He goes by many names, but Shawn Carter, widely known around this solar system as Jay-Z celebrates turning 50 years old today. You already know about his mogul moves on the way to becoming a billionaire, his wife who is probably more famous than he is and his illustrious catalog of beats and rhymes.
Hip Hop is considered a "young man's game" and while a lot of his peers find it hard to remain relevant, Jay throughout his career in music has found ways to stay hot without following the "trends". But I won't waste your time going through his story, you already know it, let's get to business.
I'm a big fan of Jay, I'm not going to deny that I probably have all his albums including his most recent work 4:44 locked in on my streams. Now these may not be "hit" records, I'm a bit of hip hop nerd so you won't find many "hits" on this list. But here are the 5 tracks that I keep coming back to in no particular rank:
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"Now you got these young cats, acting like they slung caps, all in they dumb raps talking about how they funds stack, when I see them in the street I don't NONE of that"
From his "In My Lifetime Vol. 1" album from 1997, "Imaginary Players" serves as a warning to boys that be "fronting" like they getting money. That Rene & Angela sample makes this track so smooth.
"They say you can't turn a bad girl good but once a good girl's gone bad, she's gone forever, I'll mourn forever"
Even the hardest thugs suffer romantic heartbreak and Jay explained it all perfectly on "Song Cry".
"And if Al Sharpton is speaking for me, somebody get him the word and tell him I don't approve, tell him I'll remove the curses if you tell me our schools gone be perfect"
From his "American Gangster" album "Say Hello" is Jay basically explaining through rhyme the plight of being young black and poor in America and how those who found a way out (through legal or illegal means) gets criticized when the "system" is just as crooked.
"Yo put your number on this paper, cuz I would love to date ya, holla at ya when I get off tour"
From the same classic "Blueprint" album as "Song Cry", "Girls" is your typical "I'm a player" song but I love the soulful beat and thought it was cool that Jay got hip hop greats like Biz Markie and Slick Rick to jump in on the hook. Plus, who wouldn't want to a cool ass party with nothing but gorgeous girls like in this video?
"What's better than one billionaire? Two. Especially when they from the same hue as you"
Finally from his most recent 4:44 album "Family Feud" with his wife Beyonce serves as a warning that nobody wins if we're all arguing and fighting one another at the end of day. It also showcases the GROWTH of an MC that's seen it all and is starting to embrace the wisdom that growing older brings.
"Big Pimpin spending cheese, we doing, big pimpin on B-L-A-D's"
I had to throw "Big Pimpin" in there because Jay was having trouble at the start of his career connecting with us down south so who better to get on a track than Texas legends UGK. Plus the story of how Pimp C HATED this song and almost didn't do it is the stuff of hip hop legend.