The song Jay-Z said “felt like cinema”
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The song Jay-Z said "felt like cinema"

Jay-Z has made many great tracks during his career. From ‘Public Service Announcement’ to ‘Marcy Me’, the Brooklyn native (real name Shawn Carter) never fails to deliver quality music for his fans.

That said, his debut album often gets overlooked. Although it wasn’t his most commercially successful, it has since become a cult classic, and many younger Jay-Z fans frequently go back to see where the tycoon began his musical journey.

The body of work boasts many great tracks, such as ‘Dead Presidents II’ and ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ featuring Biggie Smalls. However, one song that has lasted the test of time is Can’t Knock The Hustle’ alongside vocalist Mary J Blige.

The Knobody-produced song hears Carter speak about life growing up in the Marcy Houses of Bedford-Stuyvesant and how he survived selling drugs to support his single mother, Gloria Carter. Jay’s heartfelt lyrics detail how his late father left him and his siblings, and the verses paint a vivid picture of how the hood made him a tenacious businessman.

The single featuring Blige opened the album and was Jay’s chance to make an excellent first impression, and he did. The track was not a commercial smash but landed at number seven on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs Chart, and heads immediately turned.

It has previously been unveiled that due to the informal nature of the album’s recording, Jay-Z gave Blige $10,000 in a brown paper bag. However, Jay-Z has revealed other things about the song.

In an interview with NPR, Carter explained the meaning of the track, clarifying, Jay-Z explained the song’s meaning: “It sounds like I’m saying, you can’t knock my hustle, but who I was talking to was the guys on the street because rap was my hustle and like, at the time street – the streets was my job.”

The video for ‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’ was Jay’s first collaboration with the iconic Hype Williams. In a conversation with Complex about the song’s visuals, Carter stated, “‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’ felt like cinema! We also have to talk about Malik [Haseen Sayeed], the cinematographer Hype worked with. The cinematography was just so beautiful, and the way it was shot it just elevated it to another level.”

Speaking about the funds he had available, Jay recalled, “We weren’t spending that sort of money then to finish the pyrotechnics. So when the limousine blows up it’s really janky, you know. But the vision and the cinematography was just beautiful and his eye was just different.”