13 lesser-known Jay-Z songs you need to hear right now
You should really get involved here. Check out these lesser-known Jay-Z classics.
There are certain artists that transcend their genres. When they release new material it's a big deal to fans of music in general, not just rap, rock or pop etc. Let's be honest here: Shawn Corey Carter, a man better known as Jay-Z is one of these artists, and nearly four years to the day since his last album Magna Carta Holy Grail, he's back with 4:44.
So I thought I'd take it back, way back (back into time) and enlighten those that need to see the light with some hidden gems that you may have missed out on over the years. You won't find a song that's been released here. No "Crazy In Love", "Numb/Encore" or "99 Problems"... we're taking this far deeper.
“Analyze This” Feat. Lord Tariq & Nas
An insight into what a “Reasonable Doubt” era Jay-Z and Nas collaboration would’ve sounded like.
That’s right, a diamond in the rough, a hidden gem, a unicorn.
Fun fact: this track actually started off as a song by NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal (no, seriously) featuring Jay-Z and Lord Tariq, before someone did the world a favour and replaced Shaq with an unreleased Nas verse, renaming it and giving us this bootleg beauty. Bootleg meaning I was very much on the fence about including this little number, but it's a rarity and no matter the method used to put this together, it's a certified madness.
“A Dream” Feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Faith Evans
With production by some guy by the name of Kanye West, this beautiful ode to the late great Notorious B.I.G. (who collaborated with Jay-Z twice before his untimely death) also features the wife of the slain legend. It lifts the classic Biggie verse from “Juicy” to give it a whole new dimension in what is the opening track to 2003’s “The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse.”
This cut from Jay-Z’s classic debut album “Reasonable Doubt” is not only known to be his personal favourite track of his career, but is produced by one of the greatest to ever do it; DJ Premier. A song about the lust for money and power by any means necessary makes friends into enemies and betrayal possible at every turn. Also see the delightful little play on words for the title, which i’m sure you don’t need explaining to you because as you’ve decided to read an article written by me, you must be intelligent, right?!
“Real As It Gets” Feat. Young Jeezy
An extremely underrated, and personal favourite from “The Blueprint 3” this is "Roc Boys-esque," a song that wouldn’t feel out of place in any movie that contains a scene of celebration (that beat drop at the beginning makes me punch the air every goddamn time!).
Jay-Z and Atlanta’s very own Young Jeezy celebrate finally being able to earn money legitimately, while also calling out rappers who make up stories about drug dealing in order to attempt to gain more street credibility.
“Public Service Announcement (Interlude)”
If you’ve ever seen Jay-Z live, then you’ll know this one. Possibly the most well-known interlude of all time (and this is saying something if you take a listen to Eminem and Dr. Dre’s interludes) it takes on a life of its own and only has one drawback. It’s an interlude. 2 minutes 53 just isn't long enough. This track was a last minute inclusion, replacing what was a glorified advertisement for his sneaker line. Appearing on his third best selling album, the “The Black Album” this is undoubtedly a stand out in his career.
“BBC” Feat. Nas, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams and Timbaland
Just look at all those rich talented bastards. LOOK AT 'EM!
Reading that list of features on any song should be enough of a reason to love it. Especially when it sounds as good as this does.
While not exactly lyrically original (we’re rich as fuck!) the production from Timbaland and Pharrell is gold, the flows are gold and this writer couldn’t resist putting an official Nas and Jay-Z collaboration in the list (do yourself a favour and see also: “Success” from Jay-Z’s “American Gangster” as well as an absolute gem they both appeared on called “I Do It For Hip-Hop” by Ludacris.)
“Renegade” Feat. Eminem
Jay-Z and Eminem. Eminem and Jay-Z. How the bloomin’ ‘eck (to use rap terminology) could this not make the list?! As the only feature on “The Blueprint” (which is widely regarded as Jay-Z’s best album) Marshall Mathers not only produces the track but, according to Nas, Jay-Z’s bitter rival at the time: “Eminem murdered you on your own shit."
And that is saying a hell of a lot. One of the best things about the song? It’s 5 minutes 38 seconds of telling the critics of both Eminem and Jay-Z to kindly fuck off.
“Black Republican” Nas Feat. Jay-Z
Yep, another Nas collaboration. What of it?! Ok, this is the last one….Promise. I feel like I should justify this one even more than the last. So here goes.
- This was a monumental moment in the history of Hip-Hop. Apart from 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. (a beef which subsequently lead to the murder of both legends), the beef between Jay-Z and Nas is probably the biggest that’s been seen in Hip-Hop, consequently produceing two of the best diss songs of all time in ‘Takeover’ and ‘Ether'. This was their first collaboration though....just imagine if 2Pac and Biggie ever reconciled. Exactly.
- It sampled one of the greatest scenes from one of the greatest films of all time. “The Godfather Pt.2” The assassination of Don Fanucci. To AWESOME effect.
- It briefly recounts Jay-Z’s drug dealing days and problems that money making caused with best friend of the time, and draws a parallel with his beef with Nas.
- Oh, and Nas and Jay-Z are on the same track.
“Party People” Timbaland & Magoo Feat. Jay-Z and Twista
Ladies and gentlemen, this right here is a lesson in flow. And a lesson into how to make a club banger, despite never making a Jay-Z album (he thought it sounded too much like “Jigga What? Jigga Who?”) this lived on Timbaland’s second album released in 2001, long before the likes of his OneRepublic collaborations.
“Never Let Me Down” Kanye West Feat. Jay-Z & J.Ivy
….with a hook that samples Michael fucking Bolton. And a choir made up entirely of one man.
There was no way I could leave a Kanye West collaboration off this list, and while there’s a whole album of Kanye West and Jay-Z collaborations in the “Watch The Throne” album, the sheer epicness, along with the message of hope in this is song makes it stick out for me.
“The Watcher 2.” Feat. Dr.Dre, Rakim and Truth Hurts
Another cut from “The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse” (It was a double-disc album after all) and along with Jigga himself, features two undisputed legends of the rap game: an extremely rare appearance from Rakim and also Dr. Dre (who also produces alongside Scott Storch). Part 1 of this song appears on Dr. Dre’s classic album “2001” and this ode to him is a sign of respect from Jay-Z, and therefore from the East coast the West coast. Top drawer.
“Hell Yeah (Remix)" Dead Prez Feat. Jay-Z
And theeere you were thinking that Dead Prez only had one track of note to their name. While this didn’t exactly light the world up compared to the classic “Hip-Hop”, this tale of achieving two birds with one stone, AKA robbing a pizza delivery man of his pizza to eat, and his money to spend, caught the eye of Roc-a-fella Records and in particular Jay-Z, who jumped on the remix in order to try and sign the duo.
Let’s be honest, rap isn’t exactly a PC form of music. It’s one of the reasons it’s held in such high regard; it’s a middle finger to the establishment and the system (look at NWA) and in the case of this diss song, a VERY REAL middle finger to Nas. A middle finger so in his face that Jay-Z’s own mother had to step in and force that naughty Shawn Carter to go on national radio and apologise for the lyrical content (no women and children is the rule, even in beef!) In Jiggas current place in his life; a wife, a daughter as well as newborn twins, you can bet that he regrets writing this song. Go on, give it a listen and look up the lyrics without wincing....Ouch.
So there we have it. But I've got to admit, it takes me long enough to decide what i'm having for lunch, let alone narrow this down. I left off some absolute diamonds, including “Blueprint 2” a diss track which samples “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” - but sacrifices must be made. I could’ve bored you with a million more. But if you’re fuming at my non-inclusion of any Linkin Park collaborations then let me know: @RichieDriss