Deep Album Cuts Vol. 8: Jay-Z

In the first entry of this series, as I laid out the idea of 'deep album cuts' mixes and what artists would be a good fit for them, I actually singled out Jay-Z as one example of an artist I wouldn't want to include -- namely, because he's revered as an 'album artist,' and you don't really have to work hard to make an argument for the worth of his non-singles even though he has huge hits. But since I'm currently running a poll of Jay-Z's best tracks (feel free to vote!), I've been poring over his catalog yet again, trying to dig for the few songs in his incredibly revered career that you could actually justifiably call 'underrated' (my pick for most underrated Jay song: Scarface's "Get Out").

So I decided that the way to do this is to go really deep -- you could easily make a mix of Jay-Z album tracks that pretty much any rap fan knows by heart, a collection that rivals any other rapper's greatest hits. Concert staples and fan favorites like "Public Service Announcement," "Where I'm From," "Can I Live," "U Don't Know," "This Can't Be Life"...I don't really need to speak up on those songs' behalf. So I went way deeper -- basically, my criteria was looking at each album on Spotify sorted by popularity, and if a song was in the top half, it wasn't eligible.

Here's the playlist, now on TIDAL, because that's the only place that streams all of these albums now:

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 8: Jay-Z

1. Regrets
2. Rap Game/Crack Game
3. A Week Ago featuring Too $hort
5. Streets Is Talking featuring Beanie Sigel
6. All I Need
7. Some People Hate
8. December 4th
9. Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)
10. Friend Or Foe
11. Friend Or Foe '98
12. Show You How
13. It's Hot (Some Like It Hot)
14. Face Off featuring Sauce Money
15. Ride Or Die
16. Parking Lot Pimpin' featuring Lil Mo, Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek
17. Coming Of Age featuring Memphis Bleek
18. All Around The World featuring LaToiya Williams
19. You Must Love Me
20. Come And Get Me

Tracks 1, 10 and 17 from Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Tracks 2, 11, 14 and 19 from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)
Tracks 3 and 15 from Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998)
Tracks 4, 13 and 20 and from Vol. 3... Life And Times Of S. Carter (1999)
Tracks 5 and 16 from The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
Tracks 6 and 9 from The Blueprint (2001)
Tracks 7, 12 and 18 from The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
Tracks 8 from The Black Album (2003)

As you'll note, I limited this to pre-"retirement" albums. As far as I'm concerned, those first 8 albums are all varying degrees of classic, and none of the albums since has been half as good as the weakest of these. Jay still occasionally does good work by any reasonable standard, but he's Jordan with the Wizards to me, now and forever. If I was to include post-'03 stuff, I suppose I could go for "Trouble" or "New Day," but fuck it.

Indisputable classics like The Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt, it's hard to cherrypick anything that's substantially less canon than the rest of the songs, but I think "All I Need" is pretty unfairly ignored. Mostly, though, I enjoy spotlighting albums that are somewhat maligned but full of songs I love, especially my first Jay album, Vol. 1, which is basically all fire besides the 3 songs that ruined its rep. "Rap Game/Crack Game" is probably his most slept on album track, in terms of how good it is relative to how much people rep for it, goes back to the Illmatic sample well of "Dead Presidents" but with a completely different vibe. Blueprint 2, for all its many flaws, has tons of bangers, in typical double album fashion. "Some People Hate" is one of Kanye's sickest beats ever. "Show You How" always feels like a major record because of how Jay keeps referencing it on lesser songs like "La La La" and "Suit & Tie," but it really doesn't get enough respect.

I wish there was more Dynasty on here, but most of my favorite songs off that ("This Can't Be Life," "1-900-Hustler," "Soon You'll Understand," etc.) are in the top half of the Spotify rankings, so according to my self-imposed rules they're out. "Streets Is Talking" is a pretty fantastic track for being a de facto sequel to a much earlier song, though, and "Parking Lot Pimpin'" feels like a secret jam ever since Jay made the (admittedly correct) last minute decision to pull it as a single and release "I Just Wanna Love U" instead.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
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