The Three Jay’s: Jay-Z Throughout The Years In His Own Words

Remember “The Three Daves” episode from the 2nd season of The Chappelle Show? If not, in the hilarious episode, Dave acted as himself from three different ages (18, 24, 30) handling different topics (relationship problems, fighting the law, professional rejection).

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past three weeks, there’s another superstar in the news going through another drastic transformation in his career:


[ALSO READ: Jay-Z and Beyonce Become Music’s First Billionaire Couple, Reddit Co-Founder Wants Jay-Z’s Nets’ Share]


The Brooklyn lyrical titan has signed a multiyear deal with Universal Music Group for his Roc Nation record label, began a sports agency(then subsequently signed Robinson Cano), was named one of the 100 Most Influential People by TIME Magazine(for the SECOND time) and April is barely halfway over. A lot has changed since Jay was rapping faster than a caffeinated Twista and dressing baggier than Fat Albert.

There are three Jay-Z era’s in his illustrious 14 year recording career (minus his two year retirement).

’96-’00 will be known as his Rise to Stardom/Project Boy Grows Up.

’01-’03 is his Ascenion To Greatness/New Rap King.

’06-present is Icon Hov

So let’s take a look at The Three Jay’s:

Jay-Z on Fashion:

Rise to Stardom/Project Boy Grows Up (’96-’00):

“So I’m cruising with this Bourgeois broad/

She said “jigga man, why don’t you take the du-rag off/

Hit a U-Turn, ma, I’m dropping you back off.”-“So Ghetto” from Vol. 3 Life and Times of S. Carter

Rule No. 1 for Ladies Wanting To Date Jay-Z back then: Durag > you. Jay-Z always personified his mafioso and decadent lyrics with suits that would make Frank Lucas proud during the Reasonable Doubt days. But like he says later in the song, he was still a “thug n*gga ’till the end.”

Ascenion To Greatness/New Rap King.(’01-’03):

And I dont wear a jersey, I’m thirty plus/

Give me a crisp pair of jeans, n*gga, button ups”-“What More Can I Say” from The Black Album

You want to know how drastically Jay-Z changed between age 30 and age 33? He released The Blueprint album at 30 and The Black Album at 33. On “Jigga That N*gga from The Blueprint he said:

Come on the track duh duh da-da
With a throwback jersey and a fitted

He dropped Mitchell & Ness quicker than he did Amil.

Icon Hov (’06-present):

Throwbacks, I threw ’em back, remember the button ups”-“Reminder” off of Blueprint 3

I like to call this Rocking Chair Hov. The older he gets the more reflective he becomes of his career. He’s one half of music’s first billionaire couple so he’s super comfortable in dressing in anything now. Even if that means looking like George Costanza:


[ALSO READ: Jay-Z Officially Applies To Be A Baseball Agent]

Jay-Z on Love:

Rise to Stardom/Project Boy Grows Up (’96-’00):

“She wanted, us to end, cause I f*cked her friend/

She gave me one more chance and I f*cked her again/

I seen her tears as she busted in/

I said, “sh*t there’s a draft, shut the door b*tch and come on in!” from “Jigga What, Jigga Who” off Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life

He was brash and unapologetic earlier on before he had political connects to upset. He even “dated” this woman:


Something tells me not many women got past a firs date with younger Young Hov.

Ascenion To Greatness/New Rap King.(’01-’03):

But ma you got a f’real f’serious role
I’m bout to give you all the keys and security codes from “Excuse Me Miss” off The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse

In 1999 Mr. Carter was ending dates if a woman disrespected his durag. In 2001, he said he was going to “mourn forever” for failed relationship on “Song Cry”. By 2002 he was sounding like he was ready to get married with no prenup.

Coincidentally, this line was on the same album he had his first collaboration with his future wife and mother of his first child, Beyonce. The things a woman can do.

Icon Hov (’06-present):

“The most amazing feeling I feel
Words can’t describe what I’m feeling for real
Maybe I paint the sky blue
My greatest creation was you”- from “Glory”

On this one song he tries to hit a high note, says the father who abandoned him was good deep down inside, and even talked about Beyonce’s miscarriage. He even slides in a sly reference to the late Aaliyah(check your carry-on baggage, seriously). He has a wife and and a child. This is what rap at 40 should sound like.

