carter knew Rubin was the perfect person to integrate the sound of the 1980s into his album.
Making sure to employ his old production style, Rubin used some classic ’80s sample staples, including, ‘The Big Beat’ by Billy Squier, ‘Long Red’ by Mountain, and ‘Get Me Back On Time’ by Wilson Pickett.
However, concerning the song’s lyrics, Jay-Z borrowed his style from two figures. The chorus was an interpolation of Ice-T’s single ’99 Problems’ from the 1993 album Home Invasion, but the first four bars of the track were taken from a Bun B song called ‘Touched’. Many people don’t know this, and in an interview with Talib Kweli on his People’s Party podcast, Bun B said he wasn’t too bothered by people not knowing.
Elaborating on his indifference, the Texas rapper stated, “I feel like enough people know, but I don’t feel like it’s that big of a deal, though. I would call it mutual respect more than anything, and we do this a lot in hip-hop.” You can watch Bun B speak about the track in the video below.