Let’s begin by stating the obvious: even a “bad” Jay-Z song still holds more value than the average man’s music. But some nights Jigga goes to the booth and throws together an ill-conceived song because his mind is on something more important like buying basketball teams, banging the biggest superstar in the world or trying to get Neef to lose his phone number. When these lapses in focus occur, the results are better than your average rapper’s attempts yet they sound lackluster in comparison to Jigga’s undeniable catalog. Just like MJ wasn’t allowed to put up “just 20” on a Wednesday night in Milwaukee, Jay shall never be granted an off lyrical performance on one of his own tracks.
In no particular order, here are 20 Jay songs that stand out as sub-par against the backdrop of Jigga’s much more polished products.
Do note that we didn’t include any songs where Jay was just a featured artists for a remix or collaboration. An undertaking of that magnitude would require much more space and time.
1. “(Always Be My) Sunshine” Feat. Foxy Brown & Babyface from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)
Jay went back to his original Bonnie in an attempt to recreate “Ain’t No Nigga” and failed. And who the hell invited Babyface to the studio session?
2. “F*ck All Night” Feat. Pharrell From The Blueprint2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
Hov pushed his luck one too many times with Pharrell. “F*ck All Night” feels like a lazy song better suited for Snoop or an exclusive N.E.R.D. track. This is apples and oranges when compared to the likes of “Allure,” “Frontin’,” and “Excuse Me Miss.” But when you’re married to Beyonce and have a studio that floats on water, bumps in the road happen. Right?
3. “All Around The World” Feat. LaToiya Williams From The Blueprint2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
Forgot this one even existed, right? Don’t feel bad. We forgot LaToiya existed. Quite the snoozer off BP Deuce.
4. “2 Many Hoes” From The Blueprint2 (2002)
Blueprint2 seems to be outweighing the rest of Jay’s discography here but it’s with good reason. Two-disc album may have inflated the Soundscan but also definitely created a bloated project. Furthermore, we think the fat, slacker version of Timbaland threw Hov this dud beat for free. Sometimes Timbaland songs are like Comcast deals where it’s cheaper to buy Internet if you throw in basic cable. With Tim, it seems like it’s cheaper for Jay to buy a sh*tty Timbaland beat to go with his dope ones. That has to be the only reason these songs get made.
5. “Pop 4 Roc” Feat. Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek & Amil From Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
Ever been to a ghetto sock hop? Didn’t think so. All the more reason this track was unnecessarily created. Here’s to the short-lived Roc-A-Fella shiny suit era. *Pours out liquor for Amil*
6. “Anything” From Beanie Sigel’s The Truth (1999)
Much like number one, Jay went to the well one too many times in attempts to recapture a hit. “Hard Knock Life” was good. Leaving good enough alone would have been the best bet.
7. “Get Your Mind Right Mami” Feat. Memphis Bleek & Snoop Dogg From The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
Snoop’s presence on a song can either be a burst of energy or cause for the tune’s other artists to mail-in their contribution. The latter happened here.
8. “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” Feat. R. Kelly From The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
In retrospect, Jigga and Kelz were probably better off dominating their respective genres. More on this union later. Jay probably wouldn’t have even made the song if he knew that Kelly’s “innocence” would be in regards to peeing on kids. That’s not gangsta.
9. “That Nigga Jigga” From The Blueprint (2001)
Let’s be honest, track #5 was the one hiccup on Blueprint. Take this song off and public perception around this album could have it as Hov’s GOAT album and not Reasonable Doubt.
10. “I Know What Girls Like” Feat. Lil Kim & Puff Daddy From In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)
When the Boogie Boys made “Fly Girl” in the early ’80s, it was considered slightly edgy and fun. By the time Jigga and co. decided to use it in the later ’90s it was dull.
11. “Off That” Feat. Drake From The Blueprint 3 (2009)
In 2009, Drake was the golden child in Hip-Hop and Blueprint 3 was arguably the most anticipated album (“Run This Town” and “Empire State Of Mind” were everywhere), so their first on-track meeting was kind of a big deal. Put it this way: we’re just happy “Light Up” happened.
12. “Things That U Do” Feat. Mariah Carey From Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
Since his infamous Best of Both Worlds’ co-star went by the name Pied Piper, maybe Jay thought it was okay to march to the beat of a flute. Mariah repaid the favor for “Heartbreaker” with a track that was sweeter than saccharine and did nothing to elevate anyone’s popularity, Swizz included.
13. “Young Forever” Feat. Mr. Hudson From Blueprint 3 (2009)
You already know Jay was up one night watching Napoleon Dynamite and got the bright idea for this track, complete with the light bulb over his head. Too bad it was a 40 watt. We voted for Pedro, not this decision.
14. “Brooklyn High” (Jim Jones Diss)
S. Carter already lost when he decided to respond to Dipset (honorable mention to Kingdom Come’s “Dig a Hole”), but failing to bury a rapper that’s undeniably inferior by leaps and bounds made him look like an even bigger ass. All the DJ’s screamed “we’re with ya Jay!” while proceeding to pon de replay on Jimmy’s version every day.
15. “Anything” Feat. Usher & Pharrell From Kingdom Come (2006)
Oh, where to begin? The Britney Spears throwaway beat? Usher crooning for Jay to “bounce, bounce?” The fact that Hov already had a song called “Anything?!?” Jay you knew better. You probably knew you’d make this list too, huh?
16. “Justify My Thug” From The Black Album (2003)
Not that “Justify My Thug” was terrible. Hov’s breathless flow actually works and each line packs a punch. Still, the downtempo track seemed sonically out of place when compared to the rest of The Black Album. Placed dead in the middle of that album, it’s the song equivalent of a DJ letting the needle scratch during the most pivotal point at a party.
17. “Super Ugly” (Nas Diss) (2001)
This was hard to watch. Nas eviscerates Jay on wax and Jay talks about being Nas’ sperm brother. That’s not how victories are won, Jay.