*Cues Blue Ivy’s outro*

[ALSO CHECK OUT: New Music: Jay-Z’s New ‘Open Letter’ Discusses Everything From Obama To Cuba To ‘New World Management’]

Jay-Z on Enemies:

Rise to Stardom/Project Boy Grows Up (’96-’00):

“You’re twitchin, don’t do that, you makin me nervous/

My crew, well, they do pack, them niggas is murderous” from “Friend or Foe” from Reasonable Doubt

On numerous occasions Jay-Z has said when he started rapping he was just doing it to impress his friends.He was coming out of the drug game and relinquishing that mentality was not quick. In 1999 he pleaded guilty for assault after stabbing record producer Lance “Un” Rivera over the latter bootlegging his album.

Ascenion To Greatness/New Rap King.(’01-’03):

“When the grass is cut, the snakes’ll show/

I gotta thank the little homie Nas for that though/

Saving me the hassle of dealing with half of these a*sholes

And I’mma let karma catch up to Jaz-O.”- Blueprint 2″ from Blueprint 2: Gift & The Curse

Simply put: Jay-Z wanted to be the greatest rapper of all time so it is no surprise that on the same album where he says he’s the closest to B.I.G. he aims at all his targets on “Takeover”. From bringing out Michael Jackson at Summer Jam(BEFORE the Prodigy picture) to selling out Madison Square Garden, he was ready to distinguish himself from the others and show he was in a class of his own.

Just don’t listen to “Renegade”.

Icon Hov (’06-present):

“Tell Rush Limbaugh, to get off my b*lls/

It’s 2010, not 1874”- “Off That” from Blueprint 3

This man said that he told the President of the United States of America to quit his job and take a vacation with him on the beach. He’s in rarefied air for a Hip Hop artist. So naturally his enemies turn from angry rappers to angry politicians and political pundits. Let’s just hope he doesn’t start beef with any dictators.

Jay-Z On His Rap Legacy

Rise to Stardom/Project Boy Grows Up(‘ 96-’00):

“I’m from where n*ggas pull your card, and argue all day about
Who’s the best MC’s, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas”-from “Where I’m From” from In My Lifetime Vol. 1

At his core, Jay-Z is a competitor. He once battled DMX in a Bronx pool hall in the 90s. He once rapped on radio with Big L for 10 minutes. Not for money but just to showcase his skills. Young Hov always had his eyes on the throne.

Ascenion To Greatness/New Rap King.(’01-’03):

“If I ain’t better than B.I.G. then I’m the closest one”- “Hola Hovito” from The Blueprint 

There was a void in Hip Hop after 2000. Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Big L and Big Pun had died within the last 4 years. While Nas was yelling there is no Best Rapper of All Time, Jay-Z was cornering the market and letting the new generation of Hip Hop know early who the G.O.A.T. was.

Icon Hov (’06-present):

“Hov got flow though he’s no Big and Pac, but he’s close
How I’m ‘posed to win? They got me fighting ghosts” from “Most Kingz”

Jay-Z is considered by a large consensus to be the Greatest Rapper of All Time but the ghosts of Tupac and Biggie still linger. He is no longer competing with anyone but simply carving himself into Hip Hop’s Mount Rushmore next to them. ‘

A sports agent. A former part NBA owner. A husband in a billion dollar relationship. He is done trying to say he’s the best, he’s just redefining what that “best” means.

[ALSO READ: Jay-Z Covers TIME Magazine’s 100 Influential People, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Writes The Article]

  • Chris

    Nggas can’t get enough Jigga dck-ridin’ ’round these parts. SMH.

    • Apollo Showtime

      Where’s the dick ridin’ at? It’s a good read, just an observation you didn’t have to click on.

      • Chris

        I mean, how many times are we going to rehash Jay-Z’s “hustler-to-mogul” story? It’s been done a million times already. Jay-Z’s previous less than 1% ownership of the Nets? Blue Ivy? She can take a poop and AHH is going to write an article on it. Beyonce gets a lot of play around here courtesy of Jay-Z. Is she even hip-hop? No hate. Just an observation you didn’t have to click on or respond to, though.

