Words By Preezy Da Kid
If you were to ask the average rap fan to pick an artist to see live in concert, it’s a safe bet Jay Z would be a name that would pop up sooner than later. Having rocked many a stage over the better part of the last 20 years, Jigga has been known to be able to keep a crowd eating out of the palm of his hand with his endless string of hit songs and fan favorites. And while there are few things to whine about when walking away from a Jay Z show, one minor gripe that many die-hard fans have is that he rarely performs the cuts that helped build his foundation as an artist and cultivate his fan base.
But luckily, the God MC himself has acknowledged this himself with his latest headline-making move: to perform B-sides and rarities for a free show in May. Since we have nothing better to do at the TSS offices, we decided to run-down the 25 Jay Z B-sides that we’d like to see him perform.
Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a definitive list of the best B-sides in Jiggaman’s catalog, just the tracks we’ve yet to hear live and would actually move the crowd.
1. “Bring It On”
Jay Z has quite an extensive catalog, but Reasonable Doubt remains the holy grail. Featuring his original partners in rhyme, Sauce Money and Jaz-O, the three turned in a stellar performance with the DJ Premier produced “Bring It On.” One of the more underrated cuts from his debut LP, we can only imagine the cheers that seeing Sauce, Jaz, and Jay on the same stage for the first time in nearly two decades would bring.
The closeout cut on Reasonable Doubt, “Regrets” is more substance than style, but wins with its intimate vibe. It’s also one of the first traces of introspective Jigga, and is packed with the kind of emotion rarely conveyed in live performances anymore. And if he were to decide to go with a live band on this number, the possibility for a superb guitar solo — paired with Jay’s keen rhyming — would truly be a delight for all to witness.
3. “Imaginary Players”
Everybody loves cocky and brash Jay Z probably more than any aspect of his demeanor. His sh*t-talk is incredible, and the perpetual smirk with which he delivers his bars is evident as ever on the fan-favorite, “Imaginary Players.” And just the chance to hear fans describe the difference between a 4.0 and a 4.6 would definitely go down as a key moment in hip-hop history, and virtually validates the track’s spot on this list.
4. “Dynasty Intro/Kingdom Come Intro”
Classic songs may be Jay Z’s claim to fame as an artist, but one of the most endearing parts of his artistry is his knack for crafting album intros that rival the staying power of lesser talents’ entire albums. But out of all of his album openers, two stand a cut above the rest: his “Dynasty” and “Kingdom Come” intros. While the first captures Jay aggressively going toe-to-toe with the track, the latter is Jay in elder statesmen mode, holding court over lush production. Add in the fact that we’ve rarely, if ever, heard him spit these words onstage in front of a sold-out crowd and the occasion is likely to be more than epic.
5. “You Must Love Me”
Picking up on where he left off with “Regrets,” the In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 cut, “You Must Love Me” sees Hova giving fans a rare glimpse into his past with brute honesty. We say, bring in Kelly Price and a backing choir and take concert attendees to church with this standout testimonial.
Sauce Money is an oft-forgotten accomplice in the meteoric rise of Hov, and doesn’t get his just due, to be quite frank. But a Jay Z B-side concert wouldn’t be complete without his fellow Marcy Projects representative gracing the stage multiple times throughout the proceedings, especially to perform this dance-floor-friendly jam while sending shouts to their BK crew.
7. “Wishing On A Star”
Largely overlooked by the casual listener, “Wishing On A Star” stands as one of the better deep cuts Jay has ever recorded. Included on the U.K. version of Vol. 1, the track sees Jay recounting his beginnings as a hustler with vivid detail on top of production courtesy of The Trackmasters. Also, the chance to finally find out if Gwen Dickey is actually a real person — as we’ve never heard of her — should be worth the price of admission alone.
8. “In My Lifetime (Remix)”
Arguably Jay Z’s first great moment, the “In My Lifetime (Remix)” is nothing short of flawless. The music video alone is the stuff of legend, but the chance to see Hov perform the track nearly 20 years to this date after it was released would be a testament to how far he’s come and the legacy he’s built between then and now. Oh yeah, not having the original vocalist in the building to deliver the hook is definitely a deal-breaker and will not be tolerated, not by me at least.
9. “Reservoir Dogs”
“Hard Knock Life” may have been the song that made Jay Z into a superstar, but he still kept it street on In My Lifetime Vol. 2 with selections like “Reservoir Dogs.” Featuring appearances by top tier lyricists such as The Lox, Beanie Sigel, and Sauce Money delivering bruising bars, Jay didn’t let commercial aspirations deter him from putting himself in the lions den – and coming out unscathed at that. All of those rhyme animals on stage at once would be a rap junkies dream.
10. “Hey Papi”
Known for club bangers like “Big Pimpin,” another Jigga cut from that era that often gets lost in the shuffle is “Hey Papi.” Released as a single off of the Nutty Professor 2 soundtrack, Hov teams up with Bleek for possibly his most underrated Timbaland collab.