Good Jay-Z vs. Evil Jay-Z: A history

Jay-Zreleased album No. 13 on Friday. The project, 4:44, is a return to form:No I.D.’s production is sounding good so far, and fans are responding favorably across the board to the album’s confessional lyrics and pop culture zingers. These days though, we hear more about Jay-Z in the context of Tidalmishaps rather than his music.

Since he “retired” as a rapper way back in 2003, Jay-Zhas had major ups and downs as a celebrity(See: Lemonade.) He’ll excite hip-hop culture with an inspired performance on a remix,but then release clunker albums.

As we spend our day trying to re-download Tidal, lets look back at all the good and evil Jay-Z spells.

Good Jay-Z

Music from 1996 to 2003 Theres no doubtthat Jay-Z earned his place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame as one of the biggest rappers in history. His 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt went platinum with no major label record deal and featured his friend, the legendary Biggie Smalls. Hes won 21 Grammys, and three of his recordsare on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The list of Jay-Z hits is long, including “Izzo,” “Hard Knock Life,” “I Cant Get Wid Dat,” and countless others. Theres a reason his nickname is Hov, short for Jay-Hovahe’s a rap god.

He seems to be a good dad We dont have any real way to prove this, but the GIFs and photos of Jay-Z with Blue Ivy make him seem like a loving father.

Of course just like any good dad, Jay-Z doesnt really *get* Twitter, and has rapped a fair amount of dad lines. Take this verse from Tom Ford from 2013’sMagna Carta album: Fuck hashtags and retweets, 140 characters in these streets.

Oh, Dad.

Screengrab via Clevver News/YouTube

He signedsome of the best artists Music todaywouldnt be the same without Jay-Z putting on some of the best artists around. Were forever indebted to him for bringing us Rihanna. Today he runs Roc Nation, founded in 2008, which represents new and old artists we love like Vic Mensa, T.I., and Big Sean. He’s not just here for hip-hop and rap artists either. The entertainment label also managesfavorites like Haim, Grimes, and Shakira. For all his failed prodigies (Memphis Bleek, anyone?), he also unsheathed Kanye West upon the world.

Jay-Z is the supportive dad behind the scenes for so many artists, even if hes not signing them. In a few of his recent tweets he shouted out everyone from Snoop Dogg to Playboi Carti. Hes keeping up with the times and giving his support to the otherrappers, regardless of generation.

2013’s Pound Cake This collaboration with Drake was money, a standout recent track that shows he’s still got it. In the song Jay-Z raps that he’s made more millionaires than the lotto did. Dame made millions, Biggs made millions. Ye made millions, Just made millions. Lyor made millions, Cam made millions. Jay-Z doesnt just make money for himself, hes making sure everyone gets a slice of that cake. (Way back in 2010, Jay-Z likewise helped usher in the age of Drake when he performed on his major label debut album.)

Screengrab via DJ Akademiks/YouTube

Kevin Durant Jay-Zmight have sold his stake with the Nets, but his business insports hasnt ended. The mogulfounded Roc Nation Sports back in 2013, and the company represents NBA champ, Warriors forward, and University of Texas alum Kevin Durant. Truly a slam dunk investment by Mr. Carter.

Gif via GIPHY

Evil Jay-Z

Music from 2003 to 2013 Save a handful of tracks from Watch the Throne, Jay-Zs bars havent been what they used to be. Some of the songs are boringand others completely miss the mark. The Blueprint III still hurts. Sorry Jigga.

Cheating on Beyonc The world watched Knowles sister Solange attack Jay-Z in an elevator at the 2014 Met Gala. We spotted the smoke, and whenLemonade came out in 2016, we really saw the fire. Beyonc’s latest, and most ambitious album gave us a raw glimpse into the lows of the Knowles-Carter marriage. It was a shock coming from a couple that is known for its high level of secrecy. When Beyonc’s voice cracks during “Sandcastles,” our hearts break.How could you hurt our Queen B like that Jay?

Screengrab via Beyoncevevo/YouTube

Tidal When Jay-Z tookover the music streaming company, and announced it to the world surrounded by mega artists like Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Daft Punk, and others, it seemed like artists couldfinally take back some of the power they allegedly lost from streaming services like Spotify. We all have started free trials when something we really wanted to hearhas an exclusive release through the app, but with so many bugs, a clunky layout, and a limited library, Tidal isnt worth the $19.99 a month for its “HiFi” sounds.

Screengrab via YouTube/Hollywood CIA

Some of Jay’s, um, lesser signings Jay-Z has put on some incredible artists, but with the good there are always a few bad eggs. Im looking at you J. Cole. The North Carolina rapper’s fans are insufferably sanctimonious,and while Jay-Z supports a lot of younger artists challenging the genre, Coleattracts some very puritan rap fans. (He’s the only rapper who apparently makes real hip-hop music these days.)

99 Problems Jay-Zmight be with the woman who invented feminism, but that doesnt mean his career hasnt containeda plentifulamount of misogyny. 99 Problems is one of Jay-Zs biggest hits, and one of his most annoying. In the song and video, Jay-Z addresses poignant points about racism and exploitation of black art, but ruins it by contrasting those issues with images of strippers and bitches.

Its a story as old as time, but unlike his wife, Jay-Z hasn’t used his fame to help us realize that black men aren’t the only ones subjected to those daily instances of violence. Black women encounter the same issues and yet are constantly reduced to “problems” not even worth having. Bey needs to upgrade his reading list with some Chimamanda.

Screengrab via MTV

There have been good Jay-Z moments and a healthy number of sinister ones, but who are we kidding? From his early days to now, Jay-Z has remained a powerful symbol of hustle, even in his evil times. Theres a photo of Jay-Z that represents this. Hes standing on the roofof his old stash house, staring at the new Barclays Center a few blocks away. Jaynot only performs at that center, but had his own money invested in Barclaysat the time. He is standing on his past, while looking directlyathis present and future. It’s the American dream:

Photo via Hip-Hop Wired

Today Jay-Z has the baddest wife in the game, is the second-richest man in hip-hop, and has managed to stay relevant across generations despite a constantly changing musiclandscapewhether thats through his own music or supporting other rappers of the moment. Hes a business, man.

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