      • RMfag

        And dont even get started on the amount of Bey-Z articles on other sites.
        Writers can become multi-millionaires on ad revenue alone just from the articles.

      • Chris

        Real talk.

    • RMfag

      I know I cant

    • $18592567

      Sack ridin at it’s finest…

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    my co-worker’s half-sister makes $81 hourly on the internet. She has been out of work for eight months but last month her payment was $20321 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on  Jive8.c­om

    • RMfag

      Is you making money?

      • NdotC

        hell nawwww


    To quote jiggaboo himself: ‘Let me open my bowels’ fk this post and fk a camel still.

    • RMfag


  • All hail the G.O.A.T !!!!!!!!!

  • mike

    i don’t think he is the GOAT as a lyricist i give that to rakim but he is the greatest businessman hiphop has seen

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  • IllWill

    most kingz not three

  • Kellz Elite

    didn’t read…dudes got jiggas c*m dripping from their lips…smdh

    • Keith N.

      Glad this came from someone who didnt read it.

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  • fcuk hov and fcuk the roc, that shyt is played out.

    • If skills sold, truth be told,
      I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli
      Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
      But I did 5 mill’
      I ain’t been rhyming like Common since

      • When your cents got that much in common
        And you been hustling since, your inception
        Fk perception. Go with what makes sense
        Since I know what I’m up against
        We as rappers must decide what’s most important
        And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
        So I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win/win
        So next time you see the homey and his rims spin
        Just know my mind is working just like them
        (rims, that is)

        Don’t just skim through it homey, you gotta stay for the whole lesson to learn.

      • oh, ive heard the whole song. where’s the lesson in the lyrics from this track?

        “I flex the rol’, sign a check for yo’ hoeJigga’s style is love, X and O
        Save all your accolades, just the dough
        My game is wide, all lames aside
        Tryin to stay alive, hundred thou’ for the bracelet
        Foolish, ain’t I? The chain’ll strain ya eye
        Twin platinum gun son, aim for the sky
        Ice on my bullet, you die soon as I pull it
        Willies wanna rub shoulders, your money’s too young
        See me when it gets older, ya bank account grow up
        Mine’s is one-zero-zero-zero-zero-oh-doub’
        Damn near out the rear trunk when I roll up
        Multi til I close up, it’s all basic
        I been spending hundreds since they had small faces
        Rob your stash house, doubled out down in Vegas
        Me and Jermaine Dupri got it locked crazy

        Where you at haters?”

      • Im saying 1st you said fck hov.. which is your opinion I have nothing against that, but then you quoted him and left it at a point where it is left to interpret as if there is no reason for some of his “flashy ways” and therefore I added the second part where he continues to explain why he doesn’t rhyme like Talib, and the benefits of not rhyming like Talib. ” I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them, So I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win/win” like the other line where he states that fans be telling him to spit that shtt, and he tells them yeah “you should buy it” He played with the cards he was dealt with long enough to learn how to count the house’s cards and ran with it.

    • johnblacksad

      fcuk hov?! naw… how about fcuk your mama!

      Hatin on Hov is what’s played out

      • nah, still fcuk hov. youre really that invested in hov that youll say fcuk another dudes mama. ok, stanblacksad.

      • johnblacksad

        “If you can’t respect that, your whole perspective is wack”

      • i guess im wack because i have never liked sean carter. since i was a kid when reasonable doubt came out, til the black album. I always thought he was corny. and he’s a biter not a writer.

      • johnblacksad

        You’re still a kid

      • solid comeback

      • Wow…. I mean its your opinion and thats cool, but just out of curiosity who have you liked in that whole time span? (reasonable doubt – black album)

      • i was mostly listening to rawkus shit at that time. My initial dislike of Jay-Z fully peaked when i saw him on some bullshit MTv thing after vol.2 came out and he said in some dumb interview on the beach that he was going to retire and then just a few months later vol.3 came out.

      • I can respect that, mos def my dude too.

