Look, I heard people say I'm the luckiest man on the planet. I like to think I stay ready. A wise man once told me luck isn't some mystical energy that dances around the universe randomly bestowing people with satisfaction and joy
You create your own luck. My whole career, I been thinking of a night like this. Like what's about to happen. That's what's going on. I was like, "Oh, shit. This is it right now.". A night with all the stars in line. I ain't trying to get too dramatic on y'all, but that night, I felt like the luckiest man in the world. Or as my man C-Thru would say, "Lucky Lefty."
- Jay Z Fade to Black intro
Jay Z hasn't always been the successful person he is now. He didn't sign a deal with Samsung before releasing Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life, he wasn't hanging out with the president while touring for The Blueprint nor he had a Basquiat painting in his apartment while working on Dinasty. His success came later in his career, right after he thought that he couldn't get any bigger than that.
Hova's career can be virtually divided in two parts: the pre-retirement part that goes from Reasonable Doubt to The Black Album and the post-retirement one, from Kingdom Come to Magna Carta Holy Grail.
In June 2003, during the opening of the 40/40 Club on 25th Street, Jay Z announced that after the release of The Black Album he'd have retired from the rap game. The news shocked the whole scene as Hova was just reaching the apex of his career; 7 years after the release of his debut album Reasonable Doubt, Jigga's ride was coming to an end
Dear Jay. Why you leaving the game, baby? You're supposed to stay and keep it thorough and finish rapping
- P. Diddy before the show at MSG
It's done. It's a wrap. Garden is no more. I hope you had a great time. I had a wonderful time. I feel like I waited too long for it to be over this fast, for real. I knew saying goodbye was the right thing to do.
The announcement of the live concert at Madison Square Garden was surely the biggest news in hip-hop that year for various reasons: no rap artist ever sold out the Garden with a solo concert before, so this was huge for the scene; It was also going to be Jay-Z's last concert in his hometown, a week after dropping his last album, so it was going to be an event that would have been remembered for the years to come. Everybody wanted to be involved in some way, the list of features for the concert grew bigger every day, those who couldn't be involved in the live performance were in the studio making beats for the album or promoting the event via radio
Yeah, Hot 97 Funk Flex. You know what it is. Jay-Z is coming to the Garden. Tickets go on sale Saturday. This is a very big deal, New York. There hasn't been something in the Garden in so long. And it's beautiful. And you know what, man? (Talking to Jay-Z, who was in the studio) When I was looking once again at the Jumbotron, it wasn't an R&B concert and you're on it, or it wasn't a reggae concert. It's Jay-Z. And I think this is such a great thing, man. It's nice to see you at the Garden
- Transcript of Hot 97, October 2003
Change The Game
Anytime you gonna make an album, especially if this is your last album, every single track has to be a statement. In your mind, you thinking, "I have to make the perfect album. " That's what you think. Anybody know me know I'm dead serious. I will sit there, drive myself crazy till I find that right track. Don't waste my motherfucking time! I look at music like a puzzle. I try to figure it out. Figure out what I'm gonna say on it. Figure out the emotion of the track, what it's saying.
The making of The Black Album involved some of the biggest producers in the history of the game:
Just Blaze, who also worked on The Blueprint and Dinasty: Rock La Familia, produced three tracks, Public Service Announcement, Interlude and December 4th. What More Can I Say was the first and last track that The Buchanans produced for Jay Z before starting to work with Lupe. Kanye West also worked on the project, giving Hova the beats for Encore and Lucifer while Dirt Off Your Shoulder was created by Timbaland. 9th Wonder put together Threat from a R. Kelly sample and Eminem and Luis Resto produced Moment of Clarity. The Neptunes and DJ Quik were involved with Justify My Thug, Allure and Change Clothes (Produced by Pharrell Williams). My 1st Song was produced by Aqua and 3H
Rick ain't normal. I don't give a fuck. I know all producers have their idiosyncrasies, meaning quirks and some weird shit, but he's just strange by strange standards. While we was downstairs doing hard-core rap records and shit, upstairs he had a bunch of people who were doing some type of Tibetan freedom concert planning. When was the last time you seen a bison in a nigga's studio?
99 Problems turned out to be one of the biggest Jay Z's hits, it even brought some Law professors to discuss whatever the cop had the right to inspect his car or not!
The Black Album came out 10 years ago today, on November 14th 2003, selling 463,000 copies in his first week
We in the Garden nigga. That may not be a big deal for pop acts or rock acts. They sell out the Garden a couple nights in a row. But for hip-hop, we wasn't even allowed in the building.
When the day of the concert arrived, Pennsylvania Plaza became some sort of hip-hop red carpet; all of the big names in the scene at the time arrived at Madison Square Garden: Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, Freeway, P. Diddy, Damon Dash, R.Kelly, Mary J Blige, Foxy Brown, they were all waiting for Hova to take the stage
The concert started with Micheal Buffer introducing Jay Z to the stage as if it was a boxing match, in the meantime, a "Roc-A-Fella #1" jersey came down from the ceiling. The notes of What More Can I Say started playing, Jay Z came out of the backstage with a Biggie t-shirt and started the show
After the show ended, the audience left the Garden thinking that they'd have never seen him perform live again. 3 years later he'd come out of retirement with Kingdom Come. In the next 7 years Jay Z dropped American Gangster, The Blueprint 3 and Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Hova's now holding a worldwide tour with Justin Timberlake, he's not wearing a Biggie t-shirt anymore, he's wearing a suit. Madison Square Garden isn't a huge deal anymore, he prefers to perform at the Barclay's Center, the arena in Brooklyn that he partially owns. Hip-hop sells out arenas around the United States on a regular basis now, and his shows sell out in a few hours
Jay Z has come a long way since his supposed retirement in 2003, but after all he's the same old Shawn.
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