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#5 Jay Z


Lyrics 8

“I’m awkward I box lefty, and often my pops left me, and often my momma wasn’t home” Many would say Jay doesn’t rap like this anymore, and while I agree it happens less frequently, the stats will show you that he still has some of this left in his bag. His lyrics on Drug Dealer Anonymous along with the majority of Magna Carta Holy Grail (the album that is- that upon release was overshadowed by it’s own innovative marketing and actually has classic Jay on it up and down) confirms his sword is still sharp, highlighted by complex records such as Oceans, one of his most substantial records in recent memory and one that we shouldn’t ignore. On the flip side like all MCs he has moments that aren’t as graceful, but again to focus on that wouldn't be a fair reflection of his overall lyricism that contributed to his iconic status.

Delivery 9

“Little did I know my more potent delivery, would deliver me, kingpin of the ink pen, monster of the double entendre, Coke is still my sponsor, the cola yea, Hova, still gettin it in with soda, diet, no sir, I ain’t lose no weight, started with the crates and now I’m sittin on the whole case.” The MC’s of 92 and beyond deserve all the credit in the world for smoothing out the rhythm of Hip Hop, as the cadences before that were powerful yet restrained, thus when the likes of Big and Jay found their groove Hip Hop was never the same. Jay never lost that delivery, evident in every album/record he’s released to this day, every new track being testimony as to why you could really say he’s the nicest MC of all time. Only reason it’s not a 10 is to indicate that he’s still some years out of his prime, as his run from 96-08 is still likely the greatest stretch we’ve seen to this day.

Structure/Songwriting 9

“Baby need pampers, daddy need at least three weeks in the Hamptons, please don’t judge me.” Jay’s content has undoubtedly evolved over time, so if you want Old Jay listen to his Old Shit, but his new shit has the potential to be all of that and more. Records like Holy Grail, Oceans, and Jay Z Blue showcase him tapping into a more sophisticated side of Hov (more the American Gangster Hov then Vol. 3 Hov), all the while keeping it classic Jay. Yet it seems as if he’s decided to rely upon a more radio friendly sound in FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt and I Got The Keys more recently, a style that’s always worked for him yet inevitably has less substance. Jay has the skills and resources to make whatever he wants, indicated by how he has too many hit songs to fit one page of his resume, yet the last few years suggest he’d just as rather pinch hit and give you something light for the summer.

Content/Meaning 8

“Wouldn’t you loot? If you didn’t have the loot? If your baby needed food and you was stuck on the roof, and helicopters swoop down just to get a scoop, from his telescopic lens but he didn't scoop you." Jay’s ceiling is as high as anyone, demonstrated in records like Minority Report, that to date is one of the finest records that he or anyone else in Hip Hop has ever recorded. Yet despite all the love and fame the media has rarely documented the poetic side of Jay, which debatably is the very best Jay, highlighted by records like Soon You’ll Understand, Meet the Parents, and You Must Love Me. Yet part of that may be because he has strengths in every category, and his fans are just as happy to get a Show Me What You Got then an American Dreamin, both of which are significant in their own respective ways.

Self Made 9

“Do what I’ve done without cryin in the environment in which I did it in without dyin my *****, then rap like i rap without lying then tie them both together like i am my *****, then write 16’s in between running 16 businesses…” Jay’s rise to the ranks was incredible, emphasised by going independent with Rocafella Records and being iconic ever since. How much of that is thanks to his former team leads to an interesting debate, yet all the same Jay stayed on top due to his own singular talents, even in spite of teaming up with the greatest female superhero of all time. In fact one of his best qualities is having a good ear for music, in which case he’s always surrounded himself with incredible talent, Just Blaze, Timbaland, and Kanye West just to name a few.

Image/Branding 10

“That bag different, my wife Beyonce, I brag different” and what’s also different about Jay is when he raps like this he’s actually telling the truth. “NFL investigations... Oh don’t make me laugh…” all of it’s true, Jay is like the James Bond of this shit, untouchable, and every move he makes seem to further his brand (and Hip Hop) by taking the art form into uncharted territory. His marriage to Beyonce is likely the best move any man could make in the 21st century, and for that reason and many others he’s arguably the logo of Hip Hop all together, the first person that comes to mind when you think of this genre of music.

Sales 10

“10 #1 albums in a row who better than me, only the Beatles nobody ahead of me, I killed Elvis in his blue suede shoes, made the Rolling Stones seem sweet as kool aid too.” His sales speak for themselves, Jay’s product flies out the stores, with only Eminem having sold more albums for reasons not worth getting into. Throughout his career Jay is either platinum, double platinum, or triple platinum, that simple, and for that matter he was still going platinum the old fashioned way in the computer era, even in spite of his own technological interventions (Magna Carta/Samsung deal). What makes that all the more impressive is that these were his 10th, 11th, and 12th studio albums, while meanwhile his contemporary in Nas stopped going platinum in 2005. With Jay’s relevance he can still sell water to a well, and even as an older gentleman his platinum status is nowhere near in jeopardy.

Ability to Rock an Instrumental at a Radio Station 10

"Leave ***** in a coma when I'm banging the 5th, get chicks lit off coronas and bamboo spliffs, get the camcorder to camcord their hand movements, and for what, ya'll acting like ya'll better than Hov, ya'll cats should open up on the Letterman show, cats is funny, all I do is get my money, and ya'll shit sounds funny to me...." Jay has fucked up more rewind buttons and radio stations than anyone else who comes to mind, and his freestyles through the late 90’s into the early 2000’s are still iconic to this day. Jay was such a threat on instrumentals that he even promoted his team using the same format, with hit records on the album along with fire verses on the radio, bringing to mind the sessions from Beanie Sigel and State Property that make you reminisce of an era that’s no longer with us. This was a time where the ultimate test of an MC was to be able to rap on anything, whereas you got signed because you had skills, and a lot of that was thanks to a framework provided by Jay.

Ability to Fuck Up a Rewind Button 10

"Whether we dribble out this motherfucker, rap metaphors and riddle out this motherfucker, work second floors, hospital out this motherfucker, somehow we gotta get up out this motherfucker." As stated before Jay has probably fucked up the most rewind buttons thanks to his skills and longevity. Like 15,16 albums of straight heat where in most cases his only competition was himself. From party records to diss records to moments of introspection Jay can do it all and do it well, and he’s honestly no better in one area than the next making him Hip Hop’s ultimate threat. When you think about all his lyrics worth taking back there’s honestly too many name, as even verse 3 on Is That Your Bitch will fuck your life up, let alone your rewind button.

Longevity 10

"Never been a ***** this good for this long, this hood or this pop, this hot or this strong, with so many different flows, this one's for this song, next one I switch it up, this one will get bit up, these fucks too lazy to make up shit, they crazy, they don't paint pictures, they just trace me." As the whole package Jay is probably the undisputed King of Hip Hop, which may not have been the case if 2pac and Big were still with us, yet as it played out Jay picked up the torch and he now holds the throne. While that may not be the case in 2016 (coming in here at #5), his legacy has cemented his place in Hip Hop where as long as he’s active he’ll likely always be Top 10, making it a moment every time he picks up a mic. It will be interesting to see how far he takes it, considering there’s so many other ventures he can dedicate his time to, all the while knowing he could be the first one to rap into his twilight and do it well. Unlike an athlete whose body breaks down, the same shouldn’t be implied for musicianship, and keeping in mind that with age comes wisdom Jay has the potential to keep rhyming forever.

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