      • Weedras

        grow up dude…. respecting someone doesn’t mean you have to like them… it’s called maturity

  • water_ur_seeds

    lol @ the spelling and lyrics being wrong in this, no surprise…

    • hugerocstarDollar585

      Right , Somebody just shot this mess together. no spell check, lyrics not ever close. Smh. Jay sill that guy anyway.

  • Open letter, Hov, did alot… made time magazine, heard my time, influenced everyone to be a drug dealer to make it in white america and end up locked up or dead, listen to roc boys song said he shot me up, ” I tore you out the frame, talking to me ” I am still here and will be forever ” cops also had something in on this, Jay z know, I am man who been shot 23 times in new york still with nothing wrong with me and hov now on the cover of times magazine as 100 influential people in america, a real Ghandie, Martin Luther King, Dahlia Lamia, yea right, Gates, Bloomberg, Buffet, And yea Rockafellers, the idea of keeping black america in hell with mandigo as their leader, a killer on the front of time magazine, only in America, Keep the n – word alive…, all about money who care’s about my race, didn’t help Africa in their plight of water, and have not help Africa in nothing, but is influential, name his daughter after an old girl friend, this guy is pure heartless, King ho, u said it… all the rappers is drug dealers now, real influential, America is a fraud… why r ya’ll all scared to help your country ( Africa ) everyone else help there’s… wait forever on the white man, so he can take it over and you have nothing… ya’ll got real leaders,,, yeah right… lets see how for this go…. one read and the truth should go for…. but the high up keeps it hid, and everyone is afraid of them… that’s why they sell their souls… Keep the fakes in and the real’s out… ( excuse the spellings, I’m like media take out and allhiphop now… )

    • you made some points here but im kinda lost . . . he shot YOU 23 times??

      • was shot 23 times in new york, went to bellvue hospital for it… check jay z song roc boys,i had a song called my time after that, he mocked it in song and said — my time i tore you out the frame… he was talking to me… also with bloomberg people … i believe … jay and bloomberg is friends /with the rest of the associates…

      • Dam my dude, thats some crazy shtt to go through . . . hope you’re seeing sunnier days these days.

  • When your cents got that much in common
    And you been hustling since, your inception
    Fk perception. Go with what makes sense
    Since I know what I’m up against
    We as rappers must decide what’s most important
    And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
    So I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win/win
    So next time you see the homey and his rims spin
    Just know my mind is working just like them
    (rims, that is)

  • Opposite Of Everyone

    hold on, Jay first track was 86 with High Potent ? we need a name for the 86-96 phase… How bout the “finding my identify phase” or” the Jaz O years”?

  • jango boy


  • $18916246

    Who’s lyrics are these…”I’m from where n*ggas pull your car”? (card). The errors of a new rap era. I think the previous line in this song says it best “Couldn’t talk about it/If you ain’t live it”…..dumb new school, rap reciters, get it all wrong….

    • LOL. Yes..missing one letter equates to someone being “dumb new school”. Carry on.

      • $18916246

        C’mon bruh, we’re not talking missing letters…these are misquotes.

      • Keith N.

        This is the original lyric: “I from where niggas pull your card, and argue all day aboutWho’s the best MC’s, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas”

        This is what I wrote: ““I’m from where n*ggas pull your car, and argue all day aboutWho’s the best MC’s, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas”

        Did I miss more than one letter, good sir?

      • $18916246

        Bruh, you kidding me? You misquoted several songs. I guess it’s my bad huh?…My old ass lived through the times these and many other rap lyrics were made (released in song)…I guess I would misquote ASAP Rocky or somebody?…sike, no I wouldn’t…just get it right bruh…Oh, you did it again in your reply to me..I from? huh?…people write the way they talk..you are no exception here..:)

      • CSSanborne

        Paradyme you’re a cranky old bitch. Just a hater. Now Stfu. Do . you know what that means or do you need one of us young ignorant types to explain it to you.

      • $18916246

        Coward…and a stan at that…what are you doing inventory on my old blog post…..you know chicks ride dicks…find another hobby bruh.


    this nigga damn near 50

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