Some rappers make great albums, and some thrive with hits. Jay-Z is a hit-maker—it is how he became a mogul, a star, an iconic figure—so to discuss him otherwise would do a disservice to him. Yet to leave off the most prolific artist in his genre today off of this list would simply be asinine. In saying this, I chose Jay-Z’s best record with the most hits—The Black Album (2003). Originally promoted as his final studio album, it turns out that it not only stood as a classic ‘final’ album, representing Jay-Z as the face of hip-hop over the past decade, but in retrospect also became a primary example of the best that rap has to offer.
The Black Album runs the gamut in terms of Jay-Z’s life experience, as it convey a personal, compelling argument in terms of his own life. “December 4th”—retells the background of Sean Carter, as he relives his upward ascension to stardom from his poverty-stricken childhood and troubled youth, as he shares “maybe you'll love me when i fade into black / maybe you'll love me when i fade into black.” “What More Can I Say?” and “Encore” illustrate Jay-Z at the height of his celebrity. Jay-Z truly covers the range of his fans by integrating listeners from all areas into a re-interpretation of the his own personal experience.
Jay-Z's swagger and bravado, however, best shines though with anthemic tracks such as “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “99 Problems”. In its essence, The Black Album offers a cohesive collection of some of Jay-Z’s finest tracks, a complete statement that breathes volumes into the depth of lyricism and intimacy like few hip-hop albums manage to do. In doing this, Jay-Z not only breaks through to his peers and colleagues, but across the nation—promoting Jay-Z’s The Black Album as the as an iconic and important album within rap history
More from the War on Pop's Decade in Review:
#14 Beirut - The Flying Club Cup (2007)
#15 Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Naturally (2005)
#16 Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)
#17 The Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)
#18 LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007)
#19 Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light (2009)
#20 Common - Like Water For Chocolate (2000)
#21 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)
#22 Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
#23 Beach House - Devotion (2008)
#24 El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)
#25 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)