Today, November 14, 2013, marks the 10th Anniversary of Jay Z’s The Black Album. At the time of its release, it was billed as Jay Z’s last album. As we all know though, that retirement was short-lived. Just a mere three years later, Shawn Corey Carter came back.
And while his output hasn’t been as consistent as it was in the beginning of his career, he has still had plenty of hits since 2006. In fact, it would be fair to say that Jay Z is bigger than Hip-Hop now. And one of the reasons for his unmatched ascent is the music he’s put out post Black Album.
So while Jay Z himself admitted via Twitter that Magna Carta Holy Grail could “fight for 4th” behind Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, and The Black Album, it’s still undeniable that if he hadn’t gone back to making albums, he wouldn’t be the icon he is today. Thus, AllHipHop.com has come up with a list of the ten best songs Jay Z made since his return.
10). “Kingdom Come”: While valid arguments can be made that Jay Z had lost a few steps with his 2006 comeback effort, Kingdom Come, he nevertheless managed to make a lasting impression with the album’s title track. “I been up in the office you might know him as Clark / But, just when you thought the whole world fell apart / I take off the blazer, loosen up the tie / Step inside the booth, Superman is alive.”
9). “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”: Even if Auto-Tune was a gimmick at that point, someone had to put the final nail in the coffin. Over a stellar rock-inspired No I.D. production, Jay Z called out Auto-Tune for its overuse in the music industry at that time. “You n****s singing too much / Get back to rap, you T-Paining too much.” Clearly, he got his point across and then some.
8). “Nickels and Dimes”: Jay Z closes out his latest album in a contemplative space. His rags-to-riches story has been been told repeatedly, but it becomes clear in this song he has learned that riches can contribute to problems just as easily as it can solve them. The beginning of the second verse is very powerful, to say the least.
7). “On to the Next One”: Over outstanding board work from Swizz Beatz wherein he flipped a Justice track, Jay Z recorded this song which earned him his 13th Grammy. And not unlike their previous collaborations, the sound was on some next level ish. Jay made sure his lyrics reflected that sentiment too. “Hov on that new s**t, n****s like “How come?” / N****s want my old s**t, buy my old albums.”
6). “Part II (On the Run)”: Mrs. Carter sounds amazing on this Magna Carta Holy Grail duet with her husband. Beyonce plays the perfect ride-or-die chick (“I will hold your heart and your gun / I don’t care if they come”) to Jay Z’s criminal persona (“I’m an outlaw, got an outlaw chick / Bumpin’ 2Pac on my outlaw s**t”). It’s one of the duo’s best collaborations to date, surpassed only by “Crazy in Love.”
5). “New Day”: Watch the Throne was an impressive, albeit self-indulgent, victory lap for two of Hip-Hop’s biggest stars. Therefore, “New Day” served as refreshing change of pace. Before they became fathers, Jay and Kanye made a reflective record addressing their stresses and how those would not only affect them as parents, but the impact it would have on the children they raise as well.
4). “Pray”: Jay Z has never been at a loss for words when it comes to discussing hustling in his music, and the first song off his tenth album is no exception. Having not detailed that environment to such an extent since his debut though, Jay’s ability to revisit it with such vivid lyrics coupled with a more experienced flow make for one of the most all-around compelling listens in Jay’s catalogue.
3). “N****s in Paris”: The Blades of Glory dialogue sample in the song describes it best: “No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative.” Between Hit-Boy’s drums, Kanye repeating the phrase, “That s**t cray,” and Jay’s powerful opening rhymes, it’s a lot to take in. But listeners loved it and so it’s no surprise that the record was performed multiple times at more than a few stops on the Watch the Throne Tour.
2). “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)…”: With American Gangster sequenced around the rise and fall of a hustler, this track, in the mid-section of the album, is the high point of low living. Fast money, gorgeous women, and fine dining with bottles of top shelf beverages are all within reach. And while the downfall is inevitable, for 4:12, it’s a celebration and The Hitmen’s horns help make it one hell of a party.
1). “Empire State of Mind”: Track five on The Blueprint 3 is Jay Z’s first number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts as a lead artist. And in addition to that long-overdue achievement, the song is incredible too. Alicia Keys’ vocals on the chorus soar and Jay’s verses are an amazing shout-out to the Big Apple. At that point in his career, he wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.”
What are your favorite Jay Z records in the post-Black Album era? Share your thoughts in the comments section!