Blueprints for Success: Jay-Z's Greatest Hits

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Fri, 12/04/2020 - 22:37
Jay-Z in 2003.

From Marcy to Madison Square, Reasonable Doubt to Roc-a-Fella, Trenton Central High to TIDAL, Shawn Carter has been many things. But before he was hip-hop's first billionaire, he was Jay-Z, one of the most entertaining and influential emcees in hip-hop history.

Here's a rundown of some of his biggest and best hits in a career that goes back almost a quarter century.

"Ghetto Anthem (Hard Knock Life)" (1998)

A sample of Annie might not be the key to street success for most people. But Jay-Z wasn't most people. With this single from Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life, Jay had his second Top 40 crossover hit and first without any features.

"Heartbreaker" (Mariah Carey feat. Jay-Z) (1999)

Those who didn't have their ear to the streets might've heard Jay as the featured rapper on Mariah Carey's 14th career chart-topper, built on a killer Stacy Lattislaw sample.

"I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" (2000)

Joining forces with The Neptunes for a more laid-back affair - allegedly based on a real-life afterparty - "I Just Wanna Love U" just missed the Top 10 but became Jay's first single to top Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart.

"I.Z.Z.O. (H.O.V.A.)" (2001)

Hov finally broke into the Top 10 with this single from the iconic The Blueprint, produced by an up-and-coming Kanye West around an earworm of a Jackson 5 sample.

"03 Bonnie & Clyde" (feat. Beyonce) (2002) / "Crazy in Love" (Beyonce feat. Jay-Z) (2003)

"All I need in this life of sin / is me and my girlfriend..." Jay's Top 10 collaborations with the leader of Destiny's Child led to art imitating life: Jay and Bey married in 2008 and have three children together.

"Dirt Off Your Shoulder" (2004)

If you're gonna go, go out with a bang. The Black Album marked Jay-Z's self-imposed retirement in 2003 and had all the fixings, from a homecoming show at Madison Square Garden to the documentary Fade to Black. "99 Problems" is probably the album's most enduring cut, but it was "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" that was the biggest hit, reaching the Top 5 of the pop charts.

"Empire State of Mind" (feat. Alicia Keys) (2009)

Even legends get sick of retirement. Jay stepped back into the studio in 2006, recording albums like Kingdom Come and the soundtrack to the film American Gangster. But it was 2009's The Blueprint 3 that gave him a new milestone: this hard-hitting tribute to New York City, featuring a soaring chorus from Alicia Keys, became his first and only No. 1 single as a lead artist.

"N----s in Paris" (feat. Kanye West) (2011)

With the mammoth Watch the Throne, Jay-Z and producer-turned-superstar Kanye West traded verses built for kings. In this case, bigger was absolutely better: "Paris" became an enduring radio hit, reaching the Top 10 all over the world.