The top 10 best Jay-Z songs - Reverb

Listen: The top 10 best Jay-Z songs: Each one better than anything on “Magna Carta”

We've listed the top 10 best Jay-Z songs. Photo by Chad Batka, The New York Times.

We’ve listed the top 10 best Jay-Z songs. Photo by Chad Batka, The New York Times.

With Jay-Z‘s shell of an album, “Magna Carta … Holy Grail,” officially out today, we thought it best to take a look back at his entire career and dig up some tracks that remind us that he is an all-time-great. Sure his albums can be totally hit or miss — you’ll notice most of these songs come from the same few albums — but when he’s on, Jay-Z can make some of the best music in hip-hop.

Here are the 10 best Jay-Z songs:

10) “Hard Knock Life”

This song is more hilarious than it is great. What rapper in his right mind would sample the Broadway version of “Annie?” The strangest part is how tough it sounds, too.

9) “Big Pimpin'”

Known for his careful, and rather slow flow, “Big Pimpin'” is one of the few Jay-Z tracks where the rapper will deliver lines quickly. It also serves as sort of ven diagram comparing New York and southern hip-hop.

8) “Lift Off”

The entire “Watch the Throne” album is the crowning accomplishment of the Jay-Z-Kanye West duo. West produced some of Jay-Z’s most memorable tracks. In turn, Hova mentored West on his path to superstar status. On “Lift Off,” assisted by Beyonce, the two take a look back at the last two decades.

7) “Pray”

Sure this is from the later, less impressive Jay-Z years, but you can’t beat the visual story telling of “Fast forward freeze frame on my pistol/fist full of dollars makes ignorance is so blissful.” It’s as if Jay-Z is pointing out how his entire upbringing and path to fame can turn into some high-budget Hollywood recreation.

6) “Brooklyn’s Finest”

Jay-Z called it back in 1996 that he and Notorious B.I.G would be the most important Brooklyn rappers. In a way this song was a passing of the torch.

More of the top 10 best Jay-Z songs >>


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  • N.E.M.

    This was written horribly, a “shell of an article” if you will. To even include “Lift Off” proves your out of touch. And “Pray” is the song that you misquoted as being from “American Dreamin'”. You didn’t even get the lyrics right, they’re “Fast forward, freeze frame on my pistol/ fistful of dollars, ignorance is so blissful”. Just an all around fail.

    • Matt Miller

      You’re definitely right about having the wrong title in there with “Pray.” Thanks for pointing it out.

      As for “Lift Off,” “Watch The Throne” might not be a best album, but it’s the best Jay-Z has released since “The Black Album.” It’s also an important album to highlight the impact he and Kanye have had on modern hip-hop, and “Lift Off” is a good indicator of that.

      Really, Jay-Z’s best songs are all on “The Black Album” and “The Blueprint,” but that wouldn’t make for much of a list.

      • Dilanka


        N.E.M is absolutely correct. This post is terrible and only proves that you are completely, utterly out-of-touch with Jay’s music.

        I don’t claim to be a Jay-z expert … but the fact that you didn’t even consider “Can I Live”, “Dead Presidents, II”, “Brooklyn’s Finest”, “Feelin’ it” OR “D’evils” worries me. If you printed YOUR list and walk through any street in Brooklyn, you’d probably get shot in a nanosecond.


        • Matt Miller

          Hey Dilanka,

          Actually “Dead Presidents II” and “Brooklyn’s Finest” are both included in the list.

          • Dilanka

            Ah my mistake. I didn’t see page 2.

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  • Anon

    Ok but what about DOA and Empire State of mind? I consider those def up here

  • B.C

    Stopped reading when I saw Lift Off in there