Rap legend Jay Z turned 47-years-old on December 4. A well-known wordsmith and accomplished songwriter, Jay Z rose from drug dealing in Brooklyn, to becoming a rap legend over time. Jay Z’s lyrics range from his tales of drug dealing, to how to become a successful businessman/hustler. Jay Z has inspired many rappers in the industry today. His business intellect also propelled him to be one of the most successful artists-turned-businessman ever.
But on the artist side, Jay Z’s wordplay, coupled with his strong album input are second to none. Classic albums such as The Blueprint, Reasonable Doubt, and In My Lifetime Vol 2 have helped propel Jay Z into the forum of all-time greats. While there are many records where Jay has given us some of the best bars ever heard, highlighting four of his best verses works because Jay Z’s birthday is on the fourth of December. So below, are four of some of Jay Z’s greatest verses ever laid down on tape.
Lyrics courtesy of Genius.com
Verse No. 1 is “U Don’t Know” from his The Blueprint album (2001)
Jay Z begins this classic song with classic braggadocio, speaking on the streets where he’s from and how it’s only for the strong to survive. Jay Z lets us know from the inside of the streets; watching for cops, drug numbers going up and down, and relying on violence before the fame. This verse has been highly-praised by fans. The Blueprint album is considered a classic album by many rap fans, too.
Verse No. 2 is “Can I Live?” from the album Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Jay Z explains to the listener that he just wants to do his thing without the hassle. The street life is a fast life, but Jay also knows he has to keep one eye open like CBS.
Verse No. 3 is from the song “D’Evils” on the album Reasonable Doubt (1996)
This verse by Jay Z highlights the downside of the street life, where drugs, using money to extort witnesses into the whereabouts of enemies, and violence just appear to be the code of the streets. Many fans will say this is one of Jay’s darkest songs. Reasonable Doubt is considered to be one of Jay Z’s greatest albums, too.
Verse No. 4 comes from “Intro” on The Dynasty album (2000)
An introspective Jay Z speaks on comparing his life of poverty to the adventurous and wealthy Ennis Cosby, the son of TV legend Bill Cosby. The envy of Cosby’s life from his stature to the presence of a father figure, according to the verse, parlayed into Jay turning to a life of crime to satisfy himself. The Dynasty album, which was supposed to be a Roc-A-Fella album, turned into a Jay Z album to help with marketing. The album gave Jay Z his third No. 1 one and his third multi-platinum selling album.
Although Jay Z is 47-years-old, there are reports that another Jay Z album is reportedly on the way. His last album, Magna Carta; Holy Grail was Jay’s last release, and the production was praised, but criticism was placed due to the lack of quality in his verses. At the age of 43, many were disappointed that Jay Z didn’t come with the aggressiveness that he had shown in previous albums. But after the acclaim from his song with Future, many were glad to see Jay Z return to the flow that made him a platinum selling artist. But here is what we do know about Jay Z’s newest project.
Jay has been featured on recent songs in the past, such as DJ Khaled’s 2014 hit “They Don’t Love You No More,” so there’s more to the inkling that an album is coming than the fact that his pen’s been active. Many thought that Jay would want to issue his own musical statement in response to Beyonce’s April release Lemonade. In early May, Us Weekly quoted a source as saying, “Jay is working on an album telling his side of things.”
“There’s more than hearsay and speculation though. In late April, Just Blaze, who constructed many of Jay’s classic sounds and records, said, ‘I have at least two albums worth of Jay Z material sitting in my vault. So it’s not that they ever have to worry about me leaking records or releasing information. I give people sneak peeks when it’s appropriate or when the artists want to do it.'”
If a new Jay Z album is indeed coming soon, could Jay Z mark a return to his previous albums’ sound? Or will Jay Z reinvent himself the way he did on past albums such as MCHG and American Gangster? Whichever route Jay Z takes, his albums, verses, and features have already cemented his status as a legend in rap. Jay Z could officially retire today, without dropping another album, and still be an all-time great.
[Featured Image by Larry Busacca/Getty Images]