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Discographically Speaking: Jay-Z

Jay-ZWhich of Jay-Z's albums is his masterpiece? (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

In advance of Jay-Z’s concert at the Verizon Center on Wednesday, we’ve assembled a comprehensive ranking of Hova’s studio discs, arranged from awesome to slightly-more-awesome.

Not included: Any R. Kelly collaboration discs. Because life is just too short.

(Vote for your favorite below, and read Allison Stewart's rankings after the jump.)

11. “Kingdom Come” - 2006
The Jay-Z album everybody always forgets about. It celebrated, while not necessarily making the best case for, the rapper’s return from retirement.

10. “Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter” - 1999
A good, if not spectacular, example of the Jay-Z formula at work: acrobatic wordplay, relatively simple beats in the hands of superstar producers and a deft mix of street grit and pop gloss, this time tending toward the former.

9. “In My Lifetime, Vol. 1” - 1997
The rapper takes a more mainstream-friendly approach on his sophomore effort. Otherwise, this feels more like “Reasonable Doubt, Vol. 2.”

8. “The Dynasty: Roc La Familia” - 2000
Intended to show off Roc-A-Fella artists like Beanie Sigel, this plays more like a soul-sample-heavy but otherwise middling Hova disc. Features one of the first collaborations between Hova and a then-unknown producer, Kanye West.

7. “The Blueprint 3” - 2009
The hustler in winter. Okay, maybe not winter, but Jay-Z approaches his forties with a disc featuring some of his most pop-centric, least substantive hits (“Empire State of Mind,” “Run This Town”).

6. “The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse” - 2002
A double-disc offering dubbed hip-hop’s “White Album,” this took Jay-Z’s career-long obsession with the gritty/glossy dynamic to its logical conclusion: A disc (ostensibly) dedicated to each. We've docked a few points because Lenny Kravitz is on it.

5. “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life” - 1998
Jigga’s crossover coming-out party, thanks to the awesome/creepy smash “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).”

4. “American Gangster” - 2007
A concept album loosely based upon the Russell Crowe/Denzel Washington film, this plays to Hova’s strengths: a Horatio Alger streets-to-riches story, bolstered by some of the best classic soul samples he’s ever pinched.

3. “The Black Album” - 2003
Kick-starting the retirement that wasn’t, a petulant Jay-Z tackles parent issues, beefs with his critics and finds time to broker a superpower summit between Billy Squier and Rick Rubin (“99 Problems”). “Jay's status appears to be at an all-time high,” he observes on “Encore.” As usual, he wasn’t kidding.

2. “Reasonable Doubt” - 1996
Enter the hustler: Jay-Z’s indelible debut was the high water mark of Mafioso rap.

1. “The Blueprint (Vol. 1)” - 2001
Released on September 11, this is Hova’s masterwork: just the right proportions of grit and bling, a top-of-his-game appearance from Eminem and plentiful, well-chosen ‘70s R&B samples.

By Allison Stewart  |  March 1, 2010; 1:56 PM ET
Categories:  Discographically speaking  | Tags: Jay-Z  
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Next: Week ahead: Puscifer plays D.C., Raheem DeVaughn releases his "MasterPeace"

Comments

"Blueprint 3" is terrible. Move it down to 10th.

I would move "Vol. 3" all the way up to 5th and knock everything else down a place.

Otherwise this seems right to me.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 1, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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