3 Songs for People Who Say They Don’t Like Jay-Z

While he came up as a rapper in New York City, Jay-Z (born Shawn Carter) has become much more than that. As he says on the track “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man. Indeed, the billionaire mogul is an artist and he’s at the forefront of commerce and culture.

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But at his heart, he’s a lyricist. And along the way, Jay-Z has written and released some of the biggest, best-selling and important songs in rap music. Here below, we wanted to showcase a trio of those tunes. Three songs for those out there who may deride the all-time great. Three songs for those who say they don’t like Jay-Z.

[RELATED: Jay-Z Calls Out GRAMMYs Over Beyoncé Snub, Name-Drops Will Smith in Wild Acceptance Speech]

“Empire State of Mind” ft. Alicia Keys from The Blueprint 3 (2009)

A love letter to Jay-Z’s home city of New York, this song still rings out often in clubs, at parties, and in sports arenas. With Alicia Keys belting out the chorus, Jay-Z dances lyrically in the verses of this Grammy Award-winning song, talking about the hustle and bustle of the city. The song was originally written by Angela Hunte and Janet “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic, who sent the track to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. After some fits and starts, the song made it to Jay, who loved it and wrote his lyrics the night he got the beat. On the track, he raps,

Yeah, I’m out that Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca
Right next to De Niro, but I’ll be hood forever
I’m the new Sinatra, and since I made it here
I can make it anywhere, yeah, they love me everywhere
I used to cop in Harlem, hola, my Dominicanos
Right there up on Broadway, brought me back to that McDonald’s
Took it to my stashbox, 560 State Street
Catch me in the kitchen like a Simmons whippin’ pastry
Cruisin’ down 8th St, off-white Lexus
Drivin’ so slow, but BK is from Texas
Me, I’m out that Bed-Stuy, home of that boy Biggie
Now I live on Billboard and I brought my boys with me
Say what up to Ty-Ty, still sippin’ Mai Tais
Sittin’ courtside, Knicks and Nets give me high five
N—a, I be Spike’d out, I could trip a referee
Tell by my attitude that I’m most definitely from…

“Beach Chair” from Kingdom Come (2006)

This song was a collaboration between Jay-Z and Coldplay lead singer and frontman Chris Martin. In fact, Martin produced the rugged beat for the track. A polarizing song, it’s a nostalgic track featuring an historic collaboration between two of music’s best and most popular. On the offering, Jay raps,

Life is but a dream to me, I don’t wanna wake up
30 odd years been ’bout havin’ my cake up
So I’m ’bout my paper, 24/7, 365, 366 in a leap year
I don’t know why we here, since we gotta be here
Life is but a beach chair (chair, chair chair)
Went from havin’ shabby clothes to crossin’ over Abbey Road
Hear my angel singin’ to me (are you happy, Hov?)
I just hope I’m hearin’ right, karma’s got me fearin’ like
Kalik are you prayin’ for me? (for me)
See I got demons in my past so I got daughters on the way
If the prophecy’s correct then the child shall have to pay
For the sins of her father so I barter my tomorrows
Against my yesterdays and hope that she’ll be okay
And when I’m no longer here to shade her face from the glare
I give up my share of Carol’s daughter and a new beach chair

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” from Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998)

This song was a commercial success, not only for Jay’s lyrics and delivery, but for its memorable sample of the 1977 track “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the musical Annie. The stage work about a little white girl fit when telling the life story of a Black man and that made the track applicable to all, in many ways. On the Grammy-nominated song, which still resonates today, Jay raps,

I don’t know how to sleep, I gotta eat, stay on my toes
Got a lot of beef, so logically, I prey on my foes
Hustling’s still inside of me, and as far as progress
You’d be hard-pressed to find another rapper hot as me
I gave you prophecy on my first joint, and y’all lamed out
Didn’t really appreciate it ’til the second one came out
So I stretched the game out, etched your name out
Put Jigga on top, and drop albums non-stop for ya

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Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images

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