A decade ago, on November 14, 2003, Jay-Z released his eighth studio album, The Black Album. At the time, Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay-Z’s record label, promoted The Black Album as Jay-Z’s final studio album, because Jay-Z wanted to retire from the rap game on top. The Black Album debuted at number one and sold over 400,000 copies in its first week. Singles such as “Change Clothes,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “99 Problems” achieved Billboard chart success, which helped propelled the album to platinum status.
The Black Album is a celebration of Jay-Z’s life, success, and legacy. It is Jay-Z’s 55 minutes and 32 seconds biopic on wax. The Black Album cemented Jay-Z’s musical legacy as the greatest rapper ever. Jay-Z is flawless rapping on tracks produced by Just Blaze, Kanye West, and The Neptunes. The chemistry between Jay-Z and these producers are amazing! They create great music together. As a listener, I can feel the excitement they had creating the album. The highlights of The Black Album for me are “What More Can I Say,” “Change Clothes,” and “Encore”.
On “What More Can I Say,” my favorite song and the third track on the album, Jay-Z rhymes, “Pound for pound I’m the best to ever come around here/Excluding nobody…I supposed to be number one on everybody’s list.” Very few critics would disagree with that statement. Jay-Z has proven to be the Michael Jordan of rap with his uncanny ability to stay relevant and the top figure in hip-hop for many years.
“Change Clothes” is a great club song produced by The Neptunes. The world witnessed the power of Jay-Z with this track. It singlehandedly transformed urban dudes into metrosexuals. Street dudes got their “grown man look” on by trading in their throwback jerseys for button-up shirts and blazers. Jay-Z sent a message that grown men should dress their age. “Change Clothes” helped make hip-hop clean and fresh in the new millennium.
I love “Encore” produced by Kanye West, and felt Jay-Z should have concluded The Black Album with that song. “Encore” makes me want to dance and have a great time with its energy and soulful sound. When I watched Jay-Z performed this song on his 2004 documentary Fade to Black, and walked off the stage, he convinced me that he is the greatest rapper ever.
10 years later, The Black Album is one of Jay-Z’s greatest creations and top selling album of the 2000s. He changed the hip-hop culture with this album and cemented his place in hip-hop’s legacy for generations to come. Jay-Z’s fans knew The Black Album would not be his farewell album. Jay-Z came out of “retirement” in 2006, and released four more platinum-selling studio